Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Henson: As expected, Budmayr still has a long way to go

By now, you’ve all probably heard.

The Badger offense was painful to watch during Saturday’s spring game.

In the one practice that fans get to see, UW failed to produce a touchdown. That’s unfortunate for everyone involved – except Chris Ash and his defense, which brought relentless pressure and recorded numerous “sacks” of the two-hand-touch variety.


The numbers speak for themselves. First-team quarterback Jon Budmayr was 10-for-23 with an interception. Second-team quarterback Joe Brennan was even worse, going 3-for-17 with one interception.

The quarterback play Saturday was awful.

But keep in mind: The Cardinal-White scrimmage was the final practice of a long spring camp. Saturday was a bad day for Budmayr and the quarterbacks, but what about the rest of spring practice?

Unfortunately, the quarterback play has been subpar all spring, and the coaches and players are well aware. They’re not hiding from it.

“The three guys that got the majority of the reps today aren’t anywhere where we need them to be for us to be a competitive team in the fall,” head coach Bret Bielema said.

“It’s April right now, and we’re fortunate it is because we still have a lot to go and a lot of room to improve, myself mostly, before fall camp starts,” Budmayr added.

Well, Bielema and Budmayr are certainly being honest with the situation at hand as UW welcomes a new starter under center.

All eyes will be firmly focused on Budmayr as fall camp nears with the starting job now essentially his.

Brennan, a redshirt freshman, is still very raw, and true freshman walk-on Joel Stave is in no position to lead UW after just a couple months on campus. The only true challenger was Curt Phillips, but you can officially take him out of the competition.

Bielema revealed Saturday that redshirt junior has been ruled out for the year. Phillips suffered his second ACL tear this past November, but according to Bielema, Phillips’ knee failed to heal correctly and he’ll need to undergo another procedure.

You have to feel for Phillips, who’s worked relentlessly to see the field in 2011, but opponents aren’t about to show the Badgers any sympathy.

Now Budmayr is the only quarterback with any game experience – albeit in mop-up duty.

As the first-team signal caller this spring, Budmayr struggled, and that was highlighted Saturday.

But that shouldn’t really surprise anyone. In fact, that was to be expected.

Consider this:

The redshirt sophomore hasn’t started an actual game in over three years (he missed his senior year of high school due to injury) and those live snaps are impossible to truly replicate in practice.

He’s going against a pretty talented first-team defense, which has amped up its blitz packages in an effort to get more pressure on the quarterback – not the easiest thing for a new signal caller to deal with, especially when simply laying a finger on his green jersey counted as a sack in the spring game.

The UW secondary is loaded with experience, featuring three senior starters. Meanwhile, with Nick Toon (his most dynamic downfield target) sidelined, UW’s most experienced wide receiver is Jared Abbrederis, a redshirt sophomore. Those wideouts and their drops didn’t give the quarterbacks much help Saturday.

His starting center – Peter Konz – has been out with injury, and his tight ends have all had health issues of their own.

That’s a lot of challenges to work through. The return of all those injured starters will only help Budmayr and the passing game, but inconsistency on offense is commonplace during the spring.

Take a look at what Scott Tolzien – the man Budmayr is replacing at quarterback – had to say a year ago at this time, when the eventual Big Ten champion Badgers wrapped up their spring game.

“We need to be better than that in the fall,” Tolzien said of the offense’s spring game performance last year. “It’s good for us to have a setback like that, as long as we use it to our advantage to realize that there’s a sense of urgency here, and we gotta have a great offseason to move forward.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

You’d be hard-pressed to find an offense that’s clicking after 15 practices. Timing and chemistry needs to develop over the summer and into fall camp.

Having said all that, Budmayr – like every other player on the roster – needs to progress and he knows it. After all, his position happens to be the most important one on the field.

Does he have what it takes to lead this offense and keep UW at the top of the Big Ten? At this point, it’s just too early to tell.

This much is obvious: Budmayr needs to make smarter reads. He needs to develop a stronger presence in the pocket. Most importantly, he needs to take care of the football – something he struggled to do all spring.

The Badger offense is continuing to evolve to take advantage of Budmayr’s strengths, and that adjustment comes with growing pains. Frankly, it’s a good thing results in the spring don’t count for anything.

Sure, the spring game was disappointing and maybe a bit frightening, but it just reinforced something we already knew.

Budmayr has a lot of room to improve – and he’ll need to if the Badgers want to contend for another conference title.

Max is a senior majoring in journalism. Concerned with the Badgers’ quarterback situation? Let him know at [email protected].

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