Wisconsin Football: Five Observations from Saturday's Spring Game

Sam OlesonCorrespondent IApril 18, 2010

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 10:  Quarterback Scott Tolzien #16 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs with the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

With the annual Cardinal-White Spring Game on Saturday afternoon, Wisconsin fans got their first chance to see the 2010 Badgers.

Kind of.

The Cardinal (No. 1 team) beat the White 33-11, but neither John Clay, Nick Toon, Mike Taylor, or Chris Borland suited up. So, without four of Wisconsin's key players even taking part, not much could be learned from watching this glorified practice.

Anyway, here are a few observations I made while watching the game from Section K of Camp Randall Stadium.

1. Montee Ball and Zach Brown Will Be More than Adequate Backups for John Clay

Like Wisconsin fans didn't already know this, but if John Clay goes down, God forbid, Wisconsin should still be in pretty good shape in the backfield.

Montee Ball and Zach Brown rushed for 75 and 50 yards, respectively, and Ball also added two touchdowns.

Although they both have a much different running style than Clay, this change of pace should be good for a Wisconsin offense that will be focused mostly on a power running game. Ball and Brown provide the 'O' with a little speed, agility, and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, something Clay has yet to show.

2. Tolzien Solid, Budmayr Struggles

As far as quarterback play, there were both positives and negatives on display Saturday.

Starting quarterback Scott Tolzien, though not flashy, showed why he's leading Wisconsin's offense in 2010. He passed for a respectable 138 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Nothing special, but that's the thing about Tolzien: He isn't trying to be special. He just leads the offense down the field without making mistakes.

However, redshirt freshman Jon Budmayr, Tolzien's backup, showed just how much he will need to improve between now and September.

Although Budmayr was basically thrown into this position when Curt Phillips went down with a torn ACL a couple of weeks ago, he still needs to show more than his 9-19, no touchdown, two interception performance.

He is just the backup, but he's one turned Scott Tolzien ankle from taking over the Wisconsin offense.

3. Lance Kendricks Is Going to Have a Big Year

Wisconsin senior tight end Lance Kendricks, replacing the NFL-bound Garrett Graham, is going to make a name for himself in 2010.

The tight end has been a huge part of the Wisconsin offensive scheme since Barry Alvarez took over the program in the late 1980s, so having one that can make plays is essential.

Like Graham and Travis Beckum before him, Kendricks should be more than capable of excelling in this role. He caught six passes for 63 yards on Saturday and with his size and speed, he will tough to defend.

All-Big 10 could be in his future.

4. Open Defensive Roster Spots

Coming into spring practice, there were multiple spots on the defensive depth chart that were huge question marks.

First off, there was the question of who would take over the open defensive tackle position opposite Patrick Burtrym.

Well, at least for the spring game, that question was answered.

And the answer is redshirt freshman Jordan Kohout.

At 6'3", 292 pounds, Kohout seems more than capable of stuffing the run and pressuring the quarterback. And, because the quality of Wisconsin's pass defense is still up in the air, it was important that Wisconsin coaches find someone capable of making an impact up front. 

The only reason Wisconsin's defense survived last year was because of the tremendous pressure that star defensive end O'Brien Schofield was able to put on opposing quarterbacks. With Schofield gone, the Badgers will have to find another way to disrupt their opponents' offensive flow.

While in high school, Kohout was rated as the 17th-best defensive tackle in the nation and No. 1 player in Wisconsin according to Rivals.com. Wisconsin will need him to live up to the hype next year because their defensive line may just be the glue that holds this defense together.

The other open roster spot that was really up for grabs was the free safety spot vacated by Chris Maragos.

But whereas Kohout took over a spot that is his natural position, the starter at free safety on Saturday does not have that same familiarity.

Redshirt junior Aaron Henry, who for the previous two seasons played mostly at cornerback, got the start at safety on Saturday.

As a freshman in 2007, Henry made a huge impression while subbing in at cornerback and seeing time as a nickel back. He recorded an interception in his Badger debut against Washington State and made an impressive 3.5 sacks on the year, a Wisconsin record for a defensive back.

But he then suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for all of 2008 and just didn't appear to be the same player in 2009.

Now, he gets a chance at safety. And, along with strong safety Jay Valai, Henry will have his hands full.

Wisconsin's cornerbacks are shaky at best, so having a dependable safety net is a must. Henry will have to adjust to his new position fast because Devin Smith, Antonio Fenelus, and Niles Brinkley have had some major problems defending their man.

5. But, It Was Just the Spring Game...

When your starters take on your backups, you can't really learn anything insightful. It's Wisconsin vs. Wisconsin. It's pretty hard to quantify a team's performance against itself.

That said, the Badgers are looking good going into 2010. With a few adjustments here and there, Wisconsin could be looking at a trip to Pasadena.


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