There's a bit of a dichotomy in the Badgers' backfield. They have answers, almost too many answers, in the running backs. And then there are continuing question marks with the QBs, questions that essentially are left over from John Stocco's departure.
Let's start with the fun stuff. The Badgers appear to be absolutely loaded at tailback. PJ Hill is coming off another 1,000 yard season and an excellent bowl game, and is healthy for spring practice for the first time in his career. Hopefully, he should continue to develop physically (flattening out the pooch and bulking up his upper torso) and with a little more sharing of the ball will be able to stay healthy next season. He's easily the most proven back the Badgers have.
Then there's Zach Brown, who looked fair-to-middlin' in early season relief of Hill, but had a very good game in the upset of Michigan, and a phenomenal performance against Minnesota's sieve-like defense. Zach does a bunch of things well, cutting sharply with a nice burst, picking up blitzes well, and he's learned to run through contact. But he doesn't seem to be outstanding in any one particular facet. Maybe staying disciplined. He does seem to be the most reliable back on the roster.
Competing with those two guys is the mercurial Lance "Rance" Smith, who was set to have a big year, but hampered himself by stealing the shoes of his now ex-girlfriend in a public place and getting suspended for the team's road games. Lance doesn't gain a lot of yards after contact, but he's more explosive and shifty than Zach or PJ. Besides his shoe-stealing incident, what's kept him off the field is his tendency to freelance. (Lance the Freelancer?) That is, to give up on plays, and try to bounce the ball outside or reverse directions. Too often, this has lead to negative yards, or a lot of sideways running for minimal gain. The staff recognizes his talent, so there's been some talk about him lining up wide for swing passes and quick outs this spring, in effort to get him the ball in space. Look for that at the spring game.
The final component of the backfield is redshirt frosh John Clay. John allegedly has the best overall tools of any of the backs, which would befit his status as the most highly reputed coming out of high school. As was well covered, he got into camp late last year, after having to get academically cleared by the NCAA, and thus redshirting, and letting him get comfortable with school, seemed like a good idea. That is, until Zach was the only running back available at Ohio State. Whatever. John wears #32, and like most fans, I am fascinated to see what he can do. The chance to watch him run is one reason I'm excited about the spring game.
The fullbacks are a pair of massive and steady seniors-- Bill Rentmeester and Chris Pressley. They've both been solid, but I hope they can turn it up a notch this season and become more dominant in the run game. Chryst has been throwing each a few carries in blowouts, and they've done pretty well with them. I'd like to see each guy get a few more carries as a change of pace.
The QBs are the question mark though. Like more than a few fans, last August I was hoping that K-State transfer Allan Evridge would beat out Tyler Donovan for the starting job. An nagging injury, and the staff's conservatism (wanting to reward a fifth year senior and go with the guy who knows the system better) led to Donovan winning out. I thought Evridge had more overall talent and would have created more continuity, especially with this season. But maybe I overestimated Evridge's talent--it looks like he's doing well in spring practice, but media reports make it sound like it's a real competition between him and redshirt sophomore Dustin Sherer. Do both guys have a good amount of talent, or both are just mediocre? I certainly hope not. If Stocco proved anything, Chryst doesn't need a massive amount of talent at QB-- just a guy with good vision, smarts, and a decent arm. Though wouldn't it be great if UW actually had a "star quarterback"? When's the last time that happened? Randy Wright? Anyhow, the performance of those two will be something to look for on Saturday-- Evridge is #4 and Sherer is #18.