Wisconsin definitely has some big bodies (cue the national narrative every year) and a bunch of well-recruited linemen making for a potentially dominating front five … eventually. But in 2017? Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Badgers are moving their center to left tackle. While this won't be the blind side of left-handed quarterback Alex Hornibrook, Michael Deiter has previously played just on the interior line. Wisconsin thinks a lot of redshirt freshman Tyler Biadasz -- obviously, since he is the new center -- but he is just a freshman. The Badgers have no seniors on the O-line and just a few juniors, including Deiter. And let's not forget the line was really just kind of average in 2016, allowing 24 sacks and averaging more than 5 yards per carry in just four of 14 games. It's OK to feel good about the future, but might want to temper your expectations in 2017.
Brian MasonBrian Mason
If not Alex Hornibrook, then what?
As a freshman, Hornibrook was … adequate. His passer rating of 125.80 would have ranked 72nd (if he qualified for the leaders) as he completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,262 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. While Hornibrook wrested the starting QB job away from Bart Houston, he couldn't hold it. At least not with both hands as the two split time over the last six regular-season games. This year, Hornibrook doesn't have a fifth-year senior to worry about. But perhaps it is head coach Pau Chryst who is concerned. Wisconsin's backups are two freshmen, Jack Coan and Kare' Lyles, the latter a redshirt freshman. Coan has reportedly looked better in camp of the two, but neither can be deemed trusted with the keys to the castle -- and would Wisconsin want to burn a year of Coan? (Of course, they could redshirt him next year as well if needed.) Either way, this is Hornibrook's team. If he's not in, expect the Badgers to be run-heavy. Or should we say, even more run-heavy.
USA TODAY SportsJeff Hanisch
Who will get the brunt of the carries?
One topic which has emerged this summer is who will be Wisconsin's starting running back? This goes with the presumption that the Badgers will use a "bellcow" in the backfield. Chryst did this last year, with Corey Clement rushing 314 times compared to 91 for Dare Ogunbowale and 99 for Bradrick Shaw. In 2015, thanks in part to injuries to Clement, the duties were split between Ogunbowale (194) and Taiwan Deal (117), the latter of whom would have seen the ball more if he were not hurt. But going back to Chryst's previous stint at Wisconsin, as offensive coordinator, shows Chryst can go either way. In 2010, the Badgers nearly evenly split the carries between John Clay (183), Montee Ball (163) and James White (156). In 2008, Clay, a freshman had 155 carries to P.J. Hill's 226. In 2009, Chryst gave the ball mostly to Clay (287), with Ball (98) and Zach Brown (66) far behind. The point here is don't get too carried away with whether Shaw or Chris James starts for the Badgers. With two experienced backs, expect neither to carry the brunt of the load.
USA TODAY SportsMike De Sisti
How will Jack Cichy be replaced?
When Cichy was lost for the season with a torn ACL, that truly was a bummer. The senior was expected to play a key role in Wisconsin's defense. However, the silver lining, if you want to call it that, is that if there's one position the Badgers could recovered from an injury it is at inside linebacker. Ryan Connelly emerged last season and Chris Orr returns after being hurt on the first defensive play in 2016. Both bring a different skill set -- neither gets to the QB like Cichy -- but there's little dropoff. Orr is probably better suited to typical rushing downs and Connelly on passing downs, but Wisconsin should have things covered. UW has a bevy of young players just in case as well -- Arrington Farrar, Griffin Grady and Mike Maskalunas among them.
How will Jim Leonhard do as defensive coordinator?
Really, no one has any idea. If someone claims they do, they are lying. Leonhard has all of one year of coaching experience -- last season -- and has never been a coordinator. He's also coaching the defensive backs, just adding to his responsibilities. That being said, Leonhard has a ton of football experience as a player and played for some pretty good coaches. Wisconsin's defensive backs were solid in his first foray in coaching. Leonhard also has the luxury of taking over a very good defense. For that last reason alone we think Leonhard will succeed in 2017. Even then, based on his past and football IQ, we're confident Leonhard will make a good defensive coordinator. But there are questions to be answered. How much does he blitz? Does he make good adjustments in the second half to what the opponent showed in the first half? How will he handle adversity? There's only one way we'll know for sure, and that'll be on the field.