Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Opening spring ball: Wisconsin
By ESPN.com staff
The Wisconsin Badgers hit the practice field Tuesday afternoon for the first of 15 spring workouts.
Here's a snapshot of the defending Big Ten co-champs as they enter spring ball:
The big story: Replacing star players. No Big Ten team loses more individual standouts than the Badgers, who say goodbye to four All-Americans as well as Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award winner Scott Tolzien. Wisconsin should to have enough coming back to survive losses at running back, offensive line and tight end, but the team really will miss superstar defensive end J.J. Watt and Tolzien, the archetypal Wisconsin quarterback who provided consistency in the pass game. Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten because of its ability to reload. Has Wisconsin reached a point in its program where it can do the same?
Position in the spotlight: Quarterback and defensive end both will be closely monitored. Jon Budmayr, who backed up Tolzien last season, will have every opportunity to distinguish himself as Wisconsin's top quarterback this spring. Curt Phillips is still recovering from knee surgery and will be limited to individual drills. Returning starter Louis Nzegwu and veteran reserve David Gilbert are the top two options at defensive end, but several young players will get a close look this spring, including sophomore Pat Muldoon.
Coaching changes: Defensive coordinator Dave Doeren left to become head coach at Northern Illinois, and secondary coach Chris Ash was promoted as his replacement. Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge will share the coordinator title, but Ash is running the show. Central Florida defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable joins the staff to coach linebackers, a group Doeren oversaw. Thomas Hammock is back in Madison to coach the team's running backs, replacing John Settle, who left for the Carolina Panthers. Wisconsin also added DeMontie Cross as safeties coach and special teams coordinator. He replaces nickelbacks coach Greg Jackson, who left for the NFL.
Keep an eye on: Beau Allen. Defensive tackle could be a position of strength for Wisconsin, and Allen adds depth after appearing in 12 games as a true freshman last season. At 6-foot-3 and 325 pounds, Allen could be a force in the interior line.
Spring game: April 23