Wisconsin Football: Badgers' Top Priority This Spring is to Decide On a QB

Badgers Need to Definitively Decide On a QB

3/25/14 in NCAAF   |   brettbachman   |   4 respect

Jan 1, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Joel Stave (2) scrambles with the ball during the second quarter of the Capital One Bowl against the South Carolina Gamecocks held at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY SportsIt’s no secret the Wisconsin Badgers can run the ball. Second-year head coach Gary Andersen, who was just given a $300,000 raise after being courted by the Cleveland Browns, inherited one of the best run games in the country without having to take a step on the recruiting trail.

But now Andersen needs to add some balance to the offense by figuring out what’s going on at quarterback. Last season’s passing game wasn’t bad by most measures, but it became shockingly clear in the Capital One Bowl that if the Badgers ever want to be an elite team, they need to figure out how to compliment a powerful run game with the occasional pass.

Since day one Andersen and his staff said the quarterback job was redshirt junior Joel Stave’s to lose, though on the field it has seemed anything but. According to the coaching staff, however, there are three other quarterbacks who stand a fighting chance of breaking into rotation. Stave is the only player in the bunch with actual big-game experience.

Last season Stave completed 61 percent of his passes, which puts him in some pretty good company. What makes him vulnerable, however, are the low moments. After throwing 13 interceptions and more than a few passes off-mark, however, Stave’s got some ground to cover.

Last season Wisconsin signed transfer quarterback Tanner McEvoy, though he eventually found a home on the defense at safety. This year McEvoy is crossing the line of scrimmage to take another stab at quarterback. Standing at 6-foot-6 with breakaway speed, McEvoy fits in well as read-option or scramble threat.

Bart Houston is another name everyone seems to be mentioning. The young quarterback has immense arm strength, albeit without any experience in big game situations. It will be interesting where Houston finds himself at the end of spring ball.

New four-star recruit D.J. Gillins is an early enrollee in his first semester at Wisconsin. Finding himself in the heat of a battle right out of the starting gate, Gillins may be a little raw to start his collegiate career. If coaches can clean up the little problems in his delivery and decision making he could make a run at the starting position. Even if he doesn’t it shouldn’t worry Badger fans much; the young gun will certainly be a great quarterback eventually.

The nice thing about spring ball is the ability to allow instability in the name of a position battle. If the quarterback battle extends into summer and fall, however, coaches run the risk of not allowing the offense to gel together, creating problems right away.

Andersen and his staff, however, have the ability to make their decision this spring and allow the starter to settle in come fall. Past Badger coaches have struggled to make definitive decisions about their quarterbacks in the spring, and it hurts the offense come fall. A great example of the repercussions extended quarterback battles can have is the midseason scramble Bret Bielema went through in 2012 after golden transfer Danny O’Brien flopped.

It’s up to Andersen and his staff to figure it out this spring—or face the consequences.
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