At this point, most believe Wisconsin's Joel Stave has done enough to earn a starting quarterback job because of his passing ability, while Tanner McEvoy (pictured) could be utilized in occasional option-style packages.
MADISON, Wis. — Eleven days before Wisconsin’s biggest season opener in years, and the coaching staff hasn’t officially declared a starting quarterback. At least, that’s the word from the two tight-lipped combatants vying for the job, both of whom were adamant Tuesday they’ve been told nothing just yet.
"Even if I knew, I don’t think I’d admit it," Tanner McEvoy said. "But we really don’t. We talked to the coaches. They said we’ve got to keep going every day. We’re making each other better. We’ve just got to go out there and compete. Worry about ourselves."
Added Joel Stave: "They haven’t. It’s just taking it one day at a time. Really just focused on what we can do for each of us personally and what we can do for the team. When they decide, they decide."
Badgers coach Gary Andersen said Monday that he wouldn’t make the quarterback announcement public and would try to keep it that way until the first series of No. 14 Wisconsin’s Aug. 30 game against No. 13 LSU. It remains to be seen if word will leak sooner, but for now, both players will continue to push on as if they were the starter.
At this point, most believe Stave has done enough to earn the starting job because of his passing ability, while McEvoy could be included in certain option-style packages. Practices are closed to the media from this point forward, leaving everyone else to speculate. On Tuesday, both Stave and McEvoy provided an assessment of their performance this fall in what likely will be their last interviews before a starter is officially named.
Stave noted he was happy with his performance in camp and felt he had improved in the areas that troubled him a year ago, when he helped guide the Badgers to a 9-4 record but tied for the Big Ten lead with 13 interceptions.
"I think my feet are a lot more controlled in the pocket," Stave said. "I’m not taking these big evasive hitches and stuff like that when I don’t need to. I’m just keeping my weight back and staying balanced in the pocket. When I do that, I’m able to deliver the ball much more accurately."
McEvoy, meanwhile, said he believed both quarterbacks had "played pretty even." Though Stave has demonstrated more passing consistency, McEvoy acknowledged his ability to create with his legs when plays break down provides a distinctly different look for the coaching staff.
Coaches have hinted at the fact McEvoy’s best way to see the field could be in various packages, and he is not opposed to the idea.
"I’m always up to that," McEvoy said. "However to get on the field is kind of my deal. If it’s at safety or at quarterback or left tackle, whatever it is. If they want me, I’ll do whatever they want to help the team win. I’ll do it."
Still, some believe that, if McEvoy does not win the starting quarterback job, it would be best for the team for him to return to safety — a position he played exceptionally well last year despite limited practice repetitions.
Would McEvoy even consider playing safety again?
"I don’t think so," he said. "I don’t know. I want to play quarterback, but that’s up to the coaches. If that’s what the decision comes down to and they want me to do that, I’m up for it. I think offense is the better side."
Stave, too, exhibited a team-first attitude when asked how he would respond if McEvoy was inserted into the game for certain drives.
"Obviously, Tanner’s a good player," Stave said. "He wouldn’t be in this position if he wasn’t. Being able to use him in the offense I think could be very good for us. If that is the case, if I’m playing and he comes in for a play or two or whatever it may be, a series, I’ve just got to be ready for that.
"When I was a freshman, we had the barge package. That was something where I was on and off the field, but that was only one play here or there. Third-and-short on the goal line, stuff like that. But again, that’s where you’ve got to be ready to come off the field and get right back on if they need you. That’s just being a part of the team."
Badgers right tackle Rob Havenstein said there isn’t a noticeable difference in the way Wisconsin’s offensive line must protect for either quarterback, and he believed both players would give the Badgers a chance to win games. Though Stave is 13-6 in his college career and McEvoy has yet to appear in a Division I game under center, Havenstein noted McEvoy had found his groove during fall camp.
"Tanner’s gotten exponentially better at calling plays and having more command and confidence as he’s calling the plays," Havenstein said. "I think it comes down to his film study and him just understanding the offense better, which is a testament to him. They both do a great job now."
Which man does the job better? The official answer is unknown — just the way coaches hope to keep it for 11 more days.
"That’s something that’s creeping into everyone’s mind I think is who’s going to play, who’s going to start," Stave said. "You’ve just got to kind of put that behind you. Especially in practice, that’s not what’s important. What’s important is to take advantage of the reps you get."