Saturday was the Badgers' first two-a-day, though Bielema called it a little short because he was pleased with what he saw. In the scrimmage Saturday morning, Allan Evridge led the #1 offense on a nice 80-yard scoring drive, including three 3rd down conversions. Based on Bielema's comments and his play so far this fall, Evridge has locked up the starting position. More interesting, perhaps, is Scott Tolzein looking like he may be passing Dustin Scherer for the #2 spot. When it comes to preparing for the future, that move makes a lot of sense, as it could lead to Tolzein having two years as a starter, followed by heralded true-freshman Curt Phillips taking over with two years of his own. But let's not get too ahead of ourselves on "super-recruits" just yet; more on that later.
Quarterback isn't the only position battle going on right now (and it sounds like it's not really a battle at this point). At the right corner spot, Bielema said that Langford is the guy right now, over Goins. Moreover, there's a lot of talk about sophomore Niles Brinkley making noise and pushing for playing time at corner. Don't know where that puts Goins, but I'm sure he's not done just yet. At the other backfield position that's up for grabs, no new news on the strong safety position. The smart money's still on Valai.
At middle linebacker, not only is Jaevery McFadden looking like the starter, but Elijah Hodge may not even be the next man in. Bielema said Culmer St. Jean could be #2.
The other position that's up for grabs is wide receiver. Gilreath and Jefferson (who's changed from #14 to #7) are still the probably day-1 starters, but it sounds like they are being pushed by Isaac Anderson, Maurice Moore, and Daven Jones. Nick Toon sounds like he might be a bit further back, but still showing some positive signs. Now, if you read uwbadgers.com for your news, and just watched Bielema's comments, you'd think our passing game is looking great. The good folks from the BigTen Network weren't so sure. In their wrap-up (below), they questioned whether the Badgers can play from behind, or handle second-and-longs against the quality defenses, "based on what we saw out there today." That's not so rosy. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg feels much the same way, focusing more on our receivers' hands (here, and here).
The BigTen Network was in Madison to catch-up on the Badgers' preseason.
Here is their wrap. The first three minutes is a "behind the scenes" video with PJ Hill, but the substance comes later. They see the Badgers using Brown and Clay much more to lessen the impact on Hill's body as the season wears on, though Hill is still the #1 guy. No surprise there. I think everyone expects that. They mused about whether Clay is "the best player." More on super recruits?
BTN's key to the running game (against the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State)? The passing game: at least having to defend the pass on 1st down. That sounds about right. Oh, and a fantastic front 5. As above, the BTN doesn't seem to think much of Evridge. Hmm.
Coach gave a pretty decent interview to the network (available on Comcast on August 15), complete with a reference to Purdue's basketball-on-grass:
There is no battle at tight end, where Travis Beckum is obviously still the man (though he's missed a couple of practices a little dinged up -- he's back for today's practices). As Badger fans know, his backup, or co-tight end when Chryst lines up with two, is Garrett Graham, who has been showing off his great hands this week. Unfortunately Mickey Turner, Graham's backup, came down badly on a shoulder and is expected to miss 1-2 weeks.
Last thing on the position front, recruitniks will be interested to hear that Jake Bscherer looks like he's still edging out 5-star wonder Josh Oglesby for the offensive line's "jumbo package." (Because, you know, they aren't big enough already, averaging 319 pounds up front.) It's interesting to see how much people expect Oglesby and Clay to contribute (and to a lesser extent Phillips at QB) because of their recruit rankings. College ball is a lot different than high school ball. More than just size and inherent ability, there is a lot more thinking and studying of the game going on. A wide receiver who can make a spectacular grab may still sit if he can't make a downfield block. A running back who hits the hole hard and fast will sit if he can't read and pick-up the linebacker blitz. That's not to say those three guys won't be great players, but just because they were freaks of nature in high school doesn't mean they will supplant proven contributers at Camp Randall.
As a wrap-up, here is the video of some of our players answering questions on Saturday. I found Casillas (last in the que) the most interesting as he says candidly about the defense, "last year we needed to play safe a lot," because "we weren't that good."
Here are coach Bielema's comments to the media from Friday and Saturday. Finally, here are the "plays of the week" from last week, according to the athletic department. Hmm. Not all that spectacular, really; mostly practice footage. Chris Pressley is a beast (towards the end).
One last thing from the weekend: big thanks to the good people over at the Journal Sentinel who not only do a great job covering the Badgers (I think that's Potrykus's bald head in the Friday video of Bielema after practice), but also saw fit to link this blog among their Badger fan cites. Many thanks!!