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Houston sets sights on Badgers' starting QB job

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By Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
December 28, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla.--Bart Houston held a private celebration Dec. 1.

That date marked a one-year anniversary for Wisconsin’s No. 3 quarterback, who last Dec. 1 was cleared to resume throwing after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder during his senior year of high school.

“That was the ‘Thank God I’m not out’ anniversary,” the redshirt freshman said Friday after UW continued preparing to face South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl.

Houston, who has played in two games this season, hopes another celebration is in the offing in 2014.

His goal is to win UW’s starting quarterback position.

“I’m not going to be satisfied with anything but that,” Houston said.

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig should have four scholarship quarterbacks to evaluate in spring practice and in preseason camp.

They are: Joel Stave, who has 18 starts on his UW résumé entering the bowl game against South Carolina; Tanner McEvoy, who will be given the opportunity to display his skills on offense after spending most of the season at safety; Houston, a decorated recruit from De La Salle High School in California; and incoming freshman D.J. Gillins.

Does Houston believe the starting job is within anyone’s reach?

“It’s within my reach; I know that,” Houston said. “Joel has got the experience. And that’s what he’s got over me. Experience goes a long way.”

Stave, who has passed for 2,414 yards this season with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, holds a significant edge in that department.

However, his penchant for missing open receivers is something that must be addressed if the UW offense is to improve in the bowl game and beyond.

Accuracy was among Houston’s strengths before he underwent surgery in the spring of 2012.

Because he was shut down for several months, Houston was in no position to challenge for the No. 1 job last August. But he now appears more comfortable and confident.

“He is markedly better than he was when we came in in the spring,” Ludwig said, “and even through the course of the summer.”

Houston got plenty of work at the end of practice Friday as the staff worked with young players during a developmental segment.

Houston threw a bullet to wide receiver Reggie Love, who turned the short pass into a gain of about 70 yards. Later, Houston was flushed to his left and threw a strike down the left sideline to wide receiver Jazz Peavy for a gain of about 30.

“I’m throwing the ball a lot better,” Houston said, “and I have made leaps and bounds in the mental aspect.”

If you haven’t noticed, the 6-foot-4, 217-pound Houston does not lack confidence.

“You’ve got to be confident to be a quarterback,” he said. “Not just for yourself. It radiates out to every part of the team.

“If I go out there and take a big hit and mope around the offensive linemen…they’re going think they can’t block for me, that they have to do more. And when you try to do more you do less.

“So as long as I’m radiating energy and showing I’m confident and I’m going to do my best and we’re going to win games, everybody else is going to follow.”



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