Entering the 2009 season, the Badgers had a huge question mark at the quarterback position, running back P.J. Hill had bolted for the NFL Draft and Wisconsin had to replace several impact players on the offensive line and the defensive side of the ball. But entering the 2010 season, Wisconsin returns 18 of 22 starters on both sides of the ball, including senior quarterback Scott Tolzien and last year's Offensive Big Ten Player of the Year, junior running back John Clay.
Wisconsin also returns all of its five starters on the offensive line and eight defensive starters.
Fans should expect this team to be confident and poised during spring practice and this spring scrimmage. Players should already more or less know what their roles are going to be with only a limited number of position battles still out there.
Tolzien to Toon
The Badgers return 10 of their 11 starters from 2010, but the one player departing from the starting lineup is tight end Garrett Graham, Tolzien's primary target last season. In 2009 Graham was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team after catching 51 passes for 624 yards, which led the Big Ten at his position.
Badger fans should not be worried about the team's passing game, however, mainly because of Tolzien and junior wide receiver Nick Toon. Toon led the Badgers in 2009 in both receptions (54) and receiving yards (805). The tall, athletic receiver should continue to improve this season and become the No. 1 target for Tolzien in the upcoming season.
Tolzien is the clear starter for Wisconsin heading into 2010, but backup Curt Phillips tore his ACL earlier this spring, meaning freshman Jon Budmayr is now the No. 2 quarterback for the Badgers, and potentially one injury away from being Wisconsin's starter in 2010.
The Wisconsin coaching staff probably felt comfortable with the sophomore Phillips, who took a handful of regular-season snaps last year, and was not expecting Budmayr to be the primary backup for the upcoming season.
But Budmayr, who took a redshirt in 2009, can ease some of the nerves around UW football by performing well in spring practice, including the spring game this Saturday. And without Phillips in Wisconsin's plans at the moment, this is Budmayr's chance to impress the staff and make an early play to become Wisconsin's starting signal-caller in 2011.
Henry on the move
Junior Aaron Henry has already had an interesting career for Wisconsin, and it is going to take another twist heading into next season. Henry began as a cornerback, but never found his niche as a starter. He started two games late his freshman year in 2007, but an injury in the Outback Bowl forced Henry to take a medical redshirt in 2008. He returned to game action in 2009, but only started three games as a corner.
Now, with the departure of safety Chris Maragos and an opening in the defensive backfield for 2010, the coaching staff decided to move Henry to safety alongside senior Jay Valai. This spring scrimmage will be the first time for fans to see how Henry is handling the transition tosafety.
New look D-line
The Badgers will enter the 2010 season as one of the most experienced teams in the Big Ten. But one area Wisconsin lacks experience in is its defensive line, where only one starter came back for 2010, J.J. Watt.
UW will greatly miss defensive end O'Brien Schofield, the only Badger on the 2009 All-Big Ten first team on defense, who is also departing. The Badgers will also lose defensive tackles Dan Moore and Jeff Stehle to graduation.
Wisconsin should be in good hands with Watt, who made an impact last season in his first year with Wisconsin after transferring from Central Michigan. Watt finished second on the team with 15.5 tackles for losses, and added 4.5 sacks.
But after Watt, this unit is a question mark. Junior Louis Nzegwu is likely to take over opposite Watt at defensive end, and junior Patrick Butrym and sophomore Jordan Kohout are primed to take over as the defensive tackles.