Wisconsin 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis
With so many departures in the tight end and wide receiver ranks, one would think bringing a quarterback with 21 games of experience would give the newcomers some stability at that position. Unfortunately for the Wisconsin football team, that is not the case as Joel Stave, who has started 19 games, has been woefully inconsistent and has forced a quarterback competition.
With six guys competing for snaps—Connor Senger, Thad Armstrong, DJ Gillins, Bart Houston, Stave and Tanner McEvoy—McEvoy and Stave walked out of spring ball as the two competitors for the starting job come August when the Badgers face off against LSU in Houston.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the projected depth chart at the quarterback position for the 2014 season.
No. 5: Thad Armstrong and Connor Senger
There isn't too much separation between these two so they get one slide. Senger was a standout in Milwaukee, though his size will hinder him as he tries to move up the depth chart. After taking a redshirt last season, Senger will certainly continue to help the scout team, though likely will not see the field.
Armstrong, the brother of former Badger linebacker standout Ethan, will likely never see the field but his willingness to work with the scout team and work ethic has made him a valuable piece of the team. The walk-on worked with Melvin Gordon throughout the spring after practices to help Gordon's pass-catching.
No. 4: DJ Gillins
Gillins was an early enrollee from Ribault High School in Jacksonville, Fla. and has all of the tools necessary to be Wisconsin's starting quarterback, just not yet. Gillins, a 4-star recruit, according to ESPN.com, held offers from a number of top programs and was quite the coup for coach Gary Andersen as he brings the unique combination of wheels and arm strength.
Gillins may redshirt this season, which would probably be a good call for the talented but still raw quarterback. Andersen has clearly shown a proclivity toward mobile quarterbacks and Gillins certainly fits the bill there. He will likely be competing with incoming recruit Austin Kafentzis, a 4-star recruit himself, according to ESPN.com, throughout both of their tenures in Madison.
No. 3: Bart Houston
After taking a redshirt due to injury, Houston actually threw a pass last season, leapfrogging Curt Phillips to throw a lone pass against Massachusetts in the first game of the year. Houston, a former 4-star recruit out of De La Salle High School, according to ESPN.com, struggled a bit during the spring and those struggles will likely hold him back from grabbing the starting job.
Houston needs to learn to let the game come to him as his arm-strength is unparalleled on this team. Houston's lack of mobility will likely hold him back from taking the starting job under Andersen, barring injuries. With that being said, Houston has been ready to step in when duty calls at any moment.
No. 2: Joel Stave
Things get interesting up here as Coach Andersen announced that Stave and McEvoy will be the two to compete for the starting role. Between Andersen's preference for mobile quarterbacks, Stave missing much of the spring as well as his woeful performances at the end of last season, he finds himself sitting in the backup role to open the season.
Stave has prototypical size for a quarterback, 6'5" and 227 pounds, and the former walk-on has shown good moxie at times. As a redshirt freshman, Stave was pressed into action against Utah State when starter Danny O'Brien was given the hook. While Stave was awful during that game, going 2-of-6 for a whopping 15 yards, 14 of which came on one play, they won the game and Stave remained the starter.
Stave's shown flashes of taking the starting role by the neck and not letting go, including a 9-of-11 performance against Michigan State his freshman season, which saw him get injured and the team fall apart in its wake. He also threw a perfect pass to Jared Abbrederis in the Rose Bowl, only to watch it fall innocently to the turf after a rare drop by the talented receiver.
But it was Stave's performance at the end of last season which is causing there to be a quarterback competition at all. In consecutive losses to Penn State at home and then to South Carolina in the bowl game, Stave threw four interceptions. Outside of a 36-yard completion, he had a total of 44 passing yards against South Carolina.
Stave will still have a role on the team and can make some throws when called upon, though he never makes it look easy, but he will likely be holding a clipboard in Houston when the Badgers play LSU.
No. 1: Tanner McEvoy
McEvoy has been on as tumultuous a journey as almost anyone in FBS football to date. A 3-star athlete out of high school, according to ESPN.com, McEvoy signed with South Carolina, spurning Miami, Michigan and others.
After redshirting for a year, McEvoy chose to transfer, ending up at Arizona Western junior college for a season. McEvoy had his pick between Oregon, Florida, West Virginia and the Badgers but ultimately chose the place where he thought he could step in and play quarterback.
After bringing in Russell Wilson off the transfer market and watching him succeed right away, the Badgers were shown that the transfer derby doesn't always work out as Danny O'Brien was a catastrophic failure. With McEvoy, the Badgers saw early on that he wasn't ready to play quarterback and used McEvoy's unique skill set and size to fill needs throughout the roster.
Working as a wide receiver, McEvoy hurt his wrist, prompting a move to safety, a position where he actually started a game and performed as well as anyone among a group that included third-round selection Dezmen Southward and standout Michael Caputo.
McEvoy is the front-runner for the starting job due to his ability to use his legs and his arm strength. While he has a quirky delivery, which has held him back in the past, he has the ability to drive the ball down the field and has shown accuracy on the short, medium and deep balls that Stave has not.
But it is his legs that I think will push him into the starting role. McEvoy doesn't have quite the same running ability as Gillins but he can definitely run the option, something that was implemented in the spring and looked to work quite a bit.
With the threat of the option and the jet-sweep at any time, even against stacked boxes, the Badgers should still be able to run and that alone should push McEvoy into the starting role.