Stave may be in driver's seat in Badgers' QB competition

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By Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thursday, August 22, 2013

MADISON--Asked recently about the battle for the No. 1 quarterback job, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen noted the ultimate winner wouldn’t be revealed until the opener against Massachusetts.

Based on what transpired during the team’s lone practice Wednesday it appeared Joel Stave has nudged ahead of Curt Phillips in that battle, though offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig insisted no decision has been made.

Stave worked with the No. 1 unit and Phillips went with the second group when UW ran a two-minute/sequence drill to close practice.

“We’re rotating through,” Ludwig said. “Joel had taken reps with the (starters) in the two-minute.

“Today was just a sequence drill. It wasn’t competitive. No matter what the result of the play was we were moving 10 yards just to work on the mechanics.”

Before that, Stave got the first reps with the No. 1 offense against the scout-team defense. Phillips was second in the rotation.

“You saw both QBs with the (starters),” Ludwig said.

Ludwig and Andersen consult regularly about the quarterback race.

“We have daily discussions about the quarterback position and the direction of the offense and the identity of the offense,” Ludwig said. “It’s his show.”

Andersen said last week the only pressure he felt to name a starter was so that player would get the bulk of the work with the No. 1 offense as UW prepares for the Aug. 31 opener.

“I don’t think any of them are more difficult than the other,” he said, referring to all personnel decisions. “The quarterback position is important because the young man has his hands on the ball every snap.”

Asked Wednesday if he sees any difference in the direction and/or identity of the offense depending on which player is working with the No. 1 unit, Ludwig said he has not.

So what will separate the No. 1 from the No. 2?

“Who consistently moves the football team,” Ludwig said. “Who has competitive accuracy. Who can get us out of tough situations.”

Phillips has thrown the ball better than he did last summer, when he was still slowed by multiple surgeries on his right knee.

He looked sharp in a recent live two-minute drill and drove the No. 1 offense 70 yards in 14 plays for a touchdown.

Stave, who needs to do a better job moving in the pocket to avoid pressure, has grown stronger since camp opened Aug. 5. He still is the better deep thrower and has done a good job during a drill in which the quarterback must move the ball out from near his end zone.

“I think he looks comfortable,” Ludwig said. “He has good football intellect.”

A competitive quarterback battle isn’t new to Ludwig, who faced a similar scenario during his time as offensive coordinator at Utah.

Coincidentally, Andersen was the Utes’ defensive coordinator at the time.

Ludwig has no complaints with the work Stave, Phillips and the other quarterbacks have put in so far in camp.

“They come to work every day,” he said. “They compete every day. They compete with themselves first. They compete with each other. They help the offense compete.

“It is a good room from top to bottom.”

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