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Who Should Start at Quarterback for Wisconsin in 2013?


Wisconsin had three different quarterbacks make a start last season.

Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien was thought to be the answer, but he struggled early in the year, which prompted the coaching staff to turn to Joel Stave. The former walk-on was solid in his performances, until suffering a broken collarbone against Michigan State.

With Stave sidelined, Curt Phillips was pushed into the starting lineup. Phillips was steady in his stint as the No. 1 quarterback, but Stave or incoming junior college transfer Tanner McEvoy could win surpass him on the depth chart this fall.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. Wisconsin checks in as the No. 19 team for 2013

Who Should Start at Quarterback for Wisconsin in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
This is going to be a tough decision, but Joel Stave seemed to be the quarterback coaches trusted the most last season. Granted, that’s a different coaching staff. Gary Andersen may see something he likes in Danny O’Brien, who struggled the most of Wisconsin’s three starters. Curt Phillips was the best of the three starters in terms of third down efficiency (45 percent in his five starts) and red zone efficiency (85 percent touchdowns in his starts), but that was when Montee Ball and the Wisconsin run game finally regained form. The Badgers rushed for 200 yards four times in Phillips’ starts including twice running for 500. Stave’s numbers tell a different story. Stave averaged 9.3 yards per pass attempt and 14.9 passes per game, both way ahead of the numbers for O’Brien and Phillips. Simply put, Wisconsin’s last staff thought Stave gave the Badgers a better chance to run a more effective balanced offense. While handing the offense to Ball and James White was enough to beat Penn State and Nebraska, I don’t think that’s going to be enough for Wisconsin to stay competitive over the course of the season, especially with Ball gone.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I would be shocked if anyone other than Joel Stave was the starter in Madison. The walk-on redshirt sophomore was the only player on the roster last season who gave the Badgers offense any balance whatsoever. He was leading the Big Ten in efficiency before getting hurt against both Nebraska and Michigan State — the only two games UW lost when Stave started. Curt Phillips has some nice athletic ability and proved he could lead clutch drives but is one cut away from a fourth knee injury. And he was very Tebow-ish in that he struggled for the first 59 minutes of the game before leading game-tying drives (Penn State, Ohio State). Does Stave, and his lack of mobility, fit into Gary Andersen's offensive scheme perfectly? No, but he is the most polished passer and gives Wisconsin the ability to accurately go down the field more so than any other option on the roster. Look for Stave to take most of the snaps with Phillips' legs earning him a few snaps from time to time. There are worse problems to have than multiple quarterbacks with starting experience.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Although Curt Phillips was steady in his late-season stint as the starting quarterback, I think Joel Stave is the answer for Wisconsin. New coordinator Andy Ludwig and coach Gary Andersen want a little mobility from their passer, but Stave gives this team the best chance to win. In eight games last season, the former walk-on threw for 1,104 yards and six touchdowns, while completing 58.8 percent of his throws. The Wisconsin native had three consecutive games of 200 or more passing yards (UTEP, Nebraska and Illinois) and threw for 127 yards on 9 of 11 passes before suffering an injury that kept him out of game action until the Rose Bowl.

Junior college recruit Tanner McEvoy was recruited by Andersen to add to the competition right away, and he seems to be the best fit for the offense. However, McEvoy has no experience on the FBS level, and junior college recruits usually have an adjustment period to the increased competition.

Stave might not be perfect for what the coaching staff wants to do. But with one of the nation’s top backfields returning and a solid defense, having a quarterback that is capable of being efficient and steady in the pocket is a huge plus for new coach Gary Andersen. 

Kevin McGuire, and
It's that time of the year again when the Wisconsin quarterback question tends to yield no answers. I have joked about this topic with a few people already but it is really anybody's guess who will be leading the offense when the season kicks off in Madison. I think the competition between Joel Stave and Curt Phillips is a draw, with each having certain qualities the other doesn't that would lead to a potential dual-QB offense if nothing is figured out before the start of the year.

It sounds as though JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy is going to get every opportunity to compete for the starting job, and with neither Phillips or Stave making it an obvious choice to go with them, that would lead me to consider McEvoy will be Gary Andersen's guy at some point. Part of me also wants to think Danny O'Brien somehow rebounds but until he does anything to prove he is worthy of the starting job I'll have to wait and see.

So we have a situation where Wisconsin is looking to pick a name out of a hat, and that's generally not a great sign. When push comes to shove, I'll go with the guy who got the most out of the offense last season and that is Stave.

Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
So we're absolutely sure that Russell Wilson is out of eligibility? What about Scott Tolzien? In that case, I'll have to go with the guy who made the most starts under center for the Badgers last season - Joel Stave. The sophomore was doing just fine before breaking his clavicle against Michigan State, becoming the first freshman quarterback at Wisconsin since Jim Sorgi (2000) to start a game.

Not only did Stave win his first start against UTEP, he led the Badgers to a 4-1 record in the five games he completed (which included three conference victories) and was leading the Big Ten in passer efficiency rating (149.6) at the time of his injury. He also became the eighth QB in school history to throw for more than 200 yards in three consecutive games and the first to do so in his first three starts since Tyler Donovan (2006, '07).

Stave may not be as athletic as senior Curt Phillips or the ideal fit for new head coach Gary Andersen's system like redshirt freshman Bart Houston is reported to be, but he has shown that he's more than capable of leading the team to victory when he's on the field. He didn't do anything performance-wise to lose the job last season, so I see no reason to make a change on the depth chart to start off 2013 either.

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