It’s like Christmas Eve for Wisconsin fans, as kickoff to the 2017 football season is just one day away. The Utah State Aggies will find themselves facing off against the Wisconsin Badgers in Camp Randall at 8pm CT on Friday night. With a new season beginning, here are five things about the Badgers to watch for.
1. Hornibook’s improvement and confidence. During spring and fall football, Hornibrook showed plenty of confidence when releasing the ball. Without having to compete for his starting job, Hornibrook had time to focus on his technique, which he even did over spring break, when he was spotted working out with George Whitfield and Johnny Manziel. Hornibrook has two of his most consistent receivers coming back this season in Jazz Peavy and Troy Fumagalli.
2. How will the carries be split for Chris James, Bradrick Shaw, and Jonathan Taylor? The Badgers have an extremely full and talented backfield with Chris James being able to join the team on the field, Bradrick Shaw returning for his sophomore year, and the addition of true freshman Jonathan Taylor. So which of these three is the Badgers featured running back? Well, according to the depth chart, all three of them are; the Badgers listed all three as RB1. Taylor missed spring ball, but Shaw and James definitely stood out. Shaw is the only player that has seen playing time with the Badgers, but all three should see time.
3. Who will step up without Jack Cichy? It’s time we accept the fact that the Badgers will be without star inside linebacker Jack Cichy for the whole 2017 campaign. But who will try and fill in for him? The Badgers will have Chris Orr back on the field, who was hurt on the very first play of the 2016 season against LSU. Arrington Farrar switched to inside linebacker from safety. But these two will most likely sit behind T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly. We will get to see first hand on Friday if these four will be able to make up for Jack Cichy.
4. Rafael Gaglianone’s return. It’s safe to say that after Gaglianone went down with a back injury early last season, that the kicking game struggled, particularly against Ohio State. So how will Wisconsin’s favorite placekicker perform in his first game back on the gridiron? Gaglianone looked like he was back to full force in the spring, and I wouldn’t expect him to miss beat in his return. Rafael will be back to dancing after nailing extra points and field goals on Friday.
5. How will Nick Nelson perform in his first season with the Badgers? Nick Nelson transferred to the Badgers last year from Hawaii, and will get to see the field for the first time in the crimson and white. He seems to be the cornerback the Badgers need, after losing Sojourn Shelton to the NFL. Nelson and Derrick Tindal believe that they can be the best cornerback duo in college football, and the two certainly seem to have the chemistry.
Hopefully we won’t need to wait long to get answers to these questions on Friday night.