After a whirlwind of additions through the transfer portal and some key contributors announcing their returns, the Wisconsin Badgers football program is in an exciting spot heading into the 2024 season.
We’re a long way away from the home opener against Western Michigan on August 31st, but it’s never too early to cast some predictions on which Badgers will see some heavy playing time in year two under Luke Fickell.
Here are my predictions for Wisconsin’s 2024 two-deep depth chart.
Wisconsin Football Offensive Skill Positions Depth Chart Predictions
Starter: Tyler Van Dyke (RS SR)
Backup: Braedyn Locke (RS SO)
No surprises here. Just like they did with Tanner Mordecai, Wisconsin will have a one-year rental with Van Dyke to allow younger signal-callers such as Braedyn Locke, Nick Evers, Mabrey Mettauer, and Cole LaCrue some more time to develop.
Van Dyke comes to Wisconsin with 32 total games of experience with 28 starts against some solid competition. In three seasons as a starter at Miami, he threw for 7,469 yards, 54 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions while completing 63.7% of his pass attempts.
Starter: Chez Mellusi (Grad)
Backup: Tawee Walker (SR)
Chez Mellusi’s return is invaluable to Wisconsin, especially considering the amount of youth coming in at the position. The Badgers welcomed Darrion Dupree, Dilin Jones, and Gideon Ituka as part of the 2024 recruiting class, and having a veteran like Mellusi to mentor that group during their freshmen campaigns will be vital.
Adding Tawee Walker out of Oklahoma via the portal is also big, as it won’t force the young, inexperienced backs to play early. That’s not to say one of them won’t rise and see some time on the field, but adding an additional veteran will only help this corps. Walker totaled 513 yards and seven touchdowns on 102 carries last season with the Sooners.
Starter: Bryson Green (SR)
Backup: Quincy Burroughs (RS SO)
Starter: Vinny Anthony (JR)
Backup: CJ Williams (JR)
Bryson Green will be the returning veteran for this group after posting 480 yards and two touchdowns on 32 receptions last season. Behind him, I have Quincy Burroughs, who transferred in from Cincinnati last season and saw some time sparingly.
I gave the nod to Vinny Anthony as the other starter, but I expect there to be some real competition between him and Williams in spring ball. The Z-receiver spot will definitely be worth keeping an eye on.
Starter: Will Pauling (RS JR)
Backup: Trech Kekahuna (RS FR) or Tyrell Henry (JR)
There is no shocker on who the starter is, as Wisconsin’s leading receiver, Will Pauling, will be back for another year after recording 837 yards and six touchdowns on 74 receptions last year.
I had a tough time choosing between Trech Kekahuna and Tyrell Henry, so I’ll go the cheap route and put an “or” there. Kekahuna shined in the Badgers ReliaQuest Bowl loss to LSU, notching four receptions for 64 yards, and looks to be a great young option for Tyler Van Dyke. On the other hand, you have Michigan State transfer Tyrell Henry, who recorded 24 receptions for 195 yards and three touchdowns last year. He’ll be a big part of the special teams unit and could also see some run at slot receiver in a backup role.
Starter: Tucker Ashcraft (SO)
Backup: Riley Nowakowski (RS SR)
After Hayden Rucci’s departure, Wisconsin will have a young group of talent with Ashcraft, JT Seagreaves, Jackson McGohan, Rob Booker, and Grant Stec. Nowakowski will be the elder statesman of the room, but I see Ashcraft earning the starting nod after recording eight receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman.
Wisconsin Football Offensive Line Depth Chart Prediction
Starter: Jack Nelson (RS SR)
Backup: Kevin Heywood (FR)
After a turbulent season for Jack Nelson, he’ll come back with something to prove as he looks to rebuild his draft stock.
Now, here’s where we get to what might be a hot take, but I have true freshman Kevin Heywood backing up Nelson. The four-star prospect made a huge leap to No. 50 in the industry-generated composite recruiting rankings, appeared in the All-American Bowl, and has all the makings of the next star Wisconsin offensive lineman. While I don’t think he’ll see a lot of time, I do have him cracking the two-deep.
Starter: Joe Huber (RS SR)
Backup: JP Benzschawel (RS JR)
Joe Huber was a stalwart in the Wisconsin Badgers offensive line last season, and he’ll undoubtedly be a starter in 2024. I have JP Benzschawel as the backup, but true freshmen Emerson Mandell, Ryan Cory, and Colin Cubberly will provide some competition.
Starter: Jake Renfro (RS SR)
Backup: Joe Huber (RS SR)
There isn’t much to say on this one. Tanor Bortolini — who stepped up to play center during Renfro’s absence — is off to the NFL, and Joe Huber was listed as the backup center ahead of the ReliaQuest Bowl, so there shouldn’t be a big shakeup.
Starter: Joe Brunner (RS SO)
Backup: JP Benzschawel (RS JR) or Emerson Mandell (FR)
Joe Brunner was listed as the backup to Joe Huber at left guard for the bowl game, but I have him penciled in as the replacement for Michael Furtney on the right side in 2024. Once again, Benzschawel, Mandell, Cory, and Cubberly will provide some competition for the interior.
Starter: Riley Mahlman (RS JR)
Backup: Barrett Nelson (RS SO)
Riley Mahlman has been a stalwart in the Wisconsin football offensive line, and he’ll be the clear-cut starter in 2024. I gave the nod to Barrett Nelson — Jack Nelson’s younger brother — as the backup, but Kevin Heywood’s name could be in there, too.
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