With just a week before the Badgers take on poor Massachusetts in the annual “Thanks for playing game” Wisconsin is still without a named starting quarterback at the game’s most important position.
Before camp started Aug. 5, the choices were whittled down to Curt Phillips, Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy. Bart Houston, a prolific drop-back passer from California who racked up a 38-1 record in high school, was left out of the mix mainly because he missed a lot of practice time while recovering from shoulder surgery.
Out of those three names, the best person for the job is Phillips. Wisconsin doesn’t need its quarterback to win games or throw for over 300 yards. What the Badgers really need out of this position this year is leadership and consistency.
Phillips, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA for this season, has come back from three knee surgeries and you can bet he’s going to make this year count.
The Badgers have reshuffled its offensive line again, are looking at a different No. 1 tailback and need a proven wide receiver opposite future NFL pass catcher Jared Abbrederis. So, the perfect choice to lead this team is Phillips.
Being the elder statesman of the group, he can almost take on a fatherly figure. He must bring together an offensive line that has given opposing defenses nightmares in the past. However, thanks to recent injuries, left tackle Tyler Marz and center Dallas Lewallen have zero collegiate starts under their belts.
Phillips doesn’t possess the arm strength of Stave, but he can sling it down the field. He isn’t even close to the athlete that McEvoy is, but frankly, who is? Which is why Gary Andersen cannot let McEvoy collect dust on the bench. And since wideout is the team’s biggest need, there’s your answer.
Stave showed flashes last year. He racked up a 4-2 starting record before going down with a broken collarbone vs. Michigan State Oct. 27. But the biggest problem with him is that he isn’t efficient enough. He can put a 60-yard throw on the money, but then miss a simple running back screen. He is nearly there as a complete quarterback, but not yet.
McEvoy is dripping with athletic ability. You can see that right when he steps on the field that he may do something special. He came to Madison with hopes that he could Russell Wilson himself into being the starter.
However, he hasn’t been able to grasp the offense as quickly as others would’ve hoped and his reads at times remain to be questionable.
From a pure passing perspective, Houston is the best on the team. Many have said that Houston will not be able to fit into Andersen’s mold with a true duel threat quarterback.
I agree that Phillips may be a simple vanilla decision. It may even sound boring. But, he gives you the best chance to win in the Big Ten that includes a trip to No. 2 Ohio State and a visit from No. 22 Northwestern on back-to-back weeks.
Phillips may not win you a lot of games, but sure as heck isn’t going to lose you any either. The most telling statistic that separates Phillips and Stave is this: Phillips completed 55.6 percent of his passes on third and 10-plus yards to go, while Stave completed just 12.5.
Phillips might not be a top play on SportsCenter but he will consistently move the chains, and that’s all that matters.
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