2014 Wisconsin Badgers Position Previews: Quarterback


Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After waiting all summer to find out who would start at quarterback for the Wisconsin Badgers when they travel to Houston for a showdown with LSU, it seems that we finally have our answer.

Last Friday, Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Tanner McEvoy will be tabbed as the starter when the Badgers take on Les Miles’ Bayou Bengals.

Head coach Gary Andersen’s decision to go with McEvoy, who played as a safety last year, over incumbent Joel Stave, who has started 19 games over the past two seasons, shocked many, but could end up paying off in the long run. Though Stave has the clear edge in experience, McEvoy possesses a quality that he lacks: mobility.

Andersen has made it no secret that he prefers a dual-threat quarterback, and McEvoy fits the bill.

McEvoy has some experience at quarterback from his time in high school and junior college. While at Arizona Western College in 2012, he 2,301 yards and 29 touchdowns on his way to being named the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

Of course, playing quarterback at the Division I level, especially when your first start will come against a perennial SEC powerhouse, is a whole different animal.

Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig have also stated several times over the course of the quarterback battle that both players would likely be used at one time or another, so Stave will still likely see some time under center.

Stave, a redshirt junior, is 13-6 as a starter has thrown for 3,598 yards and 28 touchdowns during is career, ranking in the top 10 in UW history in both categories. His 61.1 percent career completion percentage is also the fourth-best mark in Wisconsin football history.

However, Stave has also struggled at times and was picked off 13 times is 2013, tied for the most by any quarterback in the Big Ten. He also had stellar wide receiver Jared Abbrederis to depend on throughout his career as a starter for the Badgers, but Abbrerderis is now gone to the NFL and there are numerous question marks surrounding the Wisconsin receiving corps. Without a clear go-to receiver, there’s no guarantee that Stave would’ve remained effective as the full-time starter.

Whether or not McEvoy can rise to the occasion remains to be seen, but he’s apparently shown enough to Andersen and the coaching staff for them to feel comfortable having him lead the Badgers offense against LSU. At the very least, he’ll be able to tuck it and run with far greater effectiveness than Stave ever could, which could be huge if Wisconsin’s receivers suffer through growing pains. However, it’s hard to imagine that Stave won’t be a factor on offense either (his 22 touchdowns passes in 2013 were the second-most in UW history), especially if McEvoy struggles badly.

As per usual, the Badgers offense won’t revolve around the quarterback in 2014, but rather running backs Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. But whoever gets the lion’s share of playing time under center will still have to be effective to avoid having the Wisconsin offense become completely one-dimensional.