The spring game is the culmination of spring practice in which for the first time all spring–in front of thousands of people–the players get to play in a live scrimmage. Due to a lack of depth on the offensive line, this year’s spring game for the Wisconsin Badgers featured the offense in white and the defense in cardinal with a whacked-out scoring system to make this more of a game as opposed to just a situational scrimmage.
All five quarterbacks currently enrolled at the school took snaps during the game, each tallying varied levels of success. Between Chase Knox, Bart Houston and Danny O’Brien, they went 2-9 for seven yards with Houston being the only one to complete a pass longer than one yard. Curt Phillips played a solid game, going 8-13 for 82 yards and adding four more on the ground. The person who really stood out was Joel Stave. Stave went 15-20 for 161 yards and a touchdown through the air. Though he overthrew Alex Erickson on a 50+ yard strike by a good 8-10 yards, Stave looked confident in the pocket and was able to make almost all of the throws asked of him.
From the running game, Melvin Gordon led all rushers with 17 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown and added four receptions for 39 yards. Gordon had a lot of trouble consistently chewing up yards, but showed off his trademark burst on a 30-yard run in the second quarter. With no James White, the only other player that really stood out to me was Derek Watt. The younger brother of All-Pro defensive end and former Badger J.J. Watt ran five times for 20 yards and added three receptions for 22 yards and a touchdown. If Watt can turn into a consistent option in the flat, the Badgers may have found an unexpected addition to the passing game.
The position other than quarterback that I was most excited to get a chance to see was the receivers. Two players really stepped up to the challenge. Number one on the depth chart, Jared Abbrederis, did not play, leaving a group of inexperienced guys the chance to step up and prove themselves. Jordan Fredrick was one person who played pretty well, tallying three receptions for 35 yards including making a difficult grab on a 21-yard strike from Stave. The real winner of the day was Kenzel Doe. Last season, Doe made an indelible imprint on new head coach Gary Andersen‘s brain when he ran a punt back against Andersen’s former team, Utah State, to take the lead in that game. In the spring game, Doe was the best player on the field on the offensive side of the ball, tallying eight receptions for 93 yards including hauling in a 31-yard strike from Phillips. Doe’s speed and athleticism will be incredibly important as he may have solidified his role as the number two wide receiver as a result of his performance all spring, culminating in the spring game.