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Wisconsin Badgers Spring Game Grades And Analysis

Bret Bielema has his hands full with getting the Badger offense where it needs to be in the fall.
Bret Bielema has his hands full with getting the Badger offense where it needs to be in the fall.

MADISON, Wis. -- According to the scoreboard, the White beat the Cardinal 29-27 in Wisconsin's annual spring game Saturday.

In real life, the Cardinal won 3-0.

Using spotted points at the start of each half and the always ridiculous rapid fire field goal contests in between quarters, a total of 53 "fake" points were added to the scoreboard throughout the game.

Quite frankly, the only justice the scoreboard served was that the defense -- which wore white jerseys -- was indeed the better team on the field Saturday.

The offense never scored a touchdown and it was the third team unit -- and third string kicker Alex French -- that accounted for the one field goal made during game action.

Here's a position-by-position breakdown of the game with grades:

Quarterbacks - F

All-in-all, the quarterbacks accounted for five turnovers -- four interceptions and one fumble -- while completing only 22-of-61 passes on the day.

Redshirt sophomore Jon Budmayr, who figures to be clubhouse leader for the starting job in the fall, was 10-of-23 for 113 yards with one interception and the lone fumble. He looked relatively comfortable in the pocket, but a majority of his throws were off and most of his completions were short ones. The highlight of his day was a 23-yard strike to redshirt freshman wide receiver Jared Abbrederis.

Redshirt freshman Joe Brennan was a brutal 3-of-17 with one interception. He accounted for 42 yards through the air, 23 of which came on what was actually a beautiful pass and catch to redshirt freshman fullback Jason Hengel.

(Note: UW sent out corrected stats a few hours after the game. Brennan's original stats stated he was 4-of-23 for 51 yards. Those numbers were incorrect.)

If there was a brightspot at all, it was true freshman Joel Stave who graduated high school early and joined the team this spring. Considering Saturday was only his 15th practice with the Badgers, Stave held his own by completing 8-of-15 passes without an interception.

"(The quarterbacks) aren't anywhere where we need them to be for us to be a competitive team in the fall," head coach Bret Bielema said after the game.

Running backs - B

The running backs are by no means a concern and pretty much just went out and had a solid practice Saturday.

Montee Ball got the start and racked up 33 yards on eight carries (4.1 ypc). James White also received eight carries and ran for 47 yards (5.9 ypg) and Zach Brown accounted for 33 yards on nine carries (3.7 ypc).

Considering the Badgers nearly became the first school ever to have three running backs account for 1000 yards each last season, Bielema sent out this shocker after the game:

"I'm excited because because I think Zach Brown gives us three-deep at running back that may be as good as we've had since I've been here."

Wide receivers - C-

The quarterbacks didn't give the receivers much of a chance, but there were enough jump balls that the offense should have won a couple of them.

Hengel led the way with four catches for 62 yards, and yes, he's a fullback no one had ever heard of before the game. With Bradie Ewing out Saturday, Hengel got the most reps out of any player and was probably your MVP of the game.

Unfortuately, he's not a wide receiver.

Manasseh Garner looked good with four catches for 57 yards, but there were still a couple balls he should have come down with. And while the coaching staff keeps telling us he's a tight end, it's clear he's more of a wideout. He's built more like a receiver -- lacks some build to play tight end -- and he has a ton of potential.

Jared Abbrederis was probably the biggest victim of the inconsistent quarterback play. He wasn't targeted much, but caught two balls for 40 yards. He's the likely starter alongside Nick Toon in the fall.

And freshman Kenzel Doe showed off some speed, but dropped a sure catch. He finished with two catches for 19 yards.

Isaiah Williams, Chase Hammond and Jeff Duckworth all finished with two catches as well. There are a lot of options, but not much stood out Saturday.

"Obviously we hope Nick Toon can come back and give us something, but Jared Abbrederis and Manesseh Garner, I think that solidfies that area," Bielema said.

Offensive line - B-

The Badgers moved the ball on the ground just fine and while the quarterback was pressured a little more than usual, that was mostly because none of the quarterbacks got rid of the ball quickly and because the defense blitzed a lot more than you usually see in a scrimmage.

Not a spectacular day for the line, but nothing to be worried about.

"During the course of the spring, there was a scrimmage two Saturdays ago when the offensive line just took over," Bielema said.

Defensive line - A-

While the "official" unofficial stats showed no sacks for redshirt junior defensive end Brendan Kelly, I had him down for two and there were a slew of plays where I thought he could have crushed the quarterback had he been allowed to do so.

The linebackers helped with some blitzes, but against a pretty good offensive line, I thought the defensive line got a good push. David Gilbert, Louis Nzegwu and Pat Muldoon were all credited with one sack.

You are going to see a rotation of Nzegwu, Gilbert and Kelly in the fall and it wouldn't surprise me if Kelly became the best end on the team next season.

Linebackers - B+

With Borland out, it's hard to get a good read on the linebacking unit, but Mike Taylor was healthy and active Saturday and Marcus Trotter made a nice play to strip Budmayr and force a turnover. A.J. Fenton also made a great play on one of Budmayr's passes, batting it down and diving after it to complete the interception.

The entire group could have done a better job of covering Hengel out of the backfield, but they didn't let any of the tight ends get loose and there were very few instances when the running backs got past the linebackers.

Secondary - B+

Bret Bielema said after the game that he has been pleasantly surprised with the safety trio of Aaron Henry, Dezmen Southward and Shelton Johnson. All of them broke up some passes Saturday, but all of them also dropped interception chances. Wisconsin will need those guys to force some turnovers in the fall.

"I was really concerned about the safety position, but Shelton Johnson, Aaron Henry and Dezmen Southward are three guys who can really give us some ability that I didn't know was going to be there," Bielema said.

Special teams - C

I really don't care much about the rapid fire field goal competitions that were held in between quarters, but it should be noted that Philip Welch hit a 61-yarder and 58-yarder in those sessions. Unfortunately, he was 0-for-3 during the game.

Brad Nortman kicked a ridiculous 12 punts in the game and averaged 38 yards with a long of 45. Chris Borland actually went out there to kick the last punt, which went for 32 yards.

There were no kickoff or punt returns so there was no way to judge the coverage units.

Offensive player to watch: TE/WR Manesseh Garner
Defensive player to watch: DE Brendan Kelly
Greatest area of concern: Quarterback

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