For the first time in a while, Wisconsin will head into the 2013 season with some level of uncertainty. That is because a new coach will be at the helm, as Gary Andersen is the first brand new head coach in Madison since Barry Alvarez took over in 1990. The even bigger uncertainty for the Badgers will actually be the quarterback position, where there is not distinguished starter.
Last season, on the path to the Rose Bowl, Wisconsin didn’t have a clear-cut starting QB. Danny O’Brien was the starter for the first two weeks, playing well, before Joel Stave took over partway through the third game. Stave, with his big 6-foot-5 frame, completed over 59 percent of his passes and threw six touchdowns and three interceptions in seven games, before getting hurt in Week 9. Stave had a passer rating over 100 in every game he started, bringing stability, albeit not much firepower, to the offense that was led by star running backs Montee Ball and James White. Senior Curt Phillips (who was granted a sxith year of eligibility for 2013) finished out the season for Wisconsin, throwing for 540 yards, with five TDs and two picks over five games.
Since the end of the 2012 season, O’Brien has transferred and JUCO three-star dual threat QB Tanner McEvoy joined the program. That leaves three options: Stave, Phillips and McEvoy to play quarterback. Based off of Phillips’ lackluster production (he never surpassed 100 yards passing in a non-overtime game and averaged just 6.67 yard per attempt), I highly doubt Andersen will truly consider him as the starter.
Andersen described Phillips by saying, “He’s a very savvy, cagey veteran. He’s very smart and understands his talent.” Terms like savvy and cagey, as well as the fact that he understands his talent are all coach talk that translates to, “Phillips is not talented or athletic, but has been here for five years and I can trust him.” That is a great description for a backup quarterback, who is dependable, but without real upside and that seems to be the role Phillips will have.
That leaves Stave and McEvoy to start. Stave was playing relatively well before he broke his collarbone, averaging 9.28 yards per attempt and completed three passes over 50 yards in a run-heavy offense. He showed the firepower that Phillips didn’t seem to have. McEvoy put up great numbers in junior college, but has no experience at the Big Ten level. Unless he is incredibly impressive in practice in August, I find it very unlikely that he passes Stave on the depth chart.
Stave has the perfect mix of experience and talent, which should put him in a great spot to be the starter heading into the 2013 season for Wisconsin.
You can follow Alex Dale on Twitter at @alexdaleCFB.