It's only one practice but the same problems that plagued Wisconsin' quarterbacks last years surfaced again in the UW's second scrimmage of spring Saturday. All four quarterbacks struggled to get in a rhythm and struggled to move the Badgers' offense down the field with intermediate throws or completing the big pass against either the first- or second-team defense.
"We're getting knocked around pretty good on man coverage and the routes are timing routes," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. "Whoever is back there at quarterback, they're taught to get back and get their feet set and throw the ball where they believe the route is suppose to take place.
"It did get disruptive in man coverage and it did cause some major issues. Now I'm sure it's a lot of factors. As we watch the tape it could be some poor throws, some poor routes (or) some great defense. We just have a long ways to go in the throw game in all areas. That's disappointing and if we're going to be a good team we're going to have to be able to figure that out. But we have to be able to throw it and catch it and make some plays in the throw game. It will be a struggle on offense if we don't."
Even with the Badgers struggling in the passing game, Andersen can take away a positive that his defense came to play and are slowly taking strides in becoming a solid unit.
"Really pleased with the aggressiveness of the first- and really the second-team defense," said Andersen. "There wasn't a lot of offense out there today. Throwing the ball against the ones and the twos were almost impossible. The pass rush, the throws, the timing, the inability to get open, you can look it as a huge negative on one side but you can also look at it as a huge positive on the defensive side. Those kids came out with a purpose today.
"I thought they stopped the run really well today even when it was Melvin and Corey in there. I thought the drills we did, they were aggressive, pleased with the one and two defense and I think our three's overall are improving. Some kids are getting better and we just have to get better on the offensive side this next week. Hopefully we're playing a pretty good defense but we won't know that until we play somebody else."
Even though the quarterbacks struggled, the group did have their moments. Joel Stave, who finished 4-for-12 during the scrimmage, was able to complete a couple of throws where he placed the ball only where his intended target could get it.
Tanner McEvoy struggled to get in a rhythm and finished 3-for-11. McEvoy's best play of the day came when he extend the play after the pass rush collapsed the pocket and found an open Jazz Peavy for a touchdown. The play was negated due to a holding, another theme of the scrimmage.
"Tanner, has produced some good days in practice but today I thought he was average, nothing really jumped out at me," said Andersen. "He missed a couple of throws, but have to go back and look at the tape and see where it goes. The quarterbacks were very average with the one and two groups, whoever was in there it did not matter." Bart Houston only received one series during the scrimmage but was the only quarterback to lead Wisconsin on a sustained drive, setting up a first and goal from the 10-yard line. UW couldn't finish the drive off with a touchdown – another theme.
"We made some plays, we got a tip ball for a touchdown, and we we're able to hit a couple of throws down there too, which was a positive," Andersen said. "But your goal walking into the red zone offensively is to score touchdowns and you got to score touchdowns at a high percentage of time. We did do some good things down there on offense but there were some fortunate things that happened down there."
It doesn't help the quarterbacks either that the depth at wide receiver is thin. Sophomore Reggie Love was able to make his return to the field after missing the first half of spring football practice. With limited bodies, Love has a chance to be a contributor.
"It's good to see Reggie come out and make some plays," said Andersen. "He's at a crossroad in his career. He needs to make sure he gives himself the opportunity to compete, prepare, stay healthy and get on the field. Had a great talk with Reggie the other day. I know what his goals are and I know what direction he wants to go and he's excited about some opportunities, but you got to produce when you get out on the field, and today he was able to do that by making a couple of catches."
A Rooting Interest
It's no surprise, but the first thing that came out of Andersen's mouth before addressing the scrimmage was in regards to the Badgers basketball team and their game against Kentucky tonight.
"I want to say good luck to those kids, fired up to watch them play tonight, big time scene and big time stage," he said. "I'd suspect they're going to play very well just like they have all year long. Excited to watch that game tonight."
Even though Andersen and Bo Ryan haven't spent a lot of time together since Andersen arrived in Madison, the one thing he would like to do is be able to pick the brain of Ryan.
"He's a tremendous coach and in my opinion a slam dunk to be in the hall of fame at some point," Andersen said. "I have a great relationship with him. We haven't spent a bunch of time together but had the opportunity to go over and see the team the other day and talk with Bo for a little bit. He's a good man, obviously, and a tremendous coach. Watching that team, they're a fun team to watch. They compete, they're tough. It's going to be a back-and-forth match, but should be a fun game to watch."
Extra Points: NFL draft hopefuls James White, Dezmen Southward, Beau Allen, and Ethan Hemer were all at the Badger scrimmage today….Sophomore wide receiver Robert Wheelwright, who is working his way back from injury, did suit up and received roughly 10 snaps of the 80-to-90 play scrimmage…Wisconsin practiced fielding punts with Kenzel Doe and Love. Doe's muffed his last return, which was recovered by the punt team.