clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Wisconsin Badgers Spring Ball Day 6 Breakdown: Offense

Injuries are starting to ramp up as the Badgers reach the midway point of spring ball.

The Wisconsin Badgers continued spring ball on Thursday with their sixth practice available to the media.


Here were the rotations on offense on Day 1.

For the second consecutive practice, wideout Will Pauling was the first-team slot receiver, with Skyler Bell primarily working with the second-team offense.

Tanor Bortolini and Trey Wedig continue to play at center and left guard, respectively, with Jake Renfro in a walking boot.

With Chris Brooks Jr. injured, Quincy Burroughs took the majority of second-team reps at receiver alongside C.J. Williams and Skyler Bell. Tommy McIntosh cycled in as well.

Along the second-team offensive line, Joe Huber continued to play center, with Nolan Rucci, Joe Brunner, Kerry Kodanko, and Barrett Nelson filling out the remainder of the line from left to right.


Tanner Mordecai continues to stand out after some learning experiences of Wisconsin’s first few practices, smoothly running Wisconsin’s first-team offense for the most part.

The Badgers seemed to work on RPO slants early in practice, with Mordecai working well on the timing with his receivers.

Mordecai is good at getting the ball out quickly when the offense requires it, and possesses solid mobility when the pocket collapses to extend plays.

Additionally, the veteran quarterback isn’t afraid to let it sling: he threaded the needle once again on a pass over the middle and completed a nice ball in traffic to an outstretched Will Pauling, who made a spectacular catch.

Mordecai does need to get off his first read quicker sometimes, but is fairly adept at making half-field reads, which offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s offense has created well thus far.

Braedyn Locke continues to be the clear-cut quarterback No. 2, having a solid practice as well.

A majority of Locke’s throws focused on getting the ball out quickly, which led to primarily short gains, but the quarterback’s execution was on-par.

Locke primarily targeted the middle of the field, where wideout Skyler Bell was the biggest beneficiary on a good day in the slot.

Locke occasionally holds on to the ball too long, which resulted in a near-interception to Jason Maitre on a ball to the outside in the redzone.

The backup quarterback also didn’t benefit from consistent pressure towards the end of Thursday’s 11-on-11 session, as defensive linemen Isaiah Mullens, Gio Paez, and Rodas Johnson were consistent disruptors over the middle against the second-team offensive line.

The Badgers defense consistently dialed up blitzes, which led to mixed results, as the defense was able to get after the quarterback, specifically with the second team, which led to the approach of getting the ball out quickly.

Running Backs

Allen practiced in full after an injury banged him up last week, serving as the team’s top back alongside Chez Mellusi as usual.

While it’s tough to evaluate their progress without true contact, Allen and Mellusi worked best operating to the left side of the offensive line on runs, which was the primary focus on Thursday.

Two-back sets were in effect, and Longo implemented wheel routes to complement clear-out routes from outside wideouts that saw significant success on Thursday against the Badgers’ defense.

Cade Yacamelli continues to be the team’s third running back, especially with competition Jackson Acker and Julius Davis currently out with injuries.

As a result, Grover Bortolotti saw good action with the backups today, while redshirt freshman Zach Gloudeman saw third-string action as well.

It’s clear that the running backs should have some bit of a role as pass-catchers this season, with a good amount of the short passing attack focusing on getting the halfbacks in space.

That also places a bigger emphasis on pass protection, where Braelon Allen had a nice block against a blitzing Jordan Turner on a play today.

Wide Receivers

Through six practices, Will Pauling has been the best receiver on the team.

The redshirt sophomore consistently makes highlight plays, but where he really stands out is when he’s not being watched. Pauling showcases consistency with his route-running and operates with fluid movement with the ability to accelerate to top speed quickly.

Those skills have firmly placed him into the starting category, and he seems primed to be Wisconsin’s top weapon out of the slot in 2023, barring injury.

Pauling’s biggest question will be how he operates against press coverage and through contact, but he’s certainly impressed thus far.

Keontez Lewis continued to be a burner in 1-on-1s, winning a rep against Alexander Smith on a go-route before winning another rep on a comeback route against the top corner in 7-on-7s.

Lewis did have a concentration drop on a quick-out, but his route-running has been fairly solid to complement his speed.

Quincy Burroughs saw good action with the second-team offense on Thursday, which likely appears to be the case with Chris Brooks Jr. being limited for the majority, if not all, of spring practice.

C.J. Williams made another nice catch in a contested opportunity against Jason Maitre in the redzone on a dead play, but the cornerback was able to push him out of bounds, despite the USC transfer’s strong efforts.

Chimere Dike and Lewis are certainly putting up good competition, while serving as leaders in the clubhouse, which makes for an intriguing battle at the wideout position, especially when highly-touted transfer Bryson Green returns to practice in full.

Tight Ends

Jack Pugh and Jack Eschenbach continue to carry the first-team load at tight end, with Riley Nowakowski earning some action on Thursday behind the top duo.

The Badgers experimented with “12 personnel”, as the offense implemented two-tight end packages, which reaped encouraging results.

However, the placement of the tight ends was intriguing, as Longo utilized them in the backfield, in-line, and out in the slot on different occasions.

Eschenbach caught a redzone touchdown in 7-on-7s from Tanner Mordecai, with Pugh seeing a ball over the middle for a six-yard score two plays later.

Nowakowski had action with Mordecai as well, and benefitted from wheel routes, which found him wide open twice, including one for a touchdown from Braedyn Locke.

Eschenbach also had a nice block in the run game, sealing off charging linebacker Jordan Turner to create a running lane.

Pugh did have a drop on a pass from Mordecai over the middle, which was the lone miscue from the top three.

Freshman Angel Toombs was seen in action as well several times on Thursday, showcasing mixed results.

He was outmatched by safety Travian Blaylock on a 1-and-1, and dropped a short pass in 7-on-7s, but did also make a reception for a short gain.

Offensive Line

The offensive line was a story of two tales on Thursday.

The first-team offensive line held up fairly well, given the fact that the defense was accustomed to blitzing on Thursday, but the second-team offensive line had a poor showing against the likes of Isaiah Mullens, Gio Paez, and Rodas Johnson over the middle.

However, one thing was synonymous between the two front lines: poor snapping from centers Tanor Bortolini and Joe Huber, especially toward the end of practice.

With center Jake Renfro out with an injury, both players, who had primarily been guards a season ago, were moved to center, as offensive line coach Jack Bicknell wanted to test his depth at the position.

It has come with mixed results as snapping has been a concurrent issue, especially on Thursday, which led to significant pressure for backup quarterback Braedyn Locke and some necessary improvising by the quarterbacks.

The second-team offensive line was no match for the Badgers’ defensive line, which has more depth under Mike Tressel’s system that doesn’t require a significant amount of down linemen.

On a positive note, Trey Wedig had a solid day in the run game, holding his ground well after transitioning from right tackle to the first-team left guard.

Wedig was inconsistent in 2022 and appeared overpowered at times, but could be poised for a bounceback season if he can play stronger.