Projecting Wisconsin’s depth chart coming out of spring practice

Spring practice is made for learning, experimenting and developing your skills. For Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell and the rest of his staff, it is not a time to focus on putting together a depth chart. But that doesn’t mean the media won’t obsess on where guys are lining up. So, after 15 practices and still close to four months until the Badgers take the field for the season opener against Western Michigan, here is one person’s attempt at putting together what Wisconsin’s depth chart might look like coming out of the spring.

Note: True freshmen/transfers that reporters haven’t seen practice are not included for this exercise.

Players that missed spring due to injury are placed in the depth chart based on where we think they would have been if healthy.


1) Tyler Van Dyke (5th year)
2) Braedyn Locke (redshirt sophomore)
3) Mabrey Mettauer (freshman)

Van Dyke and Locke split first-team reps throughout the spring and will likely do the same in fall camp, at least for a little bit. Both guys had their moments, but it felt like Van Dyke had nudged in front with a strong close. The type of plays Fickell would call “catastrophic” were few and far between over the final five practices for the Miami transfer. Also, while he doesn’t possess the escapability from inside the pocket that last year’s starter Tanner Mordecai did, the 6-foot-4, 227-pound Van Dyke could be a factor on designed runs.

Again, Locke won’t make it easy for offensive coordinator Phil Longo come August, but it feels like this will eventually be Van Dyke’s job.

Running back

1) Chez Mellusi (6th year)
2) Tawee Walker (senior)
3) Jackson Acker (RS junior) or Cade Yacamelli (RS sophomore)

Mellusi got a lot more work in the spring than anyone expected as he returned from a nasty leg injury that cost him the final nine games last season. He didn’t appear to have the same explosiveness we saw before the injury, but you’d expect that to return as he gets further away from surgery.

Walker, a transfer from Oklahoma, was a huge bright spot. Built like a tank at 5-foot-9 and 222 pounds, the senior showed some surprising burst and caught the ball extremely well. He will have a role this fall.

Acker and Yacamelli figure to battle for the third spot, though the trio of freshman backs — Gideon Ituka, Darrion Dupree and Dilin Jones — may have a say in that.

Wide receiver

1) Bryson Green (senior)
2) CJ Williams (junior)
3) Tyrell Henry (junior)

1) Vinny Anthony (JR)
2) Quincy Burroughs (RS sophomore)
3) Haakon Anderson


1) Will Pauling (RS junior)
2) Trech Kekahuna (RS freshman)
3) Kyan Berry-Johnson (freshman)

Every wide receiver made plays throughout the spring, though the efforts of Kekahuna and Burroughs consistently stood out. That was especially the case with Kekahuna, who combines elite short area speed with an innate ability to make guys miss. Figuring out a way to get him on the field with Pauling should be a priority.

While it felt like it was a pretty good spring for the group, it is worth noting Wisconsin has brought in at least one transfer for a visit as it continues to look for the size and speed combination that Longo feels could take the offense to another level.

Tight end

1) Riley Nowakowski (RS senior)
2) Tucker Ashcraft (sophomore)
3) Jackson McGohan (RS freshman)

These three guys appear to be complementary pieces. Nowakowski is probably the best blocker of them, while McGohan, a transfer from LSU, is further ahead as a pass catcher than mixing it up in the run game. Ashcraft combines the abilities of both, which could mean he gets the most work.

It remains to be seen how big of a role the three get but it doesn’t feel like a hot take to suggest at least one of the guys will catch more than the 11 passes Hayden Rucci hauled in last year to lead the group.

Offensive line

Left tackle:
1) Jack Nelson (RS senior)
2) Kevin Heywood (freshman)
3) Manny Mullens (RS freshman)

Left guard:
1) Joe Brunner (RS sophomore)
2) James Durand (RS freshman)
3) John Clifford (RS sophomore)

1) Jake Renfro (RS senior)
2) Joe Huber (RS senior)
3) Kerry Kodanko (RS senior)

Right guard:
1) Joe Huber (RS senior)
2) JP Benzschawel (RS junior)
3) Peyton Lange (RS freshman)

Right tackle
1) Riley Mahlman (RS junior)
2) Barrett Nelson (RS sophomore)
3) Colin Cubberly (freshman)

Wisconsin has to feel good about its top six — the five starters and Benzschawel — along the offensive line but depth is a significant concern. The Badgers lost three guys to the transfer portal that likely would have competed for starting jobs or key backup spots. That forced true freshmen Kevin Heywood and Colin Cubberly to play a ton of reps with the second-team offense. While that is good for the future, they may not be ready to help this fall. It’s why Huber worked some at right tackle and Brunner got some time at left tackle at various points in the spring. Barrett Nelson served as the backup at right tackle last year but missed spring with an injury.

The depth chart here could and likely will look different with the arrival of transfers Leyton Nelson (Vanderbilt) and Joey Okla (Illinois), along with three more freshmen arriving this summer.

Defensive line

1) James Thompson Jr. (RS senior)
2) Ben Barten (RS senior)
3) Cade McDonald (RS senior)

1) Curt Neal (RS sophomore)
2) Elijah Hills (senior)
3) Jamel Howard (RS freshman)

Like the offensive line, the top group should be fine. Thompson Jr. showed some ability to cause chaos in the backfield, especially at the beginning of last season. Neal finished strong in the bowl game and had a solid spring.

The key will be to find some consistency from the guys behind them, including Hills, a transfer from Albany. The team could also use a big jump from Howard, who was a nice recruiting win in the 2023 class. We will also be keeping an eye on true freshman Dillan Johnson in fall camp.

Outside linebacker

1) Leon Lowery (RS senior)
2) Aaron Witt (RS senior)
3) Thomas Heiberger (freshman)

1) Darryl Peterson (RS junior)
2) John Pius (RS senior)
3) Anelu Lafaele (freshman)

Peterson was the team’s leading sacker last season with 4 1/2. It would be a huge surprise if that number comes close to being the most by an outside linebacker this fall as the revamped group was among the most impressive this spring. The new additions — Lowery, Pius and the true freshmen — ratcheted up the intensity and play-making ability on a consistent basis.

Witt was playing well before an arm/shoulder injury sidelined him for the final couple weeks of spring. If healthy, he will be an asset.

Inside linebacker

1) Jake Chaney (senior)
2) Tackett Curtis (sophomore)
3) Sebastian Cheeks (RS sophomore)

1) Jaheim Thomas (senior)
2) Christian Alliegro (sophomore)
3) Tyler Jansey (RS freshman)

Another spot that looks a lot different than the end of the season due to the addition of three transfers. Thomas and Alliegro both saw time with the first-team defense, so it’s a bit of a coin flip to determine which one will be out there to start a game. That will likely be irrelavant as each will play a lot.

The one guy that is back is Chaney and he was with the first-team defense all spring. His quickness and sudden burst are hard to ignore, especially when he’s blitzing.

Curtis was a big addition in the portal but missed most of spring following offseason surgery.


1) Ricardo Hallman (RS junior)
2) RJ Delancy (RS senior)
3) Amare Snowden (RS freshman)

1) Nyzier Fourqurean (RS senior)
2) Jonas Duclona (sophomore)
3) Jace Arnold (RS freshman)

1) Max Lofy (RS senior)
2) Austin Brown (RS junior)
3) Owen Arnett (RS junior)

Fickell called Fourqurean the most improved player on the team and he seems locked into the starting spot opposite Hallman, who missed all of spring after having shoulder surgery earlier this year.

Delancy, a transfer from Toledo, should push for playing time, while Duclona and Snowden could also factor in.

The most interesting spot is in the slot, where Brown ran with the starting unit for the first half of camp. But it was impossible not to notice Lofy, who held the role over the final eight or so practices. Despite being 5-foot-10 and 187 pounds, defensive coordinator Mike Tressel believes he’s big enough to handle the responsibilities on the inside.


1) Hunter Wohler (senior)
2) Preston Zachman (RS senior)
3) Braedyn Moore (RS freshman)

1) Austin Brown (junior)
2) Kamo’i Latu (sixth)
3) Justin Taylor (RS freshman)

New safeties coach Alex Grinch has a talented and deep group to work with. Wohler is an All-Big Ten kind of player and appears poised for a big year.

Assuming Brown doesn’t end up working in the slot full-time, he, Latu and Preston Zachman will all battle to see the field with Wohler.

Moore and Taylor are the future of the position.

Special teams

Field goals
1) Nathanial Vakos (junior)
2) Nate Van Zelst (RS junior)
3) Gavin Lahm (junior)

1) Gavin Lahm (junior)
2) Nathanial Vakos (junior)

1) Atticus Bertrams (sophomore)
2) Gavin Meyers (RS senior)

1) Cayson Pfeiffer (sixth)
2) Duncan McKinley (RS senior)

Punt returner
1) Vinny Anthony (junior)
2) Trech Kekahuna (RS freshman)
3) Tyrell Henry (junior)

Kick returner
1) Tyrell Henry (junior)
2) Trech Kekahuna (RS freshman)