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Filling the Void: Can Wisconsin avoid the QB Shuffle again

All-in-all it was a 7-5 regular season for the Badgers and a lot of it had to do with the QB carrousel never stopping. It's never good when you have to talk about three quarterbacks making multiple starts, but that's exactly what happened to the Badgers.

Yet, Wisconsin found a way to win it's third straight Big Ten championship – proving that in an era where the QB is king defense and running the football well can still win you championships. 

Having said that as they move into a new era with head coach Gary Andersen bringing in a new offensive coordinator in Andy Ludwig. It'll be a fresh start for everyone involved and that can only be a good thing for a group that needs to put 2012 in the rearview mirror and get a fresh start.

Background

Wisconsin started the season with "highly touted" transfer Danny O'Brien behind center, but things clearly weren't working after a lackluster opener against FCS foe Northern Iowa and a terrible performance in a loss to Oregon State. He was pulled at the half in the 3rd game, as the Badgers were down to visiting Utah State, managing all of 3 points in the first half.

Joel Stave came in and would start the next five games, going 3-2 in games he started, however he was unable to finish the 5th game as he suffered a broken collar bone early in the 2nd half against Michigan State. UW gave O'Brien the nod in the 2nd half of that game and it was less than stellar. 

In came Curt Phillips, the man of the bionic knee after 3 ACL tears in the same knee during his time at UW. He finished off the year with losses to OSU and PSU in OT and a loss as the starter in the Rose Bowl as well. 

Point of all of this? 2012 was a mess at QB and 2013 needs to be vastly more stable if this team wants to be better.

Who's Leaving?

No one actually, thanks to an extra year of eligibility for Curt Phillips thanks to two ACL tears in just 18 months back in 2010 & 2011 that kept him out of two full seasons of action. 

Who's Filling the Void?

Joel Stave (2012 stats): 70-119 (58.8% comp. rate), 1,104 yards, 6 touchdowns, 3 interceptions

Curt Phillips (2012 stats): 46-81 (56.8% comp. rate), 540 yards, 5 touchdowns, 2 interceptions

Tanner McEvoy: He's not around this spring, but the No. 1 JUCO QB in the country will get every chance to be the starter in the fall.

Bart Houston: He took a redshirt last season to allow him to soak in the offense and to work on keeping his surgically repaired shoulder healthy.

What's Happening this Spring?

There are two clear front-runners in this battle, as Andersen made that abundantly clear in his teleconference with Big Ten media members this past week. Those front-runners are 6th year senior Curt Phillips and redshirt sophomore Joel Stave. 

According to reports Phillips has gotten back some of the zip he was missing on his throws last season and remains a good general for this team in the huddle as well as a very athletic option for Ludwig to consider, but his accuracy and deep ball remain a bit of a work in progress. 

On the other hand Stave has gotten much more accurate on the deep ball, something that was missing in his first year and he to has the command of the huddle that Andersen and Ludwig are looking for. He may not move like Phillips, but he's also shown some athletic ability to keep plays going. 

Behind them there is a clear third and that's redshirt freshman Bart Houston, who is still working on picking up the offense but has shown to perhaps have the best arm of all the QB's in the Badgers stable. 

What to Expect Heading into the Fall?

One thing we already know without the spring game is that this competition isn't going to end anytime soon as Gary Andersen made it clear at the opening of spring ball and again last week that no matter how things go this spring JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy will get the chance to openly compete for the job as well. 

With the spring game coming up on Saturday it will be interesting to see if either of Phillips or Stave can jump up and grab a clear advantage and become the main challenger to McEvoy in the fall. That would be the ideal situation as UW entered last fall with three QB's in the mix and that didn't exactly turn out well.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college football for nearly half a decade. He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadgers.com and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com

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