The Big Ten has a few quarterback controversies brewing as we’re about to enter August and the one in Madison is very interesting.
Last year, the Wisconsin Badgers shuffled two signal callers, and though they finished 11-3 with a berth in the Big Ten Championship game and a win in the Outback Bowl, the quarterback play was inconsistent. Joel Stave was the pro-style quarterback while Tanner McEvoy was a dual threat who struggled in the passing game. Stave made the biggest contributions through the air last year, throwing for 1,350 yards, though his 9:10 touchdown to interception ratio opened the door for others in 2015.
Head coach Paul Chryst is back with the Badgers after a three year absence and nobody is happier about his return to Madison than Bart Houston. The redshirt junior was recruited by Chryst when he was the defensive coordinator of the Badgers and signed with Wisconsin out of De La Salle High School (Concord, CA) in 2012. Houston never played for Chryst, as the coach accepted a head coaching position with the University of Pittsburgh shortly after the 2011 season.
McEvoy will likely not contend for the quarterback job this year after converting back to safety in the offseason. He may also be trying out at wide receiver, which means that the competition will likely include just Stave and Houston. All but one other quarterback on the roster are freshmen, and redshirt junior walk-on Thad Armstrong will likely never see the field.
Houston is a quarterback with a lot of upside and it’s not a stretch to think that Chryst’s return could be his opportunity to step into the position sometime in 2015. The aforementioned Stave and McEvoy opened the door last year for another to challenge for the position, and the 6-foot-4, 228-pound quarterback may be the guy. Houston is a big-armed, pro-style quarterback whose arm strength can be both a tool and a liability. If he can learn to take what the defense gives instead of trying to make the big play on every play — like many scouting reports on him suggest — he could be a solid starting quarterback for the Badgers, who should be a front-runner for another Big Ten West title.
Expect Stave to be named the team’s starter against Alabama on September 5 in Arlington, though Houston should get an opportunity to make his mark if the senior struggles like he did last year.
Jason Shawley is a Featured Writer for RantSports.com covering Big Ten Football. Follow him on Twitter @jshawls.