The Wisconsin Badgers held their first day of spring ball on Saturday, marking the first time that media watched a practice conducted by new head coach Luke Fickell, which consisted of high tempo and a lot of rotations.
Of course, the spotlight was on the new-look quarterback room, as SMU transfer Tanner Mordecai took all of the first-team reps, while Mississippi State transfer Braedyn Locke earned a majority of the second-team reps.
Performance-wise, it wasn't the strongest day for the quarterbacks, as there were several misses from close range, including an interception from Mordecai by cornerback Ricardo Hallman, but nonetheless, head coach Luke Fickell was proud of the performances from his top signal-callers on Saturday.
“For the most part, I was happy with those guys and just how they handled themselves. More so demeanor-wise because we all know everybody looks to them and you’re going to feed off of that guy whether you’re an offense alignment or not,” Fickell said.
On the first day, the head coach expected more frustrations, understanding the number of moving parts and the first open practice, which ended up not being the case.
“I think confidence-wise, sometimes you can see guys kind of wear their emotions on their sleeves. It’s chaotic and defensively doing a lot of different things and, all of a sudden, you add rush guys from just the walk-throughs that we have been doing,” Fickell shared.
While there were errant throws from both of Wisconsin’s top quarterbacks, Fickell didn't focus on the play, but rather on the demeanor of each player to gauge their resilience, which he felt was positive after Day 1.
“And so, you see some errant throws, you see a swing pass that sails over a guy’s head, which you’d say, ‘oh man, that should be an easy throw’. And I just watched the demeanor, I just watched the body language of a quarterback to see, okay, ‘hey, can you handle making a bad throw or throwing the thing over a guy’s head’”, Fickell said. And I think, more than anything with those guys, I didn’t see a guy flinch, I didn’t see a palms up, I didn’t see a guy start to mope and pout. They understand the process and the next play’s the most important one.”
The best indicator? Via the “sugar huddle” after plays, where Fickell got an understanding of his quarterback’s mindset moving forward.
“I know there’s not a huddle, but there’s a sugar huddle,” Fickell said. “And if you can’t look into that guy’s eyes and see some confidence, I think it becomes difficult on a lot of people, so I thought they did a great job of that.”
The Badgers resume spring practices on Tuesday morning, where media will get a second chance to revisit the quarterback performances, which should be an intriguing competition for the remainder of the offseason.