MADISON - Though it wasn’t Saturday, it felt like it inside sunny Camp Randall Sunday with a boisterous 5,000 fans watching No.14 Wisconsin go through its first scrimmage of fall camp. Less than three weeks from the opener against No.13 LSU, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen was pleased with the results after just one week of practice under their belt.
Quarterback battle continues
The plan might not have been to give junior Joel Stave more passing attempts than junior Tanner McEvoy in the team’s first scrimmage, but the flow of the game made it that way, whether it was because Stave was throwing better or not.
Stave looked focused and comfortable in the pocket, unofficially completing 9-of-17 pass attempts for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked on two occasions when receivers were covered and protection broke down, but the experienced quarterback was able to move around in the pocket quickly while hitting open receivers.
“He’s poised, he’s confident, he loves to compete,” Andersen said of Stave. “I think he’s handling this team, and I would say on the flipside of that Tanner’s doing the same things. They’re competing well against each other. It’s a great situation to be in and I’m proud of him for that. He’s gone through a lot of things in his career. He battles like crazy and comes to work every day and I believe he’s gotten better.”
Option plays a factor
McEvoy, who is probably seen as the backup quarterback by many going into the scrimmage, missed on his first three passes before completing four for 40 yards and two touchdowns.
McEvoy looked much better outside the pocket than he did inside, one reason why he is a viable dual-threat option at quarterback. McEvoy’s number was called a few times using designed speed. Andersen didn’t want to show too much from the playbook, but said that using McEvoy as an option runner from under center is possible.
“I think if you’re going to look to be a speed-option-opportunity team, and really have it be a viable speed option, it’s going to be Tanner,” Andersen said. “We’ve got a couple backs that can do it. There’s some other things we can do from our offense.
”As we continue to move forward, if we played the game today we would have some scenarios where we would want to be a very multiple (faceted) offense. If that means the other guy’s got to get under center every once in a while to be more multi-faceted for people having to prepare [for it], then so be it.”
Running backs rest
Top tailback Melvin Gordon – not surprisingly – didn’t get much work in the scrimmage. He had only four carries for 13 yards and a 9-yard reception, but got some reps in pass protection and other areas he needed work on, according to Andersen.
Sophomore Corey Clement – who was banged up on Saturday - also didn’t need many reps in the scrimmage, though he did run the ball hard on the few carries he had. On two occasions he was a shoelace away from busting big runs.
As for other running backs, freshman Taiwan Deal sat out because of an injury, but should be ready to practice Tuesday. In his place, Austin Ramesh took snaps at tailback. Ramesh, normally a fullback, ran hard and was strong with the ball, rushing 15 times for 48 yards unofficially.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how that develops,” said Andersen. “We’d rather have Austin playing the fullback position and keep him there and have Taiwan be the third tailback.”
Downfield passing improves
While UW shuffled in young freshman wide receivers Jamerson, George Rushing and Krenwick Sanders, it was sophomore Reggie Love who raised some eyebrows in the scrimmage. Coming off his redshirt season, Love had three receptions for 39 yards while bringing in a touchdown on a post pattern.
“We’re protecting a little bit better,” Andersen said of the passing game. “We’ve still got a ways to go. We have more threats going down the field. You can’t just get up on one guy and double cover him. I think the scheme has changed to help us get the ball down the field, and the quarterbacks are throwing the ball better. I’d say all of those quarterbacks were throwing the ball – especially the first two guys, threw the ball down the field and gave our guys the chance and you’ve got to catch the ball in contested areas.”
In addition to Love, Alex Erickson made a nice 17-yard catch over the middle, and Jamerson made two catches for 35 yards, looking comfortable in tight coverage.
True freshman Rafael Gaglianone made a statement in his first time in front of the Badgers’ fan base. Gaglianone missed his first kick from 42 yards, but his next four kicks - from 40, 42, 50 and 55 yards -were straight and true.
“He hit it like a 62-yarder yesterday in practice,” said Andersen. “He’s impressed me. Trust me, it’s great the kicks are going through and that’s awesome, but he handles it (the pressure). The kids razz him a bit and try to get in his grill. We put him in this situation today and the first one he missed and came back and hit them all in a row.”
Junior Jack Russell was 2-for-4 with makes from 32 and 42 yards, while missing from 40 yards out.
Defensive line progresses
Sophomore Arthur Goldberg stood out to Andersen at the nose tackle position, plugging holes and making tackles while Warren Herring worked mostly from the defensive end position during the scrimmage. It was a good change from three days ago when Andersen said the backup nose tackle position was a concern.
“He’s stepped up and had some good days,” Andersen said about Goldberg’s play. “I think Warren has put back-to-back good days together. I like where that’s going. Jeremy Patterson is a young kid that’s progressed the last week, and right now I’m expecting him to be in a position to get on that airplane (to Houston). He’s got to continue to battle like crazy. We’ve just got to get three deep there, but I’m going to call it like I see it. I saw progress, which was great to see.”
Jean works at Safety
Senior Peniel Jean was moving around the field throughout the scrimmage and appears at home after transitioning from cornerback to safety following last season. Much like Dezmen Southward from one year ago, Andersen wants to use his skilled defensive athletes in different spots. With Michael Caputo shifting from safety to linebacker in different spots, Jean did well stepping up to make tackles in running situations.
“Peniel is in the mix,” Andersen said. “You saw him out there a lot to day, and to his credit, he played injured today. Trainers let him go on a limited scenario and he did a nice job. He’s in the rotation in those set packages when we get to the higher number of corners as we go forward. Who’s going to be that third corner, who’s going to be that fourth corner is still up in the air.”
Extra points: Defensive back Lubern Figaro intercepted a pass from D.J. Gillins and scored a touchdown…Gillins struggled mightily, completing just 1-of-6 passes…Andrew Endicott was 1-for-2 on field goals.