The Wisconsin Badgers ‘ spring practices are heating up with several competitions battles with the most notable battle being at the quarterback position.
Junior quarterback and two-year starter, Joel Stave headed into the spring as the Wisconsin football team’s starting quarterback but it seems that there is a good chance he doesn’t leave the spring with that same title.
After injuring his shoulder in the Capital One Bowl against South Carolina in January, the Wisconsin staff decided to keep Stave on a “snap-count” during the spring in order to ensure his long-term health.
With Stave’s lack of reps, the door is wide open for someone to get the opportunity to impress coaches and make a run for the starting job. After Stave’s inconsistency last season, the Badgers should welcome a potential change at the QB position to help get that coveted bowl game win.
Stave’s completion percentage looks appealing on paper at about 62% for last season, but his problems go beyond what is on paper. The most notable problem with Stave last season, other than his 22-13 touchdown/interception ratio, was his inability to hit receivers in stride on his deep balls.
Countless balls were underthrown to open receivers which then turned into incompletions, or interceptions because they had to come back to make a play on the ball rather than being hit in stride.
After watching him play throughout his high school career, one of his bright spots was the deep ball and his calm demeanor in the pocket. Now three years removed, it seems his game is just not translating well enough to consistently play at a high level.
Here is where the competition gets interesting. The majority of the spring reps thus far have gone to true freshman D.J. Gillins and former safety Tanner McEvoy, who both bring an aspect that Stave does not posses and that is mobility.
During his one season at Arizona Western College, the 6-foot-6 McEvoy threw for 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions and showed flares of brilliance with both his legs and arm. He has a big time arm there is no question, but his ability to keep plays alive with his legs is something the Badgers offense would greatly benefit from this season as their receiving core has been depleted.
McEvoy runs between a 4.5 and 4.6 40-yard dash and Arizona Western ran some wildcats formations to display his speed. With McEvoy playing quarterback, along with the duo of Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement in the backfield, Wisconsin’s offense now has the parts to incorporate a wildcat formation.
Coach Gary Andersen said he was pleased with McEvoy’s performance thus far, both under center and in the shotgun formation. Andersen said he has also been impressed with the play of Gillins, but with no collegiate experience it seems improbable at this time that he will win the starting job.
It is highly unlikely that the Badgers exclusively run a form of the wildcat, but it would give their offense another dimension to display their potent run game. Stave’s lack of mobility would not be an issue if he showed that he could excel as a pocket-passer, but because he has not proven that this is why the Badgers need to consider a change to fully utilize all of their offensive weapons.