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July 8, 2013Follow @JohnVeldhuis
I don't know about you, but I'm a little football starved. It feels like an eternity has passed since the Badgers wrapped up their spring camp under new head coach Gary Andersen, and preseason magazines and classic games on the Big Ten Network can only hold a person over for so long.
But now that we've got both feet into July it seems like a good time to identify the storylines you should pay attention to when the Badgers start fall camp on August 5th. Fall camp might seem like just a time for the players to get back in shape before the start of their season, but the storylines that crop up during these 20 or so practices can have a major impact on the rest of the season.
Don't forget that warning signs about Wisconsin's troubles on the offensive line cropped up during spring and fall practices last year, and that the Badgers still have some position battles to resolve before the start of their season. Of course one position battle in particular stands head and shoulders above the others. The Badgers need to identify a starting quarterback for the third season in a row, so it's only fitting that we start our fall camp previews under center.
Who will start the season at quarterback for the Badgers?
This is one of the biggest questions the Badgers need to answer during fall camp. We saw some spirited competition between Joel Stave, Curt Phillips, and Bart Houston during the spring, but Andersen and quarterbacks coach Andy Ludwig didn't name a front-runner after the spring game.
Stave and Phillips separated themselves from the rest of the quarterbacks after spring break, but the Badgers are adding another quarterback to the mix this fall. JUCO signee Tanner McEvoy is on campus now, and Andersen said several times this spring that McEvoy will get every chance to compete for the job with Stave and Phillips.
That's not just lip service, either. McEvoy has a good chance to win the job. He is a true dual-threat quarterback, whereas Stave is known more for his passing than his mobility and Phillips struggled with his accuracy in seven games with the Badgers last year. Phillips and Stave have more experience than McEvoy at the FBS level, but McEvoy is the lone quarterback on Wisconsin's roster that was recruited by the current coaching staff. I think there's something to be said for that.
It's too early to say which quarterback will win the competition, but JUCOs aren't usually brought on campus to sit on the bench. We will learn a lot about Andersen and his staff based on which quarterback they end up starting on Aug. 31. This position battle is about as wide-open as you'll find anywhere, and I'm betting it comes down to the last week of camp.
How will the Badgers tailor their offense to fit the starting quarterback?
The Badgers said several times during spring camp that they're not going to try and fit a square peg in a round hole. Andersen and Ludwig want to recruit mobile quarterbacks moving forward, but they're not going to make a true pocket passer like Stave run too many option plays if he beats out Phillips and McEvoy. So if Stave wins the job, I don't expect the coaches will ask him to do anything that doesn't fit his skillset.
But the Badgers might use the quarterback a little differently if Phillips or McEvoy wins the starting job. You can still expect the Badgers to use McEvoy or Phillips as traditional passers more often than not, but their mobility would give the Badgers the option of using a few designed quarterback runs.
Chuckie Keeton, Andersen's quarterback at Utah State, averaged almost 10 rushing plays per game with the Aggies last year. That number is a little misleading because some of those "rushes" were broken plays, but the point remains that Andersen let his mobile quarterback loose more often than the Badgers have in the past. Phillips averaged 3.85 rushes per game last year, and McEvoy averaged 6.12 rushes per game at Arizona Western Community College.
Both players could see that number go up a bit if Ludwig and Andersen feel comfortable letting their quarterbacks loose in the open field. It might be odd to see if you've been following the Badgers for a long time, but you should get used to it if Andersen and his staff stay in Madison for a while. In the long term they want to run a pro-style offense with a quarterback that can hurt teams with his legs, and if McEvoy or Phillips win the starting job we'll get our first look at what Andersen wants his offenses to do in the long term.