Key returnee: Sophomore Tyler Donovan, 6-1, 187 (2 of 3 passing for 7 yards, 117 rushing yards on 11 carries in five games).
Newcomers: Freshman Dustin Sherer, 6-4, 205.
Also in the mix: Redshirt freshmen Bryan Savage, 6-4, 211; and Craig Meier, 6-3, 198.
Reasons to be excited: John Stocco has a year under his belt, the highs and lows of a 9-3 season to draw from, and enough talent to be a productive player. He commanded a leadership role on a veteran team last season, and he should have one again this year… New co-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is not going to make any revolutionary changes to the passing game, but he has changed the emphasis and the quarterbacks seemed to adapt to his style well in spring ball. The subtle adjustments he makes could be just what UW's passing game needs to get off the ground… If Stocco falters, the Badgers have better depth this season. Backup Tyler Donovan was one of UW's most improved players last spring and the Badgers at the very least plan to get him involved as a situational quarterback to take advantage of his running abilities… A redshirt season behind him, third-string signal caller Bryan Savage has the talent to put pressure on Donovan and, eventually, Stocco.
Cause for trepidation: The passing game struggled immensely for much of last season. Stocco was a very good game manager but he struggled with his accuracy and consistency. What if he does not improve substantially in those areas? There was still something to be desired during spring practices, though Stocco did show improvement. He also needs to be more proficient throwing deep passes… Donovan can do a lot with his feet, but he has never challenged Stocco as a passer... The Badgers benefited from having Stocco healthy for every game last year. How the other quarterbacks would react if thrust into the starter's role remains to be seen.
Camp questions: How much will Donovan be involved in the game plan? Can he push Stocco for the starting job? Stocco was never really challenged for the No. 1 role last spring but that does not mean Donovan could not close the gap this fall. If Stocco remains the clear, hardly challenged starter, however, Donovan's role as situational quarterback could be reserved to a slim set of plays… Similarly, can Bryan Savage develop enough this fall to challenge Donovan for the No. 2 spot? Savage had some growing pains last spring, then finished the spring injured. But he has flashed a great deal of potential and may still be the most talented quarterback on the roster. How much he puts it together in camp will be a secondary storyline to watch.
Forecast: The most important question, of course, is how much has Stocco improved? The guess here is that Stocco will show enough to retain a tight grip on the starting spot. Will he become one of the top flight quarterbacks in the Big Ten? Probably not this year. But can he consistently play like he did during his better moments of 2004? Absolutely. The Badgers will need that out of him to be competitive this year… Expect Donovan to play regularly as a change-of-pace quarterback. He will prove to be an asset in that role, and will be a good enough passer, particularly on sprint outs, to keep defenses relatively honest…. Savage may not challenge for playing time this year, but he should develop enough to be in line to do so in 2006.
BadgerNation.com projected depth chart