Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen sees the competition for the
quarterback job just like those for any other position.
He’s not going to make a big deal over who the 23rd-ranked
Badgers settle on.
No extra fuss, no fanfare. The plan is to make the pick for
starter public between either Joel Stave or Curt Phillips when
Wisconsin jogs on to the field to host Massachusetts in the season
”We don’t do that at left guard. We don’t do that at the corner
position. We don’t do that at the free safety position,” Andersen
”The quarterbacks know who the quarterback is, and away we go
with it,” Andersen said. ”I really don’t think the quarterback
position needs to be treated any different.”
The calm, steady demeanor appears to be a hallmark so far of
Andersen’s brief tenure in Madison. He’s making his debut on the
Wisconsin sideline after being hired last December to replace Bret
Bielema, who left for Arkansas.
Finally, it’s almost time for the defensive-minded head coach to
trot on to the Camp Randall field for something other than
”Yes, please Saturday come here as fast as possible,” Andersen
said. ”We’ll never turn down a practice opportunity, but it’s just
The offense that lost standout tailback Montee Ball, who set an
NCAA record with 83 career touchdowns, still figures to rely
heavily on the running game with James White and Melvin Gordon
stepping up as more than capable replacements.
Having different quarterbacks handing them the ball in practice
isn’t a big deal, said White, who ran for 806 yards and 12
touchdowns on 125 carries in 2012. He thinks Wisconsin will pass
more this year.
”It’s going to make each and every quarterback play better,”
White said about the quarterback competition. ”I think it will
help them throughout the season.”
Last season, Stave threw for 1,104 yards before being sidelines
by a broken clavicle against Michigan State. He was leading the Big
Ten in pass efficiency at the time with 149.6 rating. Phillips, a
sixth-year senior, started the final five games, but averaged only
77.1 passing yards last season.
Quarterbacks aside, receiver Jared Abbrederis (49 catches, 837
yards, five TDs in 2012) thinks the Badgers offense this season
might resemble more the high-powered attack of 2011 when Russell
Wilson was calling the shots at quarterback. The offensive
coordinator then was current Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst.
”I kind of see the same mentality,” Abbrederis said. Maybe
less spread, but more play action passes than more running out of
Defensively, the front seven appears to be a strength, with six
senior starters in the group. The seventh, junior linebacker Derek
Landisch, has played 28 games in his career.
One of those seniors, linebacker Ethan Armstrong, is back atop
the depth chart at one of the outside linebacker positions after
returning to practice last week from an apparent left knee
Armstrong last year had 93 tackles, second only among Wisconsin
returnees to inside linebacker Chris Borland (104 tackles). When
asked, Andersen said he was a little curious about what the defense
with a healthy Armstrong will look like.
”I feel good about him when he’s out there. Ethan’s played so
many snaps. He’s a good tackler,” Andersen said. ”So I feel
confident that he’ll walk out there and be a good player,
burgeoning on a great player, especially if we can get him to where
he’s completely healthy every week.”
Andersen would know a little about good defense. Last season as
head coach at Utah State, the Aggies were seventh in scoring
defense allowing just 15.4 points a game. Dave Aranda followed
Andersen from Utah State to Wisconsin to coordinate the defense and
New venue, and a little more media attention, but similar
”There are a few more cameras. But other than that, it’s really
the same ideas,” Andersen said. ”I haven’t changed a bit. And I
expect to do my job at the highest level.”
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP