Wisconsin Badgers Seniors to Shine in 2020: Offense
Spring practices start up in just about a month or so for the Wisconsin Badgers, and AllBadgers.com will be there to cover whatever sessions are open to the media. That includes practice reports, interviews, videos, photos and more!
We will go position-by-position once March kicks off, but for now, let's focus more broadly on some of the returning Badgers on both sides of the ball. Despite losing Quintez Cephus, Jonathan Taylor and Tyler Biadasz in their early declarations for the NFL Draft last month, Wisconsin returns many seniors for the 2020 season.
AllBadgers.com breaks down a two-part series we will call "Seniors to Shine" for next season. First up, which upperclassmen could make an impact on offense.
Wide Receivers Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor
Cephus and his 59 receptions for 901 yards and seven touchdowns from last season depart the program. A.J. Taylor also exhausted his eligibility in 2019, and he hauled in 23 receptions, 267 yards and two touchdowns as a senior before a torn Achilles prematurely ended his Badger playing days.
Yes, Jonathan Taylor may be gone, but this may be the position I watch the most with UW needing to replace Cephus' big-play ability.
Davis, who will be a fourth-year senior, and Pryor, a redshirt senior, should have upgraded presences within the offense. The duo each have an ability to generate plays in the respective passing and rushing attacks for Wisconsin.
In his third year at UW, David caught 30 receptions for 250 yards and one touchdown while also carrying the rock nine times for 110 yards and a rushing score. Pryor recorded 23 receptions for 278 yards, but he also ran the ball 13 times for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
The former saw himself grow more in the ground game this past season.
"I didn't have a lot of rushing opportunities in the past, but I played running back in high school of course, so I can do that" Davis said on Nov. 26. "I finally got a chance to show what I can do. I thought I've been pretty good to continue to make plays in the air and plays rushing so (I) just got to go out there and give all the glory to God and have fun with it."
What to watch here for Davis is his yards per catch average and the ability to reel in contested catches. During his freshman year in 2017, he averaged 16.1 yards per reception, but that stat has fallen the last two seasons (10.5 and 8.3 in 2018 and 2019, respectively). Also for Pryor, he has shown the ability to catch deep throws during spring and fall camps. Should be interesting how he performs now more in the spotlight.
Quarterback Jack Coan
Many will wonder just how redshirt freshman Graham Mertz will develop and progress going into his second spring at Wisconsin, as he showcased impresssive physical traits early on during his freshman season. However, Coan asserted himself well as QB1 for Wisconsin last season, completing 69.6% of his throws for 2,727 yards and 18 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
He showed the ability to air it out deep to stretch the defense while also utilizing enough mobility to keep teams off balance at times last year. Now without Cephus and Jonathan Taylor for the offense, we will watch how the would-be senior continues to progress and lead the offense. That also includes how the competition in Jon Budmayr's position group shapes up.
Left tackle Cole Van Lanen
Starting 13 of 14 games in 2019, Van Lanen locked down the starting left tackle spot. With Biadasz, David Moorman and Jason Erdmann all leaving the program after last season, he now has an ability to further become a leader on Joe Rudolph's offensive line.
Watching how the interior line shapes up with the guard and center spots up for grabs will be one of the areas I watch in both the spring and August camps. That being said, Wisconsin should have the left edge set with Van Lanen.
Running Back Garrett Groshek
Taylor departs as one of the best running backs in the history of college football, let alone the program, in rushing for over 6,000 total yards and 50 touchdowns during his three years in Madison. Replacing his production will not come from just one back in all likelihood, and Groshek will be called upon with a couple of other backs to step up.
Last season, he ran for 194 yards on 4.6 yards per carry with two rushing touchdowns. He also was fourth on the team in receptions with 29 (for 289 yards).
Others to Watch
Wide receivers Jack Dunn and Adam Krumholz (depth at position); tight ends Luke Benzschawel and Gabe Lloyd (returning from injury); fullback Mason Stokke (continuing growth as a lead blocker)