The Wisconsin Badgers coaching staff did something we haven’t seen in some time around Camp Randall last week, splitting the 105-man squad in to two different groups for practices over the first week of camp.
It led to the media only seeing one-half of the picture at most during the first week, yet that didn’t stop most from speculating on who will or is winning the starting quarterback job.
After the first scrimmage (and coincidentally the first opportunity for the media to see the quarterbacks live at the same time), some put Stave out front in the race.
Jesse Temple of Fox Sports Wisconsin went out on a limb, saying that the upper hand of observation and unofficial statistics belonged to junior quarterback Joel Stave. He noted Stave finished the scrimmage going 9-of-17 passing for 115 yards and two touchdowns to McEvoy’s 4-of-7 for 40 yards and two touchdowns.
Sure, those stats suggest one is ahead of the other — for one day and based off of a really small sample size for one of the two combatants. Give McEvoy 10 more throws and who knows what would’ve happened.
Besides, we did get a chance to see the athletic ability of McEvoy on full display and it is clearly something that could give opposing defenses even more to think about. Dare we say it’s also giving the coaching staff a lot to think about as well?
In response to questions about the quarterback battle following the scrimmage, head coach Gary Andersen was pretty blunt in his assessment — yet also noncommittal.
“Joel’s done a nice job,” Andersen said. “He’s poised. He’s confident. He loves to compete. I think he’s handling his team. I would say on the flip side of that, I think Tanner is doing the same thing. Again, they’re competing well against each other. It’s a great situation to be in.”
However, not everyone shares Temple’s opinion after just nine practices, with Evan Flood of Badger247 noting that this race is “too close to call” at the moment (VIP subscription required & you should be subscribing to our exclusive recruiting partners).
One thing that is making this decision difficult is the fact that both quarterbacks are doing the one thing they really need to do well — throw the ball vertically. UW has seen both McEvoy and Stave be much more accurate with the deep ball then anyone expected, especially given the youth at wide receiver.
However, it appears that the junior quarterbacks have a good chemistry with the younger wide receivers and that is making the decision just that much more difficult, as Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal noted.
Getting the ball deep in this offense, coupled with some more running from the quarterback would really make this offense interesting. One thing to note is that when we are talking running, it isn’t just McEvoy. Those in attendance have also seen some running from Stave, which is something Andersen hinted at during his time with us in the media at Big Ten Media Days.
Once again, no one has been able to separate himself because of one specific thing just yet. Give it some time fellow media members. Besides, you’ve been able to see both of these guys with the same offensive groups for all of one scrimmage and parts of two practices.
That’s not much information to go off of in an on-going battle that has no end in sight before the Aug. 30 matchup against LSU in Houston, Texas.
Credit both Stave and McEvoy for not only handling the pressure from the outside, but stepping up to the plate and making this a real battle. If there’s one thing the first nine practices have actually taught us, it’s that UW will be in good hands at quarterback no matter who wins the starting job.
That’s more than we’ve been able to say over the past few years, and a far cry from pinning the hopes of a program on the shoulders of a transfer quarterback for two straight years.
Photo courtesy of Badger247