Five observations from the University of Wisconsin football team's second scrimmage on Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium:

  • It may be true that for everything good that happens in a scrimmage, something equally bad happens on the other side of the ball. But that wasn't the case for the UW defense.
    After getting pushed around in the first scrimmage, the defense needed to assert itself, to squash any growing concerns on that side of the ball.
    Consider them squashed.
    Even without middle linebacker Chris Borland, three of the defense's top players -- linebacker Mike Taylor, defensive tackle Patrick Butrym and defensive end Louis Nzegwu -- all came up big.
    Taylor made plays all over the field, while Butrym and Nzegwu both got in the backfield repeatedly.
    In short, all three looked like the players the defense needs them to be. Toss in Borland and that's a solid core of playmakers.
  • Freshman running back Melvin Gordon already proved he deserves to play and appears to have bypassed redshirt freshman Jeff Lewis as the third tailback. Now, Gordon is pushing for even more.
    Gordon got the bulk of the carries in the scrimmage, including a couple series with the first offense.
    His best moment was a 58-yard touchdown run around left end that was called back by an illegal-shift penalty. He unofficially ended up with 11 carries for 38 yards, not overly impressive numbers, but much of it came against the first defense.
    He also caught two passes for 34 yards, to go along with one drop.
    It's not that Lewis has done anything wrong, but much like James White last season, Gordon has pushed his way into consideration for playing time in a talented backfield.
  • The more I see of freshman walk-on quarterback Joel Stave, the more I wonder: How did this guy not get more Division I interest?
    Stave, who attended Whitnall, continued to impress with just about every snap he gets. He stands 6-foot-5, has a nice arm and runs well. He also shows good poise.
    I'm not suggesting Stave will overtake redshirt freshman Joe Brennan anytime soon, but Stave has continued to build on a strong first impression in the spring.
  • The receiver corps remains a bit of a mess, with too many dropped passes by too many players (includiing tight ends and running backs). I counted six drops in the practice, prior to the scrimmage, plus at least two more in the scrimmage. (I didn't count contested balls by defenders.)
    Quarterback Russell Wilson doesn't seem to care who's around him, but the offense needs senior Nick Toon back on the field. Toon, who has been out about a week with a sore foot, took part during the practice portion prior to the scrimmage. On one of his first plays, he got deep behind cornerback Antonio Fenelus and caught a 64-yard touchdown from Wilson. A few plays later, Toon had a 26-yard completion on a crossing route.
    If Toon can stay healthy, all the work the young receivers have gotten in camp could be a good thing. But there has been nothing yet to suggest the offense can overcome any prolonged stretches without Toon on the field.
  • Is this a sign of the future in the offense line? True freshman Ray Ball, from Columbus, Ohio, has worked the last few days as the No. 2 left guard. Ball is 6-foot-7 and 335 pounds.

This was the last practice open to the media, so there will be no more practice reports or camp observations.




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