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January 6, 2014

Report Card: Quarterbacks





Wisconsin's 2013 football season is in the books, so it's time to pass out our position grades after the Badgers finished the year 9-4 with a 34-24 loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl.

Naturally, the quarterbacks are up first. It was an up-and-down year for Joel Stave under center, after the 6-foot-5 sophomore won the starting job in fall camp. He finished the season completing 61.9 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,494 yards along the way. Stave also threw 22 touchdown passes to 13 interceptions, and had at least one interception in 10 of Wisconsin's 13 games.

The BadgerBlitz.com staff's grades for Stave are included below:

John Veldhuis: I've defended Stave more often than not, mostly because I think some people had out-sized expectations for a sophomore quarterback who had yet to start a full season when he re-won the job. Let's take a look at a blind resume really quickly:

QB A: 276-for-448 (61.6%), 3,583 yards (7.99 YPA), 28 TDs, 16 INTs
QB B: 303-for-460 (65.8%), 3,906 yards (8.49 YPA), 23 TDs, 13 INTs

Those are Stave (Quarterback A) and Scott Tolzien's (Quarterback B) stats through the first 19 starts of their career. And remember: Stave's first 19 starts came between his freshman and sophomore seasons, whereas Tolzien's first 19 starts came between his junior and senior seasons. Stave's shaky fundamentals aside, there's room for growth there- especially since he's primed to work with the same quarterbacks coach in a consecutive season for the first time since high school.

That doesn't mean that the Badgers shouldn't have a quarterback competition next year. If Bart Houston, Tanner McEvoy or D.J. Gillins can out-perform Stave, more power to them. I just don't think Stave is a lost cause, despite his rough end to the season.

However, Tolzien and Stave aren't exactly the mobile quarterbacks the Badgers want to start using in the future. If another quarterback can provide enough of a deep threat in addition to extending plays, Andy Ludwig will probably be tempted to pull the plug and start over.

Grade: C

Jon McNamara: Joel Stave emerged as the starter this fall after he beat out both Tanner McEvoy and Curt Phillips. But the sophomore received his fair share of criticism in 2013 after throwing for 2,494 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Stave's play at quarterback was inconsistent -- accuracy on deep throws was suspect along with his decision making in the pocket -- and he'll likely be fighting for his job this off-season with McEvoy, Bart Houston and true freshman D.J. Gillins all battling for playing time.

Grade: C-

Jon Gorman: After a promising freshman season cut short due to injury, hopes were high for Joel Stave. Unfortunately for the Badgers' faithful, Stave was no better than below average during his sophomore year, raising serious questions about his future at the position. Despite having All-Big Ten performers at running back, wide receiver and tight end, Stave consistently missed makable throws, was slow in his reads and worst of all, turned the ball over in every game but two. That is simply unacceptable for an offense that requires "game management" and little more from its quarterback. With McEvoy, Houston and Gillins challenging Stave this spring, I would be very surprised to see him enter next season as the starter.

Grade: C-

Zack Miller: Give any quarterback the eighth ranked rushing attack in the nation and he'll tell you that his job got a lot easier. All he has to do is keep the defense honest by showing the ability to stretch the field with the long ball and not turn the ball over. Stave was 63rd in the nation this season in yards per completion (11.99) and ranked 50th in passing efficiency (138.1). It was not just Stave, however, because when he went down with an injured throwing shoulder in the Capital One Bowl it seemed as if the Badgers had no chance at defeating South Carolina with Phillips behind center. It's hard to decide if it is the system or the personnel that was the problem area for Badger quarterbacks this season, but either way I expect Gary Andersen and staff to decide between McEvoy, Houston or Gillins when it comes to naming a starting quarterback for next season.

Grade: D

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.



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