Wisconsin football: quarterback competition heating up at spring practice

With Stave's inconsistent play last season, the quarterback competition is heating up during spring.

With Stave’s inconsistent play last season, the quarterback competition is heating up during spring.

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.

  • Terry Head

    Joel Stave definitely needs to improve but let’s look at the interceptions and see what effect they had on the outcome of the game:
    Gm 1: 45-0 UMass Win 1 int: No effect on outcome
    Gm 2: 48-0 Tenn Tech: Win 1 int No effect
    Gm 3: L 30-32 Ariz St: No interceptions: So 1 loss and interceptions had nothing to do with it
    Gm 4: W 41-10 Purdue: Third pick and 124-10 combined scores on games with a pick
    Gm 5: L 31-34: Theee Oh St: 1 int 145.2 rating 20-34 295 yds 2 TD 1 Int. Some say Stave’s best game but his first pick in a loss.
    Gm 6: W 35-6 NW 2 int but we won by 29 so no effect on outcome
    Gm 7: W 56-32 Ill 0 Int
    Gm 8: W 28-9 @ Iowa 1 int: A pick in a 19 point win
    Gm 9: W 27-17 BYU 1 Int: A 10 pt win so a pick in a two score win
    Gm 10: W 51-3; Ind: 0 Int
    Gm 11: W 20-7 Minne: 1 int: A 13 pt win
    Gm 12: L 24-31 Penn St: 3 int: Stave’s worst pick game in a game our d stunk. The third pick was an ally oop at the end of the game to try to tie it.
    Gm13: L 24-34 SCar: 1 int, early pick then threw two TD’s and left the game injured ahead 17-14.

    So to criticize Stave on his picks: 8 of his picks came on wins totaled: 244-49 so those games were blowouts that his interceptions had no effect on the outcome.
    3 games no picks
    A 56-32 win against Ill
    loss to Ariz St a game the officials took our opportunity away on the road
    A 51-3 win against Indy

    The 5 other picks:
    Theeee loss for 1 on a great game by him

    Badgers worst game defensively against Penn St for 3 picks with one being an ally oop

    A pick in the playoff game Stave played well til he got injured: Leaving the game leading 17-14.

    So you can look at 13 interceptions as a whole and say ouch or you can get into detail and see that some were on the receivers and some were just bad throws in blowout wins.

    I say his picks mostly had little value on the outcome of Bucky last year. Penn St was bad with 3 picks but that was an awful game for many Badgers. The other 12 games his 10 picks, 8 were in blowouts and 2 were vs SC in a game he was leading and against Thee he had a great game.

    That said he needs to get better and if he is the QB starting against LSU I hope he leads us to a nice win.

  • Mark and Cathy

    Excuse me. You are off on your article. Way off. Did you watch the badger game vs the Ohio State team in the horseshoe? If you did you would have seen Stave hit Abbey in stride for a TD. 2 in that game and 300 yard passing . Those other 2 QB you cited have Never played against big10 competition. 62% completion means he didn’t miss many throws. Do you know if receivers were partly to blame on dropped passes etc. Stave is an elite athlete who is Smart and athletic. Would you rather have RG3 or Tom Brady ? You really haven’t earned the right to critic an athlete like Stave. You an your 3 fans should stick to High School. Enjoy.

    • Mark Hanson

      Actually he is not. A couple of examples of successful plays does not qualify you as being right and the writer as wrong. Stave missed many throws and 62% in the college game is D3 level. Let’s get better at key skill positions and get you to offer analysis of something else as football is not your strength.

      • Mark and Cathy

        Thanks for the idea. Google says Tom Brady college stats at Michigan. 60% completion. Drew Bree’s college 60.8. Andrew Luck 68%. Do you want to rethink Stave 62% with basically one receiver most of season. Even the great Russel had Toon and Abbey. Houston will be a serviceable backup but Stave is the Man. Go Badgers.

    • Jim Pettegrew

      Stave did have a decent game vs tOSU; Abbrederis had an All-World game & made some tough, gorgeous catches. All season I hoped for Stave to step up & really get it done….I was at the MSU game the season before, when he got hurt, and hoped he’d come back & pick up where he left off. But look at the game tape of this whole last season….the missed throws & the all-day delivery were killers, not the dropped balls.

  • Jim Pettegrew

    Stave not only whiffed on a number of wide-open receivers last year, his motion & release are essentially the opposite of a quick release…by the time he winds up & actually throws it, everyone on the field knows exactly where the ball’s going.

    And what about Houston? Highly touted recruit, and many pundits insisted that he should’ve been put in the Rose Bowl game when Stave came out (or sooner).

  • mcmarcoux

    Article is spot on. Surprised that Houston is not in the mix as he was great in high school. It would be nice to have a mobile QB.

  • Mark Esslinger

    Good article Zach. Enjoyed it.