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Wisconsin spring wrap

5/5/2010

Spring practice is in the books, and I'll be taking a look back at each Big Ten team's spring session today. First up, Wisconsin.

2009 overall record: 10-3

2009 conference record: 5-3, T-4th

Returning starters

Offense: 10, defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

RB John Clay, QB Scott Tolzien, LT Gabe Carimi, G/C John Moffitt, WR Nick Toon, DE J.J. Watt, LB Chris Borland, SS Jay Valai

Key losses

TE Garrett Graham, DE O'Brien Schofield, LB Jaevery McFadden, FS Chris Maragos

2009 statistical leaders (*-returners)

Rushing: John Clay* (1,517 yards)

Passing: Scott Tolzien* (2,705 yards)

Receiving: Nick Toon* (805 yards)

Tackles: Jaevery McFadden (74)

Sacks: O'Brien Schofield (12)

Interceptions: Chris Maragos (4)

Spring answers

1. Defensive line should be fine: Wisconsin appears to have the pieces to survive the losses of O'Brien Schofield, a first-team All-Big Ten performer, as well as tackles Dan Moore and Jeff Stehle. J.J. Watt could be a superstar at end, and Louis Nzegwu stepped up nicely this spring at the other spot. Patrick Butrym and Jordan Kohout will occupy the starting tackle spots, and if the Badgers can build a bit more depth inside this summer, they should be very solid.

2. Kendricks transitions seamlessly: First-team All-Big Ten tight end Garrett Graham departs, but Wisconsin once again shouldn't miss a bit as Lance Kendricks moves into a starting role. Kendricks turned in a career performance at the Champs Sports Bowl and followed with a solid spring, recording six receptions for 63 yards in the spring game April 17.

3. Secondary coming together: After a slow start to the spring, the defensive backs finished strong, as Antonio Fenelus and others stepped up in the spring game. Chris Maragos was a great leader and leaves a void, but Jay Valai and converted cornerback Aaron Henry seem to complement each other well at the safety spots. There's good depth at cornerback as starters Devin Smith and Niles Brinkley return and Fenelus provides some depth.

Fall questions

1. Key players returning from injuries: It was tough to grade Wisconsin's spring because so many key players sat out with injuries. Star running back Clay needs a strong preseason camp after undergoing two ankle surgeries during the winter to relieve pressure. Starting linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor also will be back from injuries, and the offensive line gets a chance to come together after missing several pieces this spring.

2. Backup quarterback: Curt Phillips' torn ACL was the biggest blow of spring ball, and his uncertain return puts redshirt freshman Jon Budmayr in the spotlight. Budmayr struggled in spring scrimmages and needs to elevate his game to be a reliable option behind Tolzien. Tolzien has been both durable and reliable, but Wisconsin needs the talented Budmayr to take a step forward this summer.

3. More options at wideout: Toon should contend for All-Big Ten honors this fall, but Wisconsin needs other wideouts to develop around him. David Gilreath, Isaac Anderson and Kyle Jefferson all have plenty of experience but must be more consistent. Redshirt freshman walk-on Jared Abbrederis made a big splash this spring and could work his way into the mix if he keeps it up.