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Wisconsin Spring Football: Offense Shines in Open Practice

The Badgers opened Camp Randall Stadium to fans on Saturday, showcasing an impressive offense led by quarterbacks Curt Phillips and Joel Stave.


About 850 diehard Badger fans came out to Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday to watch Wisconsin's last open practice before April 20's spring game.

Head coach Gary Andersen and company started the day off with a bang as the team showed off its moves to the early-arriving fans in a pre-practice dance competition that displayed a variety of dancing styles, but no clear-cut winner.

After the pre-practice festivities, Saturday was owned by the offense, which ripped off big play after big play in the scrimmage portion.

"The defense clearly won Wednesday's practice; Monday's practice was non-padded, offense clearly won today's practice," Andersen said. "It's give and take, the way it should be for a good football team in spring ball ... I was really proud of the way the offense was able to bounce back and make some plays today. Good solid week, and I'm proud of the O-men."

Curt Phillips and Joel Stave ran the majority of the reps for at quarterback, splitting time mostly evenly.

Both Phillips and Stave looked sharp behind center, but it was the latter who stole the spot light with a 60-plus yard touchdown pass to Jared Abbrederis and another touchdown pass to Jordan Frederick in the red zone.

Andersen said he made an effort to focus his attention on the offense and was pleased with what he saw from both quarterbacks.

"I have a tendency to lean over the defensive side and watch that more so than the offense," Andersen said. "So, I felt like get back behind the huddle and just seeing the kid's eyes and listening to Joel communicate and Curt communicate, they did a good job with that. So, I was impressed with that -- a better handle of the offense, if you will."

Just three days earlier in Wednesday's practice, the quarterbacks struggled to deal with the pressure being brought from the defense, resulting in a lot of rushed throws and sacks. It was a much different story Saturday, with Stave and Phillips displaying patience and waiting for the play to develop.

"Poise in the pocket was better today, especially out of Joel," Andersen said. "I think he took some time, got the ball out of there. On Wednesday, we were a little bit panicked in there and took some sacks where we had to get the ball out. When you're playing against an aggressive defense, you have to get the ball out quick and max protect and take your shots. I thought today that the offense did a better job of that and the quarterbacks did a better job of throwing it and the wide receivers made some plays, which is great to see."

As the coaching staff continues to wait for a No. 2 wide receiver to develop, the offense resorted to running a lot of three-tight end sets.

Andersen believes the three-tight end formation is one the Badgers will use a lot, but that doesn't mean they won't be able to pass.

"Just because we play in that personnel group doesn't mean we have to pack it all in there and have 20 guys sitting in the middle of the field with the offense and defense smashed on top of each other," Andersen said. "We can still spread it. Our tight ends are skilled, they run well, they're athletic enough to get in space and cause some mismatches in space.

"There's a lot of positives to that. It can slow down an aggressive defense in their sub packages and not let them get as much skill on the field because they don't know what's coming their way. It may be power football, it may be spread football."

Running backs James White and Jeffrey Lewis also contributed to the offensive show, ripping off big chunks of yards and running very physical up the middle of the defense.

The tailback's success was also a credit to the offensive line, which was able to give their offensive teammates some big holes to run through, despite being depleted due to injuries. Andersen said he was aware of the number of reps his linemen were taking because of a lack of subs and actually ended practice earlier than he had intended to make sure he wouldn't over work his big men in the trenches.

After huddling with his team at the conclusion of the weekend practice, Andersen addressed the Wisconsin fans, telling them how appreciative he was of their support and he couldn't be happier with the way the day turned out.

"I loved it," Andersen said with a smile. "We got sunshine; weather guy was wrong. No rain. It's a beautiful thing. This is important. It matters to the kids and it gets them even more invested to the public and to Badger Nation. It matters to them and it matters to us. People take a Saturday morning to come out and want to support the kids and see the new offense and defense. It's great for us to just to be part of it."