UW coaches to assess dueling quarterbacks Joel Stave, Tanner McEvoy
MADISON—Through the first six days and 11 practices of preseason camp, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has evaluated the quarterbacks through a variety of settings: seven-on-seven drills, red-zone segments and different down-and-distance scenarios.
Ludwig and head coach Gary Andersen have the opportunity today to grade Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy, who are vying for the starting job, and the rest of the quarterbacks in the first of two scrimmages scheduled for camp.
“The scrimmages will be two-thirds of the total evaluation,” Ludwig said. “Because that is as close to gamelike as we can get. The coaches are off the field. It is unscripted.
“It is up to the quarterback to put the offense in the best position to move the ball.”
Getting an accurate read on the quarterback battle through the first four days of camp was difficult because of the new structure.
Andersen used “A” and “B” practices, with the top offensive linemen, backs and receivers working in the “A” practice in the morning. The rationale was to get more players more repetitions.
Stave and McEvoy rotated each day with one working in the “A” practice and the other in the “B” practice.
“The opportunity to succeed in the morning is much better to succeed in the afternoon,” Andersen said. “I think performances have probably been better in the mornings for both of them.
“We’ve got to get them in those live scenarios, get the whole scheme in and see how they’re handling it from there.”
The full roster was on the field Friday and Saturday.
Stave appeared to have the upper hand Friday, when he worked with the backups against the starters and top reserves on defense in the red-zone drill.
He threw two touchdown passes to reserve tight end Troy Fumagalli, the first on third and goal from the 10 and the second on second and goal from the 4.
Stave, who acknowledged he worked diligently on being more consistent with his footwork, appears to be more comfortable throwing on the run than he was last season.
“I like it when we call the naked plays and the rollouts, and you get a chance to move the pocket,” Stave said. “It puts the defense in a bind, and it’s a good way to keep them honest if you’re running the ball and running the ball and running the ball.”
McEvoy showed his mobility during the red-zone drill Friday. Flushed right and under pressure from two defenders, McEvoy lofted a pass into the back of the end zone for a 6-yard strike to wide receiver Robert Wheelwright, who got behind cornerback Darius Hillary.
McEvoy appears much more comfortable at the line of scrimmage than he did last summer. However, at times his execution has fallen short of what he did in the spring when he put himself in position to challenge for the starting spot.
“I feel OK,” he said. “There’s definitely a lot more room for improvement.
“Spring is spring. … Fall camp is when it really counts. I’ve got to pick it up and do better than what I was doing in the spring.”
Both players had big pass plays Saturday.
McEvoy lofted beautiful strikes, one of 37 yards to freshman George Rushing for a touchdown and another of 42 yards to redshirt sophomore Reggie Love during full team work.
Cornerback Devin Gaulden appeared to be in tight coverage on both plays, but the ball was well placed by McEvoy.
Both quarterbacks acknowledged some growing pains working with inexperienced players during the split practices.
“You’ve just got to adjust and just go with what you’ve got,” McEvoy said.
Stave added: “I think it was a great opportunity for both of us. If you’re seeing someone else not doing something right, it is your job to correct things and make sure things are running right.
“I take a lot of pride in knowing what is going on and trying to make corrections. I don’t get them all.
“But it was a great opportunity to get comfortable with everybody on the offense, not just the first team and second team but with everyone. I think that was a great way to get us a lot of reps.”