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April 18, 2014

Spring Wrap Up: Quarterbacks

MADISON, Wis. - 15 spring practices are in the books, so it's time to look back and sum up what we learned about each of Wisconsin's positions groups over the last month and a half.

Today we'll start with (who else?) the quarterbacks.

The Badgers have a truly open quarterback competition

I'll admit that at the start of spring camp I assumed that Joel Stave would have a better grip on the starting job than he actually did. But Stave is still recovering from the hit on his throwing shoulder that knocked him out of last year's Capital One Bowl, and his absence during the first part of camp (and the last week of camp) opened up the door a little wider for Tanner McEvoy to step in.

McEvoy looked better during spring camp than he did last fall, and you can't dismiss Gary Andersen and Andy Ludwig's stated preference for a dual-threat quarterback. But while McEvoy took a step forward, my guess is that Stave would produce more as a passer once he's fully healthy. In the end all we know for sure is that this fall's quarterback competition is shaping up to be even more competitive than last year's version- especially if Stave and McEvoy are both fully healthy when fall camp starts.

D.J. Gillins is raw, but the talent is there

Like a lot of true freshmen Gillins had his good and bad moments during his first semester of practice. One of his best throws came late in camp when he uncorked a deep sideline throw to Reggie Love, which would have gone for a touchdown thanks to Gillins' excellent ball placement. One of his worst came a few weeks earlier, when he missed his receiver entirely and managed to throw the ball into the light fixtures lining the side of the McClain Center.

But while his arm is a work in progress, Gillins doesn't run like someone who has had a previous ACL injury. He looks smooth and fluid when he decides to tuck the ball and scramble for a first down, and it is easy to see why the Badgers recruited him so heavily after Andersen and his staff took over. A redshirt year still seems likely, but the Badgers might be thanking themselves in 2016 if he develops into a true-dual threat quarterback who is capable of leading an offense.

Bart Houston is in a state of flux

If Stave and McEvoy are Wisconsin's present and Gillins looks like the team's future, where does that leave Bart Houston? He had a chance to earn extra reps this spring while Stave continued to ease back into a throwing program, but Houston struggled with consistency and saw his total number of reps decline towards the end of the spring.

Andersen said after the spring game that for the time being Houston is not in the mix for the starting job, so the sophomore quarterback is in limbo for the time being. Houston said after the spring game that he isn't thinking about transferring, but quarterbacks at other schools have sometimes looked around for a better fit when confronted with the same situation. You have to give credit to Houston if he stays true to his word and decides to stay at Wisconsin, but even he would admit that he has some catching up to do if he wants to be a serious contender for the starting job this fall.

Tanner McEvoy from Jon McNamara on Vimeo.

John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.

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