Wisconsin concluded its first scrimmage Monday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium. Judging by the tweet from Wisconsin Football's official Twitter handle, it's not a bad turnout for a Monday afternoon:
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with BadgerBlitz.com's senior writer, John Veldhuis, Monday evening regarding today's scrimmage. Make sure you check out BadgerBlitz.com and John himself on Twitter, @JohnVeldhuis, for great Badgers coverage. Just as a note, my questions are in italics, while John's answers are in standard print. A few news and notes by John before we go into the Q&A dissection of Monday's Badgers scrimmage:
- Jake Keefer was injured and down on the ground for a while. It looked like a left leg injury, either knee or ankle, and needed assistance off the field.
- Earlier in the day during the morning practice, Chase Hammond landed awkwardly on his shoulder during a reception. During the scrimmage, his right arm was in a sling. Andersen did not have any updates for reporters after practice.
- Seniors Chris Borland and Dez Southward did sit out the scrimmage. Here's Borland on the sidelines next to defensive coordinator Dave Aranda:
Jake Kocorowski (JK): Before we dig into the position battles, what was your overall impression of the scrimmage both from an offensive and defensive side?
John Veldhuis (JV): I don't think a whole lot changed either way on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. I think, really depending upon which, the first team, second team, third team, whoever was in there, they all kind of had their ups and downs. Early on it looked like the offense was doing pretty well, but then later on in the scrimmage, the defense forced some three and outs, things like that, so really I'd say it was pretty even. Other than having been at the previous practices, I don't think it changed a lot of hearts and minds on who was going to start at particular positions and things like that, even though there might be a few little moves here and there.
JK: Like you mentioned, not much has probably changed, but everyone's asking about the quarterback position, the three-way dance between Curt Phillips, Joel Stave, and Tanner McEvoy, and even Bart Houston. How did those quarterbacks look today?
JV: Well, if you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I'm pretty much on the Stave bandwagon. I think that he's their best quarterback on the roster, but of the guys that were out there today, I think it was probably Curt Phillips that did the best. He showed the best decision-making. It looks like he was about 5-for-9, 68 yards. He had a touchdown. Stave went about 7-for-12 with 128 yards and had a nice, long, probably about 60-yard touchdown to Abbrederis early on in the scrimmage.
JV: So those two, I think are pretty much at the top of the pack right now. You can pretty much go either way. Whoever they pick of the three, whether it's decided between Stave and Phillips, whoever they pick, it will give us a good idea of what matters to the coaching staff. Stave definitely has some trouble picking up some of the extra pressure with the new 3-4 defense is bringing, and then obviously, everybody knows that Phillips is a little bit more limited when it comes to arm strength, but he's definitely a little stronger than he was at this time last year. I think as of this point, it's going to be between those two.
McEvoy really seemed to struggle today. It looked like he was about, let me check my notes, he was about 2-for-9. He had a touchdown, but for the accolades that he brought in terms of being a mobile, dual-threat guy, I really think that there is something lacking there that's at least right now that's keeping him behind Stave and Phillips.
JK: Obviously the talk of the camp's been true freshman (running back) Corey Clement and then also true freshman Rob Wheelwright on the receiving end. How did, just overall, the receivers and the running backs look?
JV: The receivers, they played pretty well. They had some nice catches. Rob Wheelwright didn't get a whole lot of action today. He only had a few snaps. I don't recall him making him any catches, but I can't remember if they threw many balls his way either. As far as Clement goes, Clement had a pretty solid day, I would say. He's showing the skill set that he's demonstrated through the first week of camp: he's a powerful runner, he's decisive, he's going to hit the hole hard, he definitely doesn't shy away from contact or anything like that. I think the feeling is pretty much what we all expected coming in, in terms of, I don't think anybody out there really showed anything different than what we've haven't seen before so far.
JK: Anything that you saw out of the safeties? Of course that's a big safety battle. I take it (Leo) Musso was still with the first-team defense then?
JV: He was. Dez Southward didn't play in the scrimmage, and Chris Borland didn't either. They're kind of resting their older guys. There really wasn't a need for them to play, so for most of the scrimmage, it was Leo Musso and then Michael Caputo in at safety. Gary Andersen said something interesting at the end when he was talking with reporters, and he said that Caputo really had a nice couple of days over the first week of camp, and I'd have to agree. Andersen said that Caputo is really going to give Musso a run for this strong safety spot, so while I don't really remember any diving interception grabs or anything like that with the two of them, it certainly should be an interesting battle between the two of them moving forward.
JK: There are two other position battles in terms of right guard and ("Rover" inside) linebacker. Who started with the 1s (first-team) for both (positions) starting off in the scrimmage?
JV: It's kind of interesting with right guard today. They really rotated a lot between Kyle Costigan and Zac Matthias at right guard, which kind of surprised me because Costigan was getting most of the reps for that first week of practice at right guard. It got to the point where so many days in a row, that I really thought that Costigan had virtually locked up that battle, but they really rotated a lot. I think Costigan had some troubles. The offensive line, just another note, the offensive line really struggled today, in terms of just the second team. They had got called for quite a few false starts and a couple of holds here and there, so it was kind of a rough day for them, and I think Costigan was at fault for at least one or two of those, and so it was probably wasn't his best day out there. But then, Zac Matthias looked pretty good in that right guard spot, so we'll kind of see how that position kind of sorts itself out during the last two weeks of camp.
At linebacker, it looked like to me that (Conor) O'Neill and (Derek) Landisch were kind of rotating back and forth. That's pretty much what they've been doing. Landisch, in particular, had a pretty nice play where he ran down, I think it was Melvin Gordon, out in space. Brought him down right at the line of scrimmage, so that was an impressive play, but I don't think anything really changed at linebacker, but at right guard, it's certainly something that I think bears watching.
Here's coach Andersen's post-scrimmage press conference for your viewing pleasure:
As Andersen put it, "it looked like a first scrimmage." You cannot expect too much after a week of practice. It's not surprising Phillips' performance has been well-received by John and others in the media. Although Stave has the better arm, consistency is the name of the game. If Phillips keeps it up with his better arm strength and mobility, he very well could be the starter, especially with McEvoy struggling and Stave still holding the ball a bit longer than one would like. With this scrimmage and last week's practices, it's definitely a two-horse race between Phillips and Stave for the starting spot.
Corey Clement had another solid day. Even with James White and Gordon ahead on the depth chart and poised to shine, Clement will make an impact somehow this year. When one looks at the years when Wisconsin has had three capable running backs like 2010 and 2012, it could be something special again in 2013.
As John mentioned, the right guard battle is becoming more interesting. Everyone talks about the skill position battles, but the team needs a solid five on the line. Sounds like Matthias is making his case, so keep an eye over on the right side of the line during the next week, and during next Monday's scrimmage.
A special thanks again to John for talking with me this evening. Make sure you follow him on Twitter and his Wisconsin coverage at BadgerBlitz.com. Follow me at @B5Q_KKSE_Kuba on Twitter, and check back again soon for more Wisconsin fall camp coverage.