Badgers’ QB fight likely down to a two-man race

MADISON, Wis. — Well, say this about Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen: At least he is being patient in his quest to declare a pecking order in the Badgers’ starting quarterback battle.

Though practices would seem to clearly indicate a two-man competition brewing between Curt Phillips and Joel Stave, Andersen is not ready to proclaim junior-college transfer Tanner McEvoy out of the race. Not yet, anyway.

“Not until we get past next Monday, and then I think we’ll be able to really turn around and say exactly where it sits and what’s going on,” Andersen said following Wednesday’s second practice. “Tanner still needs his opportunity. We all have to remember he’s minus 15 practices (in spring) and he’s also minus the opportunity. He had summer, but there’s a lot that goes into that. Again, hopefully the waters calm a little bit and he has an opportunity to compete at a high level on Monday, and then we’ll go from there with all three of them.”

Monday will represent the second of two fall camp scrimmages open to the public, scheduled for 4:45 p.m. at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin’s first scrimmage came this past Monday, and McEvoy struggled considerably, completing just 2 of 9 passes for 22 yards.

Andersen may not want to rule out McEvoy just 12 practices into a 28-practice camp, but what is becoming increasingly obvious is the decreased number of meaningful repetitions for McEvoy in practice.

During Wednesday’s morning session, for example, Phillips and Stave rotated for six separate series in the 11-on-11 portion of practice open to the media. McEvoy did not enter until the final series of practice. He completed one pass underneath to tight end Brock DeCicco, took two sacks and handed off once to running back Corey Clement before practice ended.

Following the first practice, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said the lack of repetitions for McEvoy and quarterback Bart Houston were part of a mapped-out script for the morning session. He noted both would garner more repetitions in the evening session. However, during the final portion of practice open to the media at night, McEvoy remained on the sideline.

Phillips and Stave took turns once again in 11-on-11 drills, followed by a two-minute drill for each quarterback to end practice.

During the Badgers’ two-minute drill, Stave went with the first-team offense, while Phillips went with the second-team. Stave’s drive began at the offense’s own 45-yard-line, and he immediately completed a 30-yard pass to receiver Kenzel Doe and a quick slant to Jared Abbrederis down to the 12-yard-line. But the drive stalled after he was sacked by Chris Borland back to the 20.

Stave then hit Abbrederis on a pass for about 10 yards. On third down, he was forced to throw the ball away, and on fourth down, his pass to Jordan Fredrick went through Fredrick’s hands, but it likely wouldn’t have resulted in a touchdown.

Phillips’ two-minute drive did not result in points, either, and he failed to garner a first down. Receiver Alex Erickson dropped Phillips’ first pass. Phillips then completed a dumpoff to running back Melvin Gordon for six yards but was sacked on third down by linebacker Marcus Trotter. His fourth-down pass went over the outstretched arm of  DeCicco, which ended practice.

“I think it’s really back and forth,” Andersen said of which quarterback had the lead. “I’m not going to say anybody truly has an edge right now. Some days Curt’s gone more with the first. Some days Stave’s turned around and gone more with the first. It’s narrowing down. It’s getting closer to not a final decision by any stretch of the imagination. The key is to get the ones and twos right now and then move from there.”

It would appear Andersen wants to have a starting quarterback in mind by next Tuesday — the day after the team’s second scrimmage. He said he hoped to begin gameplanning that day for Wisconsin’s opponents for the start of the season, which means a signal caller would need to be in place.

“We’ll definitely have to narrow those down soon,” Andersen said.

Snapping issues: Wisconsin starting center Dan Voltz injured his right hamstring during the Badgers’ first practice on Wednesday, which forced left guard Dallas Lewallen over to center, Zac Mathias to left guard and Kyle Costigan to right guard.

Lewallen struggled with his snaps, causing Stave to fumble one exchange and then bobble a snap just two plays later.

Andersen said Lewallen’s performance was “not very good,” but he didn’t blame Lewallen.

“Any time something like that happens in that situation, I’ll blame that on me,” Andersen said. “Obviously, I didn’t do a good enough job of getting him prepared in that situation. We can all look and say Dallas this, Dallas that. He wants to do it. He’ll be fine and did a lot of it in the spring obviously. He’ll be prepared, but we need to make sure in those moments we’re doing everything we can to get him prepared.”

Lewallen did gain experience at left tackle, left guard and center during the spring when Wisconsin dealt with a shortage of healthy linemen. But he also has not needed to snap during the fall. Walk-on center Chris Gill, who joined the program after graduating from Ole Miss, has taken snaps with the second-team offense.

Andersen did not have a timetable on Voltz’s return.

“I think we’ll know more in the morning,” he said. “Those hamstrings have a tendency to take 24 hours to kind of really heat up or kind of cool down. We’re hoping for the best and we’ll see where it goes.”

Badgers “de-striped”: Following Wednesday’s final practice, six Wisconsin newcomers were “de-striped” by their “Big Brothers” and earned the Motion W logo on the sides of their helmets: tight end T.J. Watt, safety Joe Ferguson, safety T.J. Reynard, cornerback Jakarrie Washington, quarterback Connor Senger and defensive end Chikwe Obasih.

Noticeably absent from the list, of course, was McEvoy. Instead, Senger, a walk-on from Milwaukee Pius XI, was the first signal-caller to be de-striped.

Those six joined five other newcomers who earned their logos last week as part of Andersen’s new Wisconsin fall camp tradition: running back Corey Clement, outside linebacker Leon Jacobs, wide receiver Rob Wheelwright, outside linebacker Alec James and offensive lineman Chris Gill.

“I’m proud of those kids that got them off,” Andersen said. “They’re fighting for it and it’s important to them. It’s important to be in front of your teammates and have them kind of validate you.”

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