The third spring football camp is now in the books under head coach Paul Chryst. It ended with the White squad (defense) beating the Cardinal squad (offense) 20-17 in an hour-long scrimmage.
Before that it was an hour of drills and team-orientated work. It all took place in front of a pretty darn good crowd for a Friday night in late April. Let’s just say it was hard to be entertained if you enjoyed good offense.
That’s because it took until the very last play of the running-clock scrimmage to get an offensive touchdown on the board. It came as early enrollee freshman quarterback Jack Coan hit a wide open Zander Neuville in the back of the end zone to make it 20-17.
Despite the lack of offensive firepower, there is plenty to have taken away from this game.
Here are our early observations after taking in practice and the scrimmage tonight.
Isaiah Loudermilk is a Beast
We’ve all heard the talk and reports out of spring camp about Loudermilk. Word on the street is that he was a noticeable difference maker in practice all spring long and that showed up in spades on Friday night.
Loudermilk ate the Badgers offensive line for dinner more than a few times over on the night. He lined up at all three defensive line positions, and if the drills included live pass rushing would’ve ended up with a handful of sacks at the very least.
When watching the quarterbacks in team passing drills and you see No. 97 having to let up to not actually come after the quarterback that is a problem for the offensive line. It’s also a really good sign for the 6-6, 277-pound redshirt freshman.
Chikwe Obasih’s injury has opened the door of opportunity and the good news is that Loudermilk showed 14 practices weren’t a fluke by being a pest to the offense all night long. He even ended up with two sacks when the quarterbacks were put in live situations during the scrimmage.
If one player is worthy of being on the hype train after spring football, Loudermilk should be at the top of the list on the defensive side of the ball.
Deep Passing Game Needs Work…
Wisconsin had one of the worst passing games in the nation last season. A lot of that had to do with the state of flux at quarterback. No such thing exists heading in to the 2017 season, as sophomore Alex Hornibrook has been named the starter.
But, throughout the no pass-rush at all portion of team drills the three quarterbacks in the rotation were not exactly setting the world on fire. Deep passes were the focus and it wasn’t good, as overthrows…underthrows…and plenty of throws in to coverage were the highlights of the deep passing game.
Receivers struggled to get free against the secondary for most of the team portion and in the one case a receiver was open, Cephus flat-out dropped a ball that can’t be dropped come the fall. Other than a wide open Zander Neuville touchdown to end the spring game, UW’s young quarterbacks have a long ways to go in the deep passing game.
…But the Secondary is Solid
On the flip side of the struggles of the passing game was the fact that secondary was all over the receivers down the field. Memories of getting torched in the Big Ten championship game come immediately flooding back.
The good news is that even without the likes of Sojourn Shelton and Leo Musso in the secondary anymore, this group is really freaking good. In fact, it may be the most overall athletic group of defensive backs we’ve seen.
Redshirt freshman safety Eric Burrell was adept at both the pass coverage and line of scrimmage play. He stuffed two running plays as they were bounced outside, while also ranging to break up some passes.
Meanwhile, this group could’ve had more than a handful of interceptions. Often times it was balls thrown in to double coverage and UW’s defensive backs knocking each other off the ball. If they are this ball-hawking in the fall, opposing offenses really aren’t going to enjoy their 60 minutes against UW’s defense.
But, we want to see this group in action against someone other than the Badgers’ second-string offense and freshman quarterbacks. At least Friday night’s performance was encouraging for the overall secondary group.