Wisconsin has questions to answer at QB
When quarterback Curt Phillips took the snaps in January’s Rose
Bowl, Wisconsin became the first team to play in three consecutive
BCS bowl games using three different starting quarterbacks. It’s a
sign that the Badgers were used to having success despite constant
It’s a theory that will be tested again this season. Not only
does Wisconsin have a brand new head coach, offensive coordinator
and six new assistant coaches, the Badgers have a bunch of
quarterbacks vying to start the season opener on Aug. 31.
Wisconsin was one of nine schools to start at least three
different quarterbacks in 2012 – Danny O’Brien, Joel Stave and
Phillips – and was the only school of the group that finished with
a winning record. But after back-to-back seasons of at least 10
victories, the Badgers’ 8-6 season was a far cry from success.
”It came out time and time again that 8-6, they don’t feel like
that’s a tremendous year for them,” coach Gary Andersen said.
”They feel like they’re a dominant power in college football,
which I believe they should feel that way.”
It starts with consistency under center, something Andersen and
offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig are still sorting out after three
weeks of spring practices.
Despite listing seven quarterbacks on its official spring
roster, the Wisconsin has given seniors O’Brien and Phillips,
sophomore Stave and redshirt freshman Bart Houston – a highly
touted prep quarterback out of the San Francisco area – most of the
Andersen hinted that the coaching staff will give certain
quarterbacks more repetitions leading up to April 20 spring game,
but a starter won’t be named until the fall, after sophomore
quarterback Tanner McEvoy has enrolled and can compete for the
”We’re going to look at all the quarterbacks,” Andersen said.
”We’re going to look real hard at the youth at the quarterback
position because it’s important. They need the opportunity to see
how far they’ve come.”
Although Wisconsin lost just 12 turnovers last season, tying for
the fourth-fewest nationally, the Badgers threw for only 156.93
yards per game – 111th out of 120 FBS teams last season.
Stave started six games, including the first five conference
games. He recorded a season-high pass efficiency rating of 208.8,
going 9-of-11 for 127 yards and one touchdown against Michigan
State, before breaking his left collarbone early in the second
”We were starting to get some third downs, keep the chains
moving and that’s really when I thought we could get things rolling
a little bit,” Stave said. ”It’s disappointing that’s when
everything went down.”
Stave was cleared for the Rose Bowl, but Phillips was given his
fourth consecutive start after leading Wisconsin to a 70-31 victory
over Nebraska in the conference championship game. Stave played
only two plays in the game, one of which was a dropped touchdown
pass by Jared Abbrederis, and spent the rest of the game on the
”The fact that I was able to get in there and play, make a
throw and to be on the field again was something really special for
me, especially being the Rose Bowl,” Stave said. ”That being
said, as a competitor, you want to be in there as many plays as you
can. I would have obviously liked to be in there a lot more.”
O’Brien was named the starting quarterback before the season,
but was benched in favor of Stave at halftime in the team’s third
game. He made cameo appearances in the fourth quarter at Nebraska
and in the second half against the Spartans after Stave was hurt,
but struggled to adjust after transferring from Maryland, where he
was a freshman All-American in 2010.
”It was really tough, but I am grateful for it,” O’Brien said.
”I learned a lot. It was really the first time I have been benched
my entire life in any sport . in really any venue of anything. It
was really humbling. I think I have learned a lot from it. I am a
lot tougher mentally than I think I have been ever.”
While he has stated publicly that he will not stray far from
Wisconsin’s well-known running game, Andersen has the desire to add
a zone-read and pistol formations to the quarterback’s arsenal in
order to open more things offensively.
Although Wisconsin has barely started installing its offense,
the new coaching staff has been embraced by a quarterback room
looking for consistency.
”In the meetings (Ludwig) is super detailed and there is not a
wasted minute in our meetings,” Stave said. ”We are talking
football, we are talking strategy, whatever we need to the whole
time. We really get a lot done, a lot accomplished, and I feel
really comfortable with the plays we have in. I think he’s done a
really good job.”