Combine Danny O'Brien's arrival this May with the fact that senior Curt Phillips is expecting to be ready to compete 100 percent by the summer, the play of the quarterbacks this Saturday during the spring game likely won't be viewed as harshly as the previous year. After all, expectations have been lowered for redshirt sophomore Joe Brennan and redshirt freshman Joel Stave.
Stave has arguably made bigger strides this spring, including taking all the reps with the No.1 offense during Saturday's scrimmage, but still makes the young mistakes. An example would be during 7-on-7 drills Monday, throwing a pass right into the arms of Dezmen Southward, who didn't have to move far to make an easy pick.
Stave struggled with his consistency throughout team drills Tuesday, throwing one incompletion after a three-step drop and another on a rollout during the first set. In the second set, Stave completed a pass in the flat to Montee Ball, but rushed a throw to Austin Traylor that was almost intercepted.
In the last set of team drills, Stave unofficially went 7-for-9 for 44 yards, no touchdowns and one sack. His best pass was a 25-yard completion to Arneson, who ran for 20 yards after the completion because of blown coverage.
In 7-on-7 drills, Stave completed slants to Jordan Fredrick and Jacob Pedersen for touchdowns and a nicely throw ball to A.J. Jordan (the pass to Jordan was the only completion to a wide receiver in the drill). Stave has a good live arm, but hasn't put multiple good throws together.
Brennan put together one of his better throwing practices with the second-team offense, showing decent footwork on a rollout completion to Arneson and hit Traylor on a play-action pass. Like Stave, Brennan has been struggling putting good throws together. Unlike Stave, Brennan has to see the bigger picture.
Inside the red zone, Brennan completed a pass to Lance Baretz on a crossing route. Problem was Brennan led Baretz right into the cornerback, who would delivered a nasty blow had it been an actual game. Not only would Brenan not have gotten the touchdown, it was set up to be the kind of hit that would knock a player out.
Those right now are the little things that are holding back the position.
After seeing Russell Wilson perfect Wisconsin's two minute offense last season, it's evident the Badgers have a ways to go in order to get back to that kind of level.
Down five with 1:58 to go and one timeout, Stave didn't draw out the suspense, throwing an interception right to safety Michael Caputo, who wisely went to a knee to preserve the victory. That drew the ire of UW coach Bret Bielema, who was displeased with a turnover on the first play.
Given a second chance, Stave moved the chains with a Ball sweep and a short Fred Willis completion and set up a second-and-8 following a reception by Arneson. Finally, Stave went deep down the sidelines and threw a solid pass in between the cornerback and the secondary for a 25-yard gain to Willis down to the 30-yard line.
Stave went to the same play on second down to Kenzel Doe, who beat Jake Keefer and Caputo in coverage, but the pass was overthrown, missing an easy touchdown. On third-and-10 with 37 seconds left, Isaiah Williams let a pass hit him right in the numbers, setting up fourth-and-10 with 33 seconds left. Stave's fourth-down pass on a back shoulder sideline pass was poorly thrown, but Bielema moved the chains.
James Adeyanju forced the offense to burn its only timeout when he broke through the left side of the line and stopped Ball for a 2-yard loss. With 27 seconds left, Conor O'Neil came untouched around the right tackle to force a rushed throw and an incompletion. A short throw to Ball only netted the offense 2 yards and facing a fourth-and-10 with 20 seconds left, UW's defense registered a sack to end the series.
Put in the same situation, Brennen completed a 5-yard pass to Jordan, a 3-yard pass to Marquis Mason and another 5-yard pass to Mason to get the group's first first down with 1:13 left on the clock. After Bielema gave the second-team offense a gift, ruling that Jordan caught a 33-yard pass inbounds when replays would have clearly overturned the play, UW's defense responded with a sack on first down that forced Brennan to take his only timeout with 56 seconds left.
It was downhill from there. Brennan was clearly sacked on second down off a corner blitz from Terrance Floyd but got the clock to stop when Mason bobbled the catch. On third and long, a screen pass to Melvin Gordon got UW only 7 yards, setting up a fourth-and-8. From there, a collapsing pocket forced a bad throw and a turnover on downs.
From the Infirmary
Brian Wozniak had surgery on his groin and will be out the remainder of spring, continuing an unfortunate string of camps in which the junior tight end has missed multiple practices due to injury.
Tyler Dippel (plantar fasciitis) continues to wear a walking boot and crutches, as it appears the UW medical staff has shut him down for the remainder of spring.
Jared Abbrederis (foot), Connor Cummins (hernia), Hugs Etienne (shoulder), Manasseh Garner (groin), Devin Gaulden (leg), Darius Hillary (hamstring), Jordan Kohout (migraines), Nate Hammon (foot), James White (knee) and Kyle Zuleger (knee) were limited or out for the second straight day.
Chase Hammond ran individual drills, but appeared to tweak his hamstring on the first play of team drills. He did not return.
Ball lined up as a wideout begins to look more and more like a realistic option for Wisconsin. With the Badgers lacking playmakers at the wide receiver position (and not having anyone step up with consistency) during the last few weeks, Ball went in motion on the first play of team drills to the left of the formation, ran a quick 5-yard out and turned that into a nine-yard gain. The Badgers have also been utilizing an offense with three tight ends, a sign that UW is a lot more comfortable with its tight ends consistently catching passes than its receivers at the moment.
Although his name currently will be remembered for the wrong reasons, senior walk-on Robby Burge continue making good strides at the right guard position, Getting an opportunity to compete for the job since Peter Konz left following his junior season, Burge has been a constant figure at right guard with the first-team offense working between Travis Frederick and Casey Dehn. Burge – who measures at 6-7 and 320 pounds – looked good in space and during his pulls.
After a half dozen bad snaps during Saturday's scrimmage, the issues between Brennan and true freshman Dan Voltz persist. While Voltz is learning the position for the first time, it obviously is getting to the coaching staff, as they made both players work on their snaps while the first-team offense was on the field.