After scrimmaging for the first time of the fall Monday, the Wisconsin Badgers returned to practice Tuesday with August's most concrete evaluation to date in the books. Of course, while Monday's event was heavily anticipated due to it being open to the public and it presenting a taste of real football, a scrimmage is really just a scrimmage.
Inefficient as, say, Tanner McEvoy might've been on Monday, Tuesday presented another opportunity to right the ship. Turns out, it seemed like that's precisely what happened.
After an up and down scrimmage all of the #Badgers QBs bounced back today, including Tanner McEvoy who had, IMO, his best practice.— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) August 13, 2013
#Badgers lone Tuesday's practice over. Breath a sigh of relief. QBs looked better and receivers not named Abbrederis caught the ball!— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) August 13, 2013
There was also some additional change among the quarterbacks when redshirt freshman Bart Houston worked with the No. 2 offense during 11-on-11 drills. We referenced the chatter about Houston's strong fall potentially reinserting him back into the race for the starting job over the weekend and I still can't buy into it. Joel Stave and Curt Phillips are the two leaders because they, each to varying extents, can deliver the ball accurately and safely. Strong as Houston's arm may be, this coaching staff has zero tolerance for an unreliable passer. Houston might not even be inaccurate as he is inconsistent, slinging the ball all around the field but not ably moving the offense.
Nevertheless, it's exciting to see him staying sharp. In another thread on the site today, we discussed McEvoy's future should he indeed fail to win the starting job this fall. Given his skill and experience at wide receiver, could he switch positions? Considering Houston's impressive play this fall, as well as the future additions of top prospects D.J. Gillins and Austin Kafentzis, that's certainly a possibility.
News, notes and observations:
#Badgers DE Jake Keefer suffered a knee injury in the scrimmage. He was on crutches and wearing a brace while at practice today.— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) August 13, 2013
With the injuries several players have been added to the camp roster, including freshman OL Ben Hemer. #Badgers— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) August 13, 2013
Hemer's addition, as BadgerBlitz.com's John Velduhis points out, comes at the expense of the roster spot previously belonging to safety Isaiah Williams. Williams himself as added to the roster midway through last week, so this latest move is curious.
#badgers Derek Watt dislocated a finger at the beginning of yesterday's scrimmage. Taped his pinky and ring finger together & kept playing.— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) August 13, 2013
On the defensive side of the ball, Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal looked at the progress the Badgers have made in transitioning to Dave Aranda's 3-4 defense. One quote from Gary Andersen might be alarming, if it wasn't only Aug. 13.
"I felt we kind of caught fire with some emotion on that side of the ball late into the scrimmage, which tells me they might still be thinking a little bit," Andersen said afterward. "That's a little bit of a red flag for me."
On the flipside, the defense intends to amplify the pressure not only on opposing quarterbacks, but on their receivers as well. Perhaps nothing's more frustrating for an anxious fan base than the dreaded "10-yard cushion," exemplified by defensive backs taking several seconds to get a body on their man and allowing that receiver to gain separation. Wisconsin's recent defenses under Bret Bielema were typified by this bend-but-don't-break philosophy, with a stated goal of keeping games low-scoring and wearing out opposing offenses.
While the Badgers continue to get acclimated in the new scheme, the differences have already been encouraging.
"We've had a bend-but-don't-break philosophy in the past and it'll be fun to get after it more on defense," linebacker Chris Borland said. "Especially defensive players, it's a lot of fun to get after it. You don't have to play on your heels, ever, if you're an aggressive defense. The guys love it."