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Wisconsin football spring game highlights, observations, MVPs

Inside Wisconsin's spring game and what takeaways we can find entering the summer.

George Rushing hauls in a touchdown ahead of Natrell Jamerson in Wisconsin's spring game Saturday.
George Rushing hauls in a touchdown ahead of Natrell Jamerson in Wisconsin's spring game Saturday.
Patrick Barron

Let's start with the plays of the day, shall we?

First, Corey Clement's rightful TD run, which was called down at the 9-yard line by a Leo Musso "tackle." This is the eighth play of the offense's first possession. The Badgers line up in 12 personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends), while the defense is in its base 3-4 alignment. This is a simple power play, but a staple of the Wisconsin running offense. Connor Sheehy (pink star below) is the read on this play, as Beau Benzschawel will be pulling from right guard to the offense's left.

Based on Sheehy's movement at the snap, Benzschawel will either take Sheehy up field, or simply prevent him from fighting across his face back towards the ball carrier. The rest off the offensive line and tight ends are simply executing down or reach blocks. This "down, down and around" concept is used quite a bit in the run game, as it helps improve the blocking angles for the offensive linemen. It allows them to use the defense's leverage against itself.

Again, Sheehy is the key lineman to get blocked on this play. As Troy Fumagali cuts off Sheehy, Benzschawel moves on to Chris Orr, and the fullback takes TJ Watt on the edge.

Below is the play about three seconds in progress. In the manner of the famous Vince Lombardi quote: "You get a seal here, a seal here, and an alley here!" This is a pretty easy read for Clement, and Jon Dietzen has done a good job from left guard to seal off Jeremy Patterson, the nose tackle, and Fumagali is in position to pick up Joe Ferguson. The arrow pointing to Ryan Ramczyk is maybe the most important block on this play, and was the definitive block to spring Clement. Using Jack Cichy's play reads against him, Ramczyk is able to leverage Cichy to the outside, creating this huge rushing lane for the Big Ten's most prolific returning rusher.

Leo Musso was victimized by a vicious stiff arm at around the 9-yard line that was called a "tackle," but Badger fans will likely take that matchup all year long. During the regular season, this is a famous "Touchdown, Wisconsin!" from the mouth of Matt Lepay.

The other play of the day was from Alex Hornibrook to George Rushing on the game's second touchdown.

Here, the offense is lined up in a trips right formation, and the defense is in its nickel alignment. The lines indicate man defense and with nine full defenders in the screen, it gives the impression of a two-high safety look; normally not a defense that allows long touchdowns.

However, as the play progresses:

It turns out that rather than playing "2 Man," or two deep safeties and a man underneath, the defense was really a one-high safety as Keelon Brookins (star) is caught out of position on the deep throw. Joe Ferguson, the other safety (right arrow) was playing a "robber" technique, or a safety playing underneath looking to jump an intermediate or short route. This leaves George Rushing the entire right side of the field to work deep, and he beats Natrell Jamerson for the touchdown.

Game MVPs

  • Corey Clement: Five rushes, 36 yards, touchdown. Clement needed this outing badly, and he looked revived from a year ago with his burst clearly returned. That should catapult him full speed ahead into his summer workouts. He'll be the focal point of the offense this year.
  • Alex Hornibrook and George Rushing. Two young players looking to make their impact in not-so-determined position battles both looked pretty sharp on Saturday. Hornibrook found Rushing for two touchdowns, and Rushing was able to make a nifty move after the catch on the second to run in for the score. Both of these players will need this momentum headed toward fall camp, where both could look to solidify their roles, potentially as starters.
  • Vince Biegel: Two sacks. The Badgers' most prolific returning pass rusher showed the ability that's made him a two time All-Big Ten linebacker over the past two seasons. Biegel will look to spearhead this defense, and will be looking to avenge last season, as he felt a bit overlooked with his third-team All-Big Ten award.

Observations, notes

  • Brett Connors got the start at right tackle for the first-team offense, as expected starter Jacob Maxwell sat out of the final spring "game" practice.
  • Ty DeForest had an interception off of Bart Houston late in the scrimmage. This is the second consecutive spring game for the walk-on out of Marshall, Wis.
  • Ryan Connelly also had a solid game, as the reserve inside linebacker made a couple splash plays including an impressive tackle for loss against freshman runner Bradrick Shaw.
  • Jason Erdmann was the only casualty from the game, as he left with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
  • Keelon Brookins could have won the game for the defense -- impressive for how the scoring system favored the offense -- but he dropped a sure pick-six down the sideline from Hornibrook.
  • Dare Ogunbowale looked especially quick and crisp. Expect him to be an excellent change-of-pace back to spell Clement this fall.
  • Leon Jacobs had a nice day at fullback. The former running back and linebacker in high school was recruited by Penn State, among others, to play offense, and he could have a bigger role than expected this fall as a blocker and runner.