After what could only be described as a muted, yet entertaining 2016 spring game, there certainly was plenty of things to observe about the state of the Wisconsin Badgers football program.
However, that speech can come at another time. As far as this is concerned, letâ€™s just focus on the lessons learned from 15 practices during this spring camp.
Without it, we may not have some of the break out performances and situations happen. That said, what did those 15 practices actually tell us about the team about to face one of the toughest schedules in school history in just a few short months.
Wide Receiver Could Be Deep Position
All Spring there was talk of a No. 3 wide receiver needing to emerge, and if the spring game was any indication, UW could find exactly that in George Rushing. We all witnessed Rushing on the receiving end of multiple deep balls from redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook and it was the part of the game that was sorely lacking last season.
Rushing had his up and down days throughout spring ball, and while one practice out of 15 isnâ€™t make or break he should make this team much more dangerous come the fall. Couple him with a (hopefully) healthy Rob Wheelwright and the star of spring ball, Jazz Peavy, and UW has three competent wide receivers.
It sure would be a welcome sight after two seasons with Alex Erickson and no one else to speak of on a consistent basis.
Michael Deiter is Wisconsinâ€™s Best Offensive Lineman
Just how good of a spring did redshirt sophomore Michael Deiter have? He did well enough that veteran star center Dan Voltz is volunteering to move to one of the two guard spots. Coaches, teammates and competitors rave about his ability and Deiterâ€™s spring performance may have made it so that coaches canâ€™t take him off the field this fall.
The question is, will he stick at center or will he squeeze someone out of a starting job at guard? Either way, you have to find a spot for his talent if the Badgers truly want to get “the five best guys” on the line this fall.
Itâ€™s truly amazing hearing what others say about him and thinking there are still three years of football left in him at Wisconsin.
Natrell Jamerson Could Have Big Impact
From forgotten wide receiver to leading the team in spring practice interceptions? That doesnâ€™t happen too often, but that is exactly what took place this spring for junior Natrell Jamerson.
Wisconsin came in to the spring desperately looking to figure out how deep it was at cornerback and Jamerson provided quick answers. Heâ€™ll be the No. 3 cornerback on the depth chart this fall, but given how many different looks offenses give, you can expect him on the field plenty.
Like Deiter, his positional playmaking skills are hard not to notice. He was often seen around the football, picking it off or breaking up passes from every quarterback on a nearly practice-by-practice basis over the last 15 practices.
Alongside Titus Booker, the Badgers are at least two deep at the cornerback position and most importantly, are all trusted by the coaching staff to produce no matter the situation in the fall.
Quarterback Battle is Far From Over
The narrative at about the halfway point of spring football was that senior quarterback Bart Houston had a sizable lead on redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook in the battle to replace Joel Stave. It was easy to see from highlights and from sources that Hornibrook continued to look lost at times and scared at others, all of it adding up to Houston taking an easy lead.
However, Hornibrook didnâ€™t let the early practice performances get him down and he not only rebounded but became a real threat to become Wisconsinâ€™s starter against LSU in the season opener.
It may be a battle of experience versus massive potential, and that will be on the coaching staff to figure out what this team needs for the 2016 season. Personally, Hornibrookâ€™s ability to hit the deep ball is intriguing enough to continue learning on the job.
Itâ€™s not as if 2017 is going to be any easier on the young quarterback â€” Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are all still going to be on the schedule. Unless such a wide gap opens between them early on in fall camp, Hornibrook may be the one given the nod.
However, Houstonâ€™s understanding of check downâ€™s and his better overall arm in intermediate routes may win out in the end. Fall camp is certainly going to be interesting, as both need to cut down on the mistakes in a major way.
Safety Has Numbers, But Starters TBD
If you have a bunch of parts and no known pecking order, that usually doesnâ€™t bode well for your team. However, the Badgers coaching staff actually has a really nice and bittersweet problem on their hands. Thatâ€™s because arguably few positions are better when at 100 percent than the secondary.
Thereâ€™s a mix of youthful potential, grizzled vets and others looking to make a name for themselves. Leo Musso, Joe Ferguson, Arrington Farrar, Dâ€™Cota Dixon and a few incoming highly touted freshmen all make this group deep and difficult to predict.
With Dixon missing some of the time late in spring practice, others got an opportunity and the good news is that most took advantage of said opportunities. It appears that when healthy Dixon is a lock for one starting spot, but that Musso, Ferguson and Farrar are in a pretty heated battle.
This one is likely to go down to the final week of fall camp and the prep for the LSU game at Lambeau Field.
It is certainly a nice problem to have.