Wisconsin football: Who will replace the departed in 2016?

While the Wisconsin men’s basketball team progresses in the NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin football continues with spring practice to prepare for the 2016-2017 season. The Badgers football program looks to replace key seniors for the upcoming season.

Here is a look into the potential roster moves for the 2016-2017 football season.

Quarterback (Joel Stave)

The most noteworthy competition has been the one for starting quarterback for the upcoming season. With Joel Stave pursuing a career in the NFL, the quarterback position is primarily fought between Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook. Houston remains the most likely candidate for starting quarterback, being the only quarterback with any regular season playing time. Houston and redshirt freshman Hornibrook have been taking the first and second string snaps at spring practice. Redshirt sophomore from Edgewood College, Bobby Dunn, is the third active quarterback on the roster. Incoming freshman Kare Lyles is inactive for the rest of spring with a hip injury.

Fullback (Derek Watt)

Junior Austin Ramesh will most likely hold the starting position for fullback to replace Derek Watt. In his two active years playing for Wisconsin, Ramesh has played in 16 games, but he has been limited in practice with a groin injury.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends (Alex Erickson, Austin Traylor)

Wisconsin loses two essential players in the receiving core this upcoming senior, wide receiver Alex Erickson and tight end Austin Traylor. In 2015, Erickson caught 77 receptions for 978 yards and 3 touchdowns. Traylor had 14 receptions for 210 yards and 4 touchdowns while battling a shoulder injury. For the wide receivers, Robert Wheelwright, Jazz Peavy, and Reggie Love are currently playing with the first team during spring ball. Juniors Troy Fumagalli and Eric Steffes are the two first string tight ends, with Fumagalli serving as the primary receiver and Steffes as the blocking tight end.

Offensive Line (Tyler Marz)

Ryan Ramczyk played first string left tackle for the first week of spring practice. Ramczyk formerly played for UW Stevens Point and transferred to UW Madison in 2015. He sat out of the 2015-2016 football seasons as per NCAA guidelines. Ramczyk, at 6’6’’ and 257 pounds, has been described by teammates as a freak for his athletic ability. Ramczyk replaces Tyler Marz, who played with the Badgers for three seasons. Marz, despite a poor NFL Combine performance, has the capability at an NFL career with his ability to switch to right tackle or potentially guard. Micah Kapoi, Michael Deiter, Beau Benzschawel, and Jacob Maxwell round out the starting line.

Linebackers (Jesse Hayes, Joe Schobert)

With outside linebackers Joe Schobert and Jesse Hayes graduating this year, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox had to make some adjustments to his linebackers. Schobert was a leader of the Wisconsin defense and will likely be drafted into the NFL this year. Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt played first string outside linebackers at their new on field positions. Biegel took the spot of field outside linebacker, formerly played by Schobert, and Watt moved to Biegel’s former position at boundary outside linebacker. First string inside linebackers are Chris Orr, T.J. Edwards, and Jack Cichy, although only two will get the starting job.

Safety (Mike Caputo, Tanner McEvoy)

With the arrival of former Badger and new secondary coach Jim Leonhard and the departure of strong and free safeties Mike Caputo and Tanner McEvoy the Wisconsin secondary will look much different in 2016. Currently starting as first string safeties are D’Cota Dixon and Leo Musso. Musso started at safety in 2015 before being replaced by McEvoy. Dixon also had playing time in 2015 with 16 tackles.

Cornerback (Darius Hillary)

Sophomore Derrick Tindal has started at cornerback after the first full week of practice. After being the #3 cornerback in 2015, Tindal may replace Hillary as first string cornerback. Junior Sojourn Shelton played opposite of Hillary in 2015 and continues to play on the first team following this first week of practice.

Punter (Drew Meyer)

Following this first week of practice, there has been little talk of who will be the punter for the 2016-2017 season. The Badgers have ranked low in punting under former punter Drew Meyer. Redshirt sophomore P.J. Rosowski had one punt in 2015 for 40 yards. Redshirt freshman Connor Allen also is on the Badgers roster. Allen saw no playing time in college but was ranked the #1 punter in Wisconsin during his high school career. Wisconsin also recruited Anthony Lotti from Oakwood, GA to compete for the starting position. In his last season of high school football, Lotti averaged 45.6 yards on 28 punts.

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