Fall Camp Preview: Quarterbacks

The first of our nine-part series, Badger Nation breaks down each position in the first Wisconsin fall camp of the Gary Andersen era. Today, we examine the three players competing for the starting quarterback position.

This is the first in a series of nine previews leading up to the Wisconsin football team's Aug. 5 start of practice.

July 28: Quarterbacks

July 29: Running backs

July 30: Wide receivers

July 31: Tight ends

Aug 1: Offensive linemen

Aug. 2: Defensive linemen

Aug. 3: Linebackers

Aug. 4: Defensive backs

Aug. 5: Specialists

Projected starter: Curt Phillips (redshirt senior), Joel Stave (redshirt sophomore) or Tanner McEvoy (redshirt sophomore)

Key backups: Bart Houston (redshirt freshman)

Departed Players: Danny O'Brien, Jon Budmayr


After a tumultuous season at the quarterback position, where three different players started games throughout the season, Wisconsin is looking for one player to step up and secure the role during fall camp. While there are six quarterbacks listed on the roster, the starting job will be a three-way quarterback battle between Stave, Phillips and McEvoy – the incoming junior college quarterback.

Although Stave had the best performance in the spring game, head coach Gary Andersen or offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Andy Ludwig have maintained that no player has an edge. When the Badgers open camp on August 5, it will be interesting to see if it's Stave or Phillips who lines up under center with the ones. McEvoy will have to work up his way up the depth chart but Andersen made it clear during Big Ten Media days that any junior college player Wisconsin recruits is going to get their chance to compete for playing time right away.

All three quarterbacks will get equal reps during camp and Andersen said last week that he has no timeline as to when he wants to name a starter for the August 31 seaason opener against Massachusetts.

"We may jog out there the first play of the game with two quarterbacks on the field and see what happens from there," Andersen said. "So who knows, it will be interesting."

Stave replaced Danny O'Brien at halftime of week three (against Andersen's Utah State team), was declared the starter the following week and made six straight starts until he suffered a broken collarbone against Michigan State on Oct. 27. On the season, Stave completed 70 of 119 passes (58.8 percent) for 1,104 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

Phillips took over as the starter for Stave and started Wisconsin's final five games, including the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl. For the season, he completed 46 of 81 passes (56.8 percent) for 540 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.

Both are on their third quarterback coach in three years but have both talked about how much they have enjoyed working with Ludwig and his new offensive scheme.

"I really like him," Stave said during the spring about Ludwig. "In the meetings especially he is super detailed and there is not a wasted minute in our meetings. 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."

We know that Andersen prefers an offensive system with a mobile quarterback who can keep plays alive, which would mean he would prefer Phillips or McEvoy to Stave. But even though Stave may not be the most mobile of the three, Andersen said in the spring that he would feel comfortable with Stave running the offense Wisconsin is trying to instill. If Stave does win the starting position, Ludwig, like former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, will fit the Badgers offense to Stave's strengths.

While most onlookers know what Phillips and Stave can do, many will be anxious to see what McEvoy brings to the offense. Recruited heavily by Andersen and Ludwig in the weeks leading up to signing day, McEvoy is the dual-threat quarterback Andersen is envisioning for the role at Wisconsin.

Passing for 1,943 yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions last season for Arizona Western College, McEvoy also ran for 414 yards with six touchdowns. He'll be entering his third program in three years (he committed to South Carolina out of high school), but has said previously that his knowledge of offenses has increased because of the constant switching. He's been on campus since the beginning of June, working on learning the playbook and building chemistry with UW's receivers.

Burning question: Who will emerge as the starter?

I believe it will be a competitive quarterback battle but in the end I think it will be Stave who gets the start in the season opener. Stave was a better quarterback than Phillips during the spring scrimmages and the spring game and played well for a redshirt freshman during his six starts. He also has the best arm of the three quarterbacks being considered, which is vital to create a downfield passing game that was lacking last season.

Biggest Strength: Quarterback Experience. Stave and Phillips both return after having started games last season. There shouldn't be any nerves if one gets injured during the season.

Biggest Problem Area: Repeat of 2012. If the Badgers have to rotate quarterbacks again, I can see Wisconsin having similar results from last year. One of the three quarterbacks is going to have to step up and they need to play consistent.

Final Thought: I'm confident that the Badgers have three capable starters in Stave, Phillips or McEvoy. The question is can they get consistency out of the quarterback play. The Badgers won't need one of the three to play like Russell Wilson, but be similar to the steady confidence exhibited by Scott Tolzien.

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