UW football: Quarterback hopefuls look good in scrimmage
MADISON—With two weeks left in preseason camp and almost three weeks until the Aug. 30 opener against LSU, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen doesn't feel pressured to name a starting quarterback.
But, based on his comments Sunday after UW's first scrimmage of camp, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Joel Stave win the job and the staff design a package for Tanner McEvoy, whose running complements his passing.
“If we played a game today, we would have some scenarios where we would want to be a very multiple offense,” Andersen said. “If that means that another guy has got to get under center once in a while and make it be more multiple for people having to prepare, so be it.
“They're fighting and right now they both deserve to be able to have some playing time.”
Stave, who has started 19 games at UW, and McEvoy, who played most of last season at safety, both performed well Sunday.
Unofficially, Stave completed 9 of 17 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
The first score came on a 23-yard completion to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Reggie Love, who beat safety Michael Caputo. Stave lofted the ball beautifully to the left corner of the end zone, where only Love could make a play on the ball. Love, 6-3 and 214, has taken advantage of playing time and is in the midst of a solid camp.
The second score came on play-action when he hit tight end Austin Traylor from 4 yards.
Two of Stave's incompletions appeared to be drops and a third was the result of Stave's arm being hit by linebacker Vince Biegel.
Stave's lone bad throw came when he sailed the ball high over Love's head near the sideline.
McEvoy, who has displayed touch in camp on deep fade routes, did so in connecting for a 21-yard touchdown with freshman wide receiver George Rushing.
McEvoy's unofficial numbers: 6 of 9 for 51 yards and two touchdowns.
The second score came on a coverage bust when McEvoy found Traylor uncovered near the back of the end zone for a 12-yard completion.
Why did Stave get more opportunities to throw the ball?
“I think it was more of the flow of the game with coach Lud,” Andersen said, referring to offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. “There was no plan to have one guy throw the ball more or throw it a little less. … We have done that in certain practices.”
Andersen thinks UW will be better equipped to stretch defenses vertically with a deep passing game despite the departure of wide receiver Jared Abbrederis (78 catches, 1,081 receiving yards).
“We're protecting a little bit better,” Andersen said, noting the protection must continue to improve. “We have more threats going down the field. You can't just get up on one guy and double cover him.
“And the quarterback is throwing the ball better. The first two guys threw the ball down the field and gave our kids a chance.
“And you've got to catch the ball in contested areas. … A lot of times today when the ball was in the air we had an opportunity to catch the football and it's been that way all camp.
“All those things make us feel much better about throwing the ball down the field.”
Redshirt sophomore Bart Houston enjoyed a better day than freshman D.J. Gillins in the battle for the No. 3 quarterback spot.
Houston unofficially went 3 for 3 for 40 yards. Gillins finished 1 of 5 for 4 yards. He threw late to the far sideline and freshman safety Lubern Figaro intercepted the pass for what would have been a touchdown.
But the focus was on Stave and McEvoy. Although both performed well, it appears Stave has the edge for now. It is his responsibility to maintain it.
“Joel's done a nice job,” Andersen said. “He is poised. He is confident. He loves to compete. I think he is handling this team.
“I think Tanner is doing the same thing. They're competing well against each other. It is a great situation to be in.”