Without Melvin Gordon or Corey Clement in the backfield during the scored portion of the spring game, Wisconsin’s offense was average at best. Still, the Cardinal offense, under the command of redshirt junior and junior college transfer Tanner McEvoy, did show some big play potential.
During the unscored first half, McEvoy hurled a 27-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Kenzel Doe to the back right corner of the endzone. The undersized Doe made a nice adjustment to the ball and separated from coverage to make the grab and showed some potential as a reliable receiver come next fall. Then, during the scored third and fourth quarters, McEvoy showed the ability to make throws on the run while also using his feet to escape trouble and had a long run of 11 yards. In the first offensive series for the Cardinal, McEvoy made another downfield throw, this time to Jazz Peavy for a gain of 30.
With all the injuries at wide receiver, Peavy has stepped up this spring and could very well have a regular spot in the offense come next fall. In what little time Gordon did see during the afternoon, he looked just as crisp and effective as last fall.
Overall, the defense for both the Cardinal and White was fairly stout. Although the White team gave up six points to the Cardinal after two strong drives led by Tanner McEvoy, they ultimately got off the field, holding the Cardinal on third down and forcing them to kick two field goals. It was an impressive feat for the White team that was composed of primarily second and third string players, to go up against an offense without Joel Stave, Gordon or Clement, but albeit the first team offense.
The Cardinal defense (first team defense) has been working all throughout spring practices to find an identity as it replaces eight starters from last season. The defensive line, led by Warren Herring, looked strong and filled with depth. Up and comers Alec James, Arthur Goldberg and Chikwe Obasih have all impressed in spring on the line as well. The linebackers found their way through the offensive line to stop running backs in the backfield, led by Joe Schobert, Marcus Trotter and Derek Landisch. The defensive backs returned the most experience from last season, and looked the part Saturday. Sojourn Shelton broke up two passes on Saturday, and Darius Hillary anchored the other cornerback position, while they both allowed few receiving yards to a hurt wide receiver group. Nickel back Devin Gaulden forced a fumble on quarterback D.J. Gillins as well that was recovered by the defense.
Special Teams: C-
One of the Badgers’ weakest positions last season was kicker. This year, junior Jack Russell and sophomore Andrew Endicott have been battling it out in spring practices to get a leg up on the competition that will continue throughout fall practices. Neither did anything to separate themselves at the position Saturday in the controlled scrimmage or the two 15-minute quarters of true scoring.
Throughout the whole day, Russell was 2-for-4 on field goals, converting form 41 and 30 yards, while missing from 44 and 36 yards out. The 44-yard miss fell short and about 10 yards to the left of the uprights.
Endicott was 1-for-2 on the day, converting from 36 yards and missing from 44 yards.
Both will face added competition in the fall when 3-star kicker prospect Rafael Gaglianone joins the program as a freshman from Chattanooga, Tenn.
There were no punts, kick-offs, kick returns or punt returns in either portion of Saturday’s scrimmage.
It’s hard to give a true grade to the coaching staff for the afternoon considering the coaches were strewn about the field and behind the huddles resembling a grade school football setup. With that being said, the best decision of the day was to hold out Gordon and Clement from the second half of the game where tackling was allowed. It would make no sense to jeopardize Wisconsin’s two biggest assets in a throwaway setting. And with a fair amount of players already nursing injuries this spring, there was no point in risking adding more names to that list. As far as play calling was concerned in the game, both sides were very conservative in running anything even close to risky during the game as to avoid giving next season’s opponents anything to scout off with the game being aired on BTN. In fact most of the plays on offense were rather bland with a majority of the runs on offense coming between the tackles. Doe did take an end around. Besides that and the long throw to Peavy early on in the second half, there wasn’t much cause for excitement for the fans in attendance.