Some leftovers from the University of Wisconsin football team's scrimmage on Saturday (Note that all of the statistics are unofficial):
Quarterbacks: Sophomore Joel Stave had the most impressive throws, including touchdown passes of 60 and 20 yards (the second one should have been ruled a sack, but the play was allowed to continue), but senior Curt Phillips showed why he remains in the lead of the quarterback derby.
Phillips completed 4-of-5 passes for 44 yards in two series. His only incompletion was a throwaway in the red zone on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line, which led to a field goal. On the second possession in a red-zone drill, Phillips produced a touchdown — a 2-yard run by senior tailback James White — after starting from the opponent's 20-yard line.
Stave, who struggled in the pocket under pressure in a practice last Wednesday, completed 4 of 6 for 101 yards, with the two touchdowns (including one disputed). There was one drop by A.J. Jordan on a contested underneath throw on second-and-long.
In four drives, Stave produced three touchdowns — including a 31-yard end around by Kenzel Doe — and a field goal.
Redshirt freshman Bart Houston was 2-for-5 for 30 yards. He had two drives, starting at his own 40- and 30-yard lines and produced no points.
The first drive ended in a failed fourth-and-1 from the opponent's 26, which was the high point for the defense in a day dominated by the offense.
Linebacker Conor O'Neill appeared to be offside, jumping into a hole and blowing up a run by Jeffrey Lewis, with linebacker Nick Hill making the tackle. (There were no officials for the scrimmage, with coaches making the calls.)
Houston's best moment was when he displayed his strong arm, firing a 19-yard completion to Connor Cummins.
It was notable that senior Danny O'Brien did not get any work in the scrimmage.
At this point, it seems like Phillips has the best grasp of the entire offense. He's also the best runner of the three quarterbacks who got snaps in the scrimmage. Stave remains the most polished passer, especially on deep throws. He showed that again with the 60-yard pass to Jared Abbrederis, who beat cornerback Peniel Jean.
Houston is talented — he has a powerful arm — but doesn't look comfortable yet in the offense.
Read option: By my count, there were nine read-option plays among the 50 or so plays in the scrimmage. The longest gain, surprisingly, was a 9-yard run around right end by Stave. Houston had a 5-yard run when he kept the ball.
The seven read-option plays that were handed off to a running back gained a total of 24 yards. Four of those runs gained 3 yards or fewer.
My point? Not having a strong running threat at quarterback — Phillips comes closest right now — takes away much of the impact of the read-option.
Running backs: Sophomore Melvin Gordon was held out of the scrimmage with what he said is a minor ankle sprain. That left White and Lewis to split the carries.
White had the best day, with 14 carries for 90 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown. He had runs of 28 and 29 yards. He ran hard and made defenders miss in the open field. He also had eight carries of 3 yards or less — not counting the touchdown.
Lewis had 14 carries for 70 yards, including runs of 16 and 13 yards. He had five carries of 1 yard or less, including two lost-yardage plays.
Because of a desire to protect the veteran White, in addition to injuries — and with Kyle Zuleger moving to safety — Lewis has had a ton of carries this spring. In my opinion, he has made nice improvement. As usual, he's at his best getting on the edge and using his speed. He appears to be running harder, but needs to be more consistent running between the tackles.
I know there has been discussion of moving Lewis to another position. He is against it and wants to stay at running back, which seems smart for now. It will be a crowded backfield in the fall, when redshirt freshman Vonte Jackson (knee surgery) returns and freshman Corey Clement is added to the mix.
Lewis needs to be consistent catching the ball and picking up blitzers, but looks like he could make a contribution in the fall.
Tight ends/wide receivers: The offense used a lot of "13 personnel," which is one running back and three tight ends. The tight ends used the most were seniors Jacob Pedersen and Brian Wozniak and junior Sam Arneson.
I know that formation is not going to excite many Badgers fans. It is an obvious indication the offense is still struggling to find a second receiver behind Abbrederis.
Abbrederis led the way with three catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Fredrick had two receptions for 35 yards, while Connor Cummins had one catch for 19 yards and A.J. Jordan had one grab for eight yards, plus a drop.
Among the tight ends, Wozniak caught one pass for 11 yards and Arneson had one for seven yards.
Right now, the two receivers fighting for the No. 2 spot appear to be Jordan, a sophomore, and Fredrick, who started last year. Doe, a junior, will also have a role as a slot receiver.
Sophomore Reggie Love will be in that mix, too, but he has been out recently with an injury. Junior Marquis Mason, who also was hoping for a breakout spring, has been sidelined by an injury.
UW coach Gary Andersen said that just because the offense lines up in three tight ends, doesn't mean it will be relegated to a bunched formation and power runs. He said the tight ends are skilled enough receivers to spread the field. Andersen also likes the problems that formation can cause a defense.
"It can slow down an aggressive defense in their sub packages and not allow them to get as much skill on the field because they don't know what's coming their way," Andersen said.
"It may be power football, it may be spread football. ... I think the kids are excited about the opportunity. Every tight end wants to go play wide receiver, too, right? So, it's good for them."