Wisconsin Football: Badgers' Spring Search for Starting QB

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterMarch 16, 2012

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  Running back Montee Ball #28 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs the ball against Terrance Mitchell #27 of the Oregon Ducks in the second quarter at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Stop me if you've heard this: The Wisconsin Badgers enter spring after a tough loss in the Rose Bowl. They have to replace a proven commodity at the quarterback position but return plenty of talent at the running-back spot and along the offensive line.

After losing to TCU in Pasadena and quarterback Scott Tolzien ran out of eligibility, this was the state of Bret Bielema's program in March 2011.

The same can be said for this 2012 Badgers squad.

The team lost in Pasadena to Oregon and quarterback Russell Wilson is gone, but as a whole, the squad is ready to make another run at a Big Ten title.

Bret Bielema appears to be tossing his hat back into the transfer pool with the Badgers showing interest in former Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien, but where DOB goes is still months from being resolved.

That leaves Bielema with Joe Brennan to hold down the starting position through March and into April. 

Brennan played in spots last year. He went 6-15 for 48 yards, one interception and no touchdowns.

Not really impressive, but with an injury to Jon Budmayr the redshirt freshman was forced into the second-string role in 2011.

Speaking of Budmayr, the quarterback suffered a more recent injury setback that has him missing spring football. That means that redshirt freshman Joel Stave will be getting a lot more reps this spring.

With that, all the quarterback issues in Madison are easy to see: a kid without much experience, a kid with even less experience, and a guy that would have a shot at winning the job is not healthy enough to participate.

The good thing for Wisconsin is that their offense is so heavily predicated on the run that they are not asking their quarterback to be Andrew Luck. With the return of Montee Ball, a Heisman finalist, their running game is largely intact.

This Badgers roster seems to breed lineman. As the quarterback situation tries to sort itself out, expect spring ball to be about pushing the line of scrimmage and giving young signal-callers time to make their decisions.

On defense, Wisconsin has lost some key players in the backend—most notably, safety Aaron Henry—but will return so many guys to their front seven that the strength of their defense will remain strong.

Both Mike Taylor and Chris Borland are back, two linebackers who have a knack for sniffing out the football and getting ball carriers down on the ground.

Up front the Badgers lose Louis Nzegwu, but this Badgers team did a heck of a job rotating in five sophomore defensive linemen a year ago. Those young guys will now step into more prominent roles, which only adds to the hard-nosed physical defense that Wisconsin is all about.

The last big thing to watch for with Wisconsin is how the Badgers replace Nick Toon.

Toon was the Badgers' reception and touchdown leader a season ago. With the big guy on the edge, things opened up for Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pederson.

Without another legitimate big-time receiving threat to take the tops off of defenses and draw a safety to his side, both Abbrederis and Pederson will find defenses focusing on them a lot more.

Couple that with inexperience at the quarterback spot and the Badgers definitely have work to do this spring.