Smith: Questions still remain for Wisconsin offense

first_imgEntering game one of the 2013 season, a lot of questions remained unanswered for the new-look Wisconsin football team. But even after a 45-point shellacking of a mediocre-at-best UMass team, questions still remain when it comes to the Wisconsin offense.First, what was answered: Joel Stave started at quarterback putting at least a temporary end to the constant wondering of who would lead the Wisconsin attack. The piece-meal offensive line held up wonderfully, giving Stave all the time in the world – granted it was against a team out of the Midwestern Athletic Conference that won all of one game last season. And finally, Wisconsin’s running game is still as potent as ever with the two-headed monster of Melvin Gordon and James white – and even the emergence of true-freshman Corey Clement.Now the questions I am still left asking after Saturday’s performance. Will Stave be the long-term solution under center after an inaccurate showing in the season opener? Who will step up next to Jared Abbrederis as Wisconsin’s second option at wide receiver?First, to look at Stave’s performance in his seventh career start. While the redshirt sophomore did light up the field with a couple of bombs to Abbrederis, I don’t think fans should be too comforted by his performance against the Minutemen.After an impressive first drive that ended in a Stave rushing touchdown the offense had a hard time moving up and down the field until the waning minutes of the first half. You know it is bad when the most exciting thing for a majority of the first 30 minutes is the slow motion wave started by the student section. Ultimately, Melvin Gordon woke up the Camp Randall crowd with his 70-yard rushing touchdown, proving the offense will continue to live and die by the running game.The Greenfield, Wisconsin native looked largely inaccurate under throwing his receivers and appearing hesitant in the pocket. The interception he threw early in the first quarter was nowhere near his intended target and the first touchdown he slung to Abbrederis to start the second half could have easily been knocked away or possibly intercepted if not for an untimely fall by UMass cornerback Trey Dudley-Giles. Even Stave’s second touchdown pass was underthrown to Abbrederis who was able to go up and get it and then break a tackle to daylight.But to put all of the blame on the quarterback would be unfair. Stave was getting virtually no help from his receiving core beyond Abbrederis which brings me to my biggest concern for the Wisconsin offense: will anyone be able to consistently produce a threat at the No. 2 wideout position?All offseason the coaches have been stressing the importance of somebody stepping up to help out Abbrederis downfield. And all offseason no single name of an emerging second receiver was ever produced.Saturday’s performance confirmed the lack of options Wisconsin has in its passing attack. The receivers struggled to get separation the entire game as not a single pass catcher was able to garner more than two receptions against the Minutemen.In typical UW fashion it was the tightends and fullbacks who led the way in the passing game – with the exception of Abbrederis of course – snagging half of the Badgers’ 10 pass completions. Even the normally rock steady Jacob Pedersen dropped a couple of balls but that is something the senior will undoubtedly have cleared up come time to lace up for Tennessee Tech.Wisconsin has shown in the past that it can succeed with tightends bearing a majority of the workload in the passing attack but it will be difficult to compete with the elite teams in the Big Ten without somebody else out wide that can present some sort of a threat.Perhaps JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy – who has gone from potential starting quarterback in the summer to taking snaps at receiver this fall and had a couple snaps out wide in the fourth quarter – can make a monumental rise to the top of the depth chart and put all of these concerns to rest. But don’t hold your breath.I know it seems incredibly harsh to harp on the offense after such a huge victory in just the first game of the season but you have to be conscious of who the opponent was and know a lot of the plays that were made against UMass won’t be there against a majority of the Big Ten teams Wisconsin will face this season.There is no doubt the offense, specifically Stave and the receivers, looked worlds better in the second half, appearing much more comfortable as the game went on. There is a good chance that had to do with simply shaking the rust off from offseason and adjusting to Stave being the starter after flip-flopping between him and Phillips all of camp.The season opener gave plenty of material to give hope for Wisconsin’s 2013 campaign but more passing options need to present themselves as the season goes on, otherwise teams will begin to stack the box and make life difficult on the rushers and taking away the Badgers’ No. 1 plan of attack. Then there will be even bigger questions left to answer.last_img

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