Wisconsin Football: Joel Stave Holding Strong as Starting Quarterback


A year removed from a season that saw the Wisconsin Badgers start two different players at quarterback and employ a two-quarterback system as both struggled to perform, the Badgers look to be confident with Joel Stave as the team’s starter in spring ball.

Stave, a redshirt senior, who played in 8 games last season after playing a combined 23 in the two seasons prior, is reportedly looking pretty good to start out spring ball.

ESPN columnist Mark Schlabach wrote Monday about “some of the biggest developments in spring practice so far.” Included in his list is the ongoing battle for the starting QB role at Wisconsin, which at the moment, appears to be not too much of a battle.

Here’s what Schlabach had to say:

"“New Badgers coach Paul Chryst recruited quarterback Joel Stave to Wisconsin when Chryst was the team’s offensive coordinator. In Chryst’s first spring practice as the Badgers’ head coach, Stave has remained the team’s No. 1 quarterback.Stave, who is 20-6 as Wisconsin’s starter, lost the job last season after struggling with his control. He regained the job late in the season and looks like the guy to beat heading into his senior season. The early results have been promising: Stave completed 13 of 18 passes in the Badgers’ first scrimmage of the spring. Stave is battling Bart Houston, D.J. Gillins and early enrollees Alex Hornibrook and Austin Kafentzis for the starting job.”"

The news doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, as Stave is miles ahead of his competition in terms of in-game experience.

The only Badgers player on roster besides Stave who has started a game at quarterback – Tanner McEvoy – opened spring practice on defense, and may even play a little wide receiver.

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What’s left?

Bart Houston – who has appeared in 8 games, is 2-4 for 14 yards and a touchdown, and has more career punts (7) than pass attempts (4).

D.J. Gillins – a redshirt freshman who only has practice and scrimmage reps under his belt

Alex Hornibrook and Austin Kafentzis – a pair of early enrollee freshmen looking to earn some playing time.

Clearly, Stave has the edge in terms of experience, and the added benefit – as Schlabach pointed out — of being recruited by Paul Chryst to run his offense. That provides a level of familiarity between the coach and quarterback that’s tough to replicate in a couple of weeks of spring practice.

There’s no question Stave has earned the chance to be the week one starter – he’s 20-6 in his career, not exactly pedestrian – but he’s certainly benefitted from playing behind an above-average offensive line and handing the ball off to among the best in the business at running back the past two seasons – James White and Melvin Gordon.

Yes, Stave has earned the chance to win the starting role, but we’ve also seen what it looks like when he’s not on his game: poor downfield passing, bad choices leading to interceptions, and concerns about his confidence.

There’s clearly talent waiting in the wings behind Stave – if not experience. All the quarterbacks behind Stave came highly-touted out of high school.

Stave will more than likely be the week one starter, but time will tell if he’s up to the challenge. The Badgers can pretty much only go up from the quarterback play we saw a year ago, and hopefully Stave’s experience will show as the Badgers move into the summer session.

Next: Tanner McEvoy on Defense to Open Spring Ball