On Tuesday's edition of Badgers Power Hour Arman and myself talked about some of the things we'd be watching for on Saturday in the Spring football game and if you haven't checked that out already I highly suggest doing so as it's pretty in depth and player specific. However, things have been changing over this week with injuries, announcements, etc. involving the roster of players available for the game on Saturday.
With the changes and all that's happened since just Tuesday we present you with a small guide to the positions and players you should be watching for in Saturday's spring football game. After all the score doesn't matter, it's all about player development, right?
Things We'll Be Watching on Saturday:
1. Melvin Gordon: All indications are that Gordon has really been explosive behind the new offensive line and with almost, if not all, other running backs out of the game on Saturday look for this to be as good a chance as any for Gordon to plant his flag as a candidate for the top backup spot behind Montee Ball. Ball will be one of those players on the sidelines, but that's do to coaches decision and not any injury at all.
Don't forget, Gordon isn't wearing number 3 this season and is now back to his high school number of 25.
Gordon flashed a bit in the small sample size during his freshman season last year, however a groin injury that nagged him could've been a blessing in disguise as he was able to redshirt and with a great spring game he's got a chance to really launch himself into major playing time this season.
Looking at Gordon and watching to see if he's 1) EXplosive going to the line and 2) if he can handle the full-time carries load should be something worth seeing on Saturday. He'll need to show that he's not just an edge guy and by all reports he's already begun to prove that, but doing it in a "game" format instead of practice are two different things.
2. Do We Have a Capable Backup at QB? Only two QB's will get time in Saturday's spring football game, redshirt sophomore Joe Brennan and redshirt freshman Joel Stave. Curt Phillips won't see action because of the live nature of the game, but will be in the mix come this fall, and Jon Budmayr remains sidelinded with an elbow injury that may be close to ending his career, let alone the 2012 season.
That means Brennan and Stave will be given all the opportunities to show the coaches, fellow players, and the fanbase that they have at least made improvement from last season. Right now reports aren't all that glowing about either of them.
The public has only seen Stave in one spring game of action and that was an o.k. performance on a day when the rest of the QB's totally struggled. Brennan at least has some actual regular season game experience that we in the public can go off of, too bad that action it's exactly inspiring.
I'll be looking to see how each commands the offense, if they are being accurate with the throws (not if they are actually complete), and how they handle themselves if things aren't exactly going the way they hoped. Showing poise and self-control are just as important as the results of their throwing. Honestly, with our next thing we're watching the actual stats could very well be U-G-L-Y.
Ideally one or both will shine on Saturday and give everyone a bit more confidence that should something happen to likely starter Danny O'Brien there's a decent backup behind him. At least that would avoid the situation of having to burn a possible redshirt off of incoming freshman Bart Houston. But in reality-land I'd take one or the other just showing they have the confidence to handle the playbook while flashing the ability to make the throws needed in this offense.
3. Anyone Going to Step Up at WR? We all know Jared Abbrederis is going to be the leader of this position group, but outside of that there's not been someone to really step up. Jeff Duckworth is the presumed favorite, at least going into the spring, because he had the most game action last seaon.
Unfortunately WR has been a position hit hard by "nagging" injuries and Saturday may not be a true representation of the capabilities of this group as Duckworth, Manessah Garner, Connor Cummins, and Chase Hammond all have been out injuried and likely won't see time on Saturday.
On the flipside that leaves a ton of opportunity for the remaining crop of guys which are highlighted by Isiah Williams, Kenzel Doe, A.J. Jordan, and Marquies Mason. Fred Willis is an unkown at this point after reports of him pulling up in practice yesterday have him in doubt for Saturday's scrimmage at this point. Also available is Lance Baretz, who's a complete unknow and may be worth watching a bit to see what he's got for a frame of reference.
A few of the group left have had flashes, especially Doe, Williams, and Mason, but they all need to prove they can be consistent threats. Williams and Mason are very intriguing because of their size, but both need to prove they can take a step up in front of a pressure situation outside of practice.
Doe is the guy I've got my eye on because he may be the "wrinkle" in the offensive set this year under Matt Canada as a small, speedy slot receiver.
4. Opportunity Knocks for Corners: Just like the WR's the corners have seen a lot of injuries this spring and earlier this week they were down to just three healthy players in Darius Hillary, Peniel Jean, and Terence Floyd.
So, we will at least have a chance to see what we've got should we see the injury bug bite this group in the fall and history says someone will go down at some point unfortunately.
Watching this group of very young corners should be really fun for the simple reason that we'll get to see them for the entire game and see exactly where this group could be heading after this season. After all both Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie will be gone.
5. The Future at Linebacker: Thanks to Ethan Armstrong and Mike Taylor being out we'll get a heck of a look at the future at the Linebacker position on Saturday and one may even have a chance to solidify a starting spot.
That guy is A.J. Fenton who has risen to the top of the depth chart at the SAM spot that was vacated by the graduation of Kevin Claxton. He's someone that went from third or fourth to the top of the heap over spring practice. Seeing why he did on Saturday will be something to watch for for us in the public. Now, one bad spring game doesn't a career make, but only flashing in practice isn't good either.
I'll also be watching for the future because Mike Taylor is in his final season at Wisconsin and by all indications there's a good one behind him in Derek Landish. It'll be key to key in on his play because of Taylor's injury history and he may be counted on big time if something were to happen to him.
Watching for the play of Derek Watt and Michael Trotter will also be very interesting. Trotter played a monster spring game last year and vaulted himself into the main backup role. Seeing both players perform on a higher level than they did during 2011 will be fun to watch.
If we see Fenton, Landish, Watt, and Trotter all play well we could be looking at the deepest position group on the roster as Wisconsin will also be adding prized recruit Vince Biegel to the mix over the summer and seeing them play well also points to a bright future for the Badgers defense.
There are other things to watch, especially the long snapper, punter, kicker combo as all three will be new for 2012. Yes Kyle French kicked a bit for the Badgers last year, but knowing you're the man for the entire season and knowing you're a fill in are two completely different mindsets.
No matter what there will be no shortage of storylines and interesting things to watch on Saturday, despite what the final score may end up telling you.