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Wisconsin Football: 3 Takeaways from Week 1 of Spring Practice

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Wisconsin Football; Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai

Wisconsin football has completed three of 15 spring practices. Head coach Luke Fickell has changed the way spring practice is covered in Madison. Every practice is open to the media, giving fans unfiltered access to the new-look Badgers. Fickell, along with offensive coordinator Phil Longo and defensive coordinator Mike Tressel, are quickly implementing sweeping changes.

Wisconsin Football Backup Quarterback Battle Appears Less Intense Than Expected

Who enters the 2023 season as the backup quarterback behind Tanner Mordecai is of utmost interest to Badger fans. With the SMU transfer having just one year of eligibility remaining, his backup figures to be in the driver’s seat for the 2024 starting role. Fickell and Longo recruited not one, but two former four-star recruits out of the transfer portal this off-season to compete for that spot. Thus far, Braedyn Locke is the apparent frontrunner for the backup job.

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Locke has taken every snap at quarterback with the second-team offense in spring practice thus far. The Mississippi State transfer earned praise from Fickell this week as well. Wisconsin’s new head coach said that Locke “as much as anything, has a great grasp on the offense. He’s a guy that tirelessly studies it.”

Behind Locke is Nick Evers – the first commit that kicked off UW’s offseason haul of quarterback talent. The Oklahoma transfer has taken most of the reps with the third-team offense. Despite limited opportunities, Evers has shined when given them. He threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chimre Dike in one-on-one drills on Thursday.

Wisconsin Football transfer QB Nick Evers

Quarterback Nick Evers (7) throws a pass during the University of Oklahoma’s first Spring football practice at the Everest Training Center in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
Ou Spring Fb Practice

Wisconsin Football Offensive Coordinator Mike Tressel Displays Versatility

Tressel is well-known for his versatility when scheming up defensive game plans. Although he typically runs a base 3-3-5 defense, he often uses other alignments to fit his personnel. Wisconsin football usually ran a base 2-4-5 defense under former defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard. The Badgers came out in the 2-4-5 in the first spring practice, but have come out in numerous formations since.

In Tuesday’s spring practice, UW lined up in 3-3-5, 2-3-6, and 3-2-6, formations. Tressel is trying to find who his best 11 players are and what personnel combinations get them on the field. Wisconsin’s returning starting safeties, Travian Blaylock, Hunter Wohler, and Kamo’i Latu, have impressed thus far. Overall, it is clear that Fickell and Tressel put a premium on fast, versatile, defensive backs – a view Leonhard also espoused.

Wide Receiver Will Pauling Making a Splash Early

Wisconsin football added five wide receivers in the offseason. The most exciting talent is CJ Williams. The transfer from USC was a four-star prospect out of high school. Williams, however, has taken most of his snaps with the second-team offense thus far. Another wide receiver has impressed early.

Wisconsin football wide receiver CJ Williams transferred to UW from USC

Sep 10, 2022; Stanford, California, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver CJ Williams (8) catches the ball during warm ups before the start of the first quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Will Pauling earned increased reps with the first-team offense on Thursday. After spending most of the first two practices with the second team, the Cincinnati transfer has impressed with his speed. The five-foot-ten-inch Chicago native plays primarily in the slot, but not only as a pass catcher. Pauling has also been featured on orbit motion plays – creating misdirection pre-snap by moving from the slot to behind the running back. A redshirt sophomore, Pauling is one of the fastest players on the Wisconsin football roster and might be carving himself out a role Longo covets to just get the ball in his best players’ hands and “watch athletes go be athletes.”


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Kedrick Stumbris covers Wisconsin football, basketball, hockey, and volleyball. He received his B.A. with economics and political science majors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018 and has had his work published on Bleacher Report and Verbal Commits.

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