UW's Phillips will return to crowded backfield

UW's Phillips will return to crowded backfield

Published Jan. 17, 2013 7:55 p.m. ET

MADISON, Wis. — The final throw of Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips' season resulted in an interception that prevented the Badgers from winning the Rose Bowl. As for the final throw of his college career? He'll have one more year to make amends. 

On Thursday, the school announced the NCAA granted Phillips a sixth year of eligibility after he missed all of 2010 and 2011 while recovering from surgeries to repair his right anterior cruciate ligament. 

Phillips' return means an awfully crowded quarterback room next season. Sophomore Joel Stave and senior Danny O'Brien also return after starting games in 2012. Senior Jon Budmayr is expected to attempt a comeback after missing last season with nerve damage in his throwing elbow, and highly touted redshirt freshman Bart Houston also will be in the mix for playing time. 

Phillips took over as Wisconsin's starting quarterback after Stave broke his collarbone against Michigan State on Oct. 27. Following a bye week, Phillips edged O'Brien for the No. 1 signal caller position and started the team's final six games. O'Brien made three starts and Stave five during the year.

On the season, Phillips completed 46 of 81 passes for 540 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions, although he rarely was tasked with airing the ball out given the team's dominant running game. Despite undergoing three ACL surgeries while at Wisconsin, Phillips did provide more of a running threat than either O'Brien or Stave. Phillips rushed for 99 yards this season while pocket passers O'Brien and Stave combined to lose 133 yards rushing because of sacks. 

Phillips completed 10 of 16 passes for 83 yards with a touchdown and an interception during Wisconsin's 20-14 Rose Bowl loss to Stanford. His final throw was picked off with 2:03 remaining in the game, and Wisconsin never saw the ball again.

Whether Phillips accomplished enough in six starts to begin spring camp as the No. 1 quarterback remains to be seen. The Badgers will have seven new assistant coaches in addition to head coach Gary Andersen, so the quarterbacks could enter camp with a clean slate in some respects. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Andy Ludwig said he wasn't concerned with naming a starter by the end of spring camp. 

Andersen said he wanted to examine Wisconsin's younger quarterbacks in the spring, but that doesn't rule out Phillips, either.

"Experience is important," Andersen said last week. "We're going to look at all the quarterbacks. We're going to look real hard at the youth of the quarterback position, because it's important and I think they need the opportunity to see how far they've come, how far they've developed as we get into this offseason. 

"It will be a competitive spot. There's a bunch of them. We'll get a good look at them as we move forward. Then there's going to be a youngster that hops in there in fall camp, and we'll see how he conducts himself and how he holds up. 

"The best one that we evaluate will play. Very rarely do you get through a season with one quarterback, so you'd better have a couple prepared to play."

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