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August 19, 2014

QBs confident about offense





MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Badgers wrapped up their second and final scrimmage of fall camp on Monday, which means that head coach Gary Andersen and Andy Ludwig are probably getting close to naming a starting quarterback.

So if you hear anything about which quarterback will start against LSU, be sure to let Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy know. Both quarterbacks said after Tuesday's practice that the coaching staff hasn't told them yet who won this fall's competition, and they're not sure when to expect a decision.

"They haven't [told us], actually," McEvoy said Tuesday after practice. "Your guess is as good as mine."

But even though the Badgers have yet to settle on a starting quarterback, the top two contenders for the job both agreed that this year's offense has a high ceiling, no matter who winds up under center.

For one thing, the Badgers get another year out of running backs Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. Both players can expect to see more carries than last year, with Gordon getting the majority as their featured tailback. With four of last year's starters back on the offensive line, it's not hard to imagine Gordon and Clement matching or surpassing the 7.89 combined yards per carry they posted last year.

But in order to surpass last season's production, the Badgers are going to need more out of their passing game, even with Jared Abbrederis out of the picture. That seemed anywhere from unlikely to impossible at the start of fall camp, but both quarterbacks said they think the passing game will improve from last year, even without Abbrederis.

"Last year was great with Abby and the tight ends we had, but I think this year's offense is really going to click," McEvoy said. "I think we're going to put a lot of points on the board."

Both McEvoy and Stave said both the upper and underclassmen wide receivers have impressed them thus far through camp and Stave said that, as strange as it sounds, not having Abbrederis might allow them to put more stress on opposing defenses.

"I did find myself a lot of the time looking in [Abbrederis'] direction," Stave said Tuesday, adding that he thinks Wisconsin's passing game will be more balanced this year. "We don't necessarily have that one guy who we can bounce around and have him in different formations. We can line up and have three wideouts and a tight end, and no one really knows who to key on."

The Badgers also could benefit from expanding fullback Derek Watt's role this offseason. Watt has been taking snaps in a few different positions so far this year, so much so that Stave called him an offensive utility player. The Badgers are hoping Watt can make an impact in a mixed role where he will split time between fullback, tight end or H-back, which Stave said will keep teams from overplaying their hand against Wisconsin's personnel groupings.

"It's tough to put a finger on the personnel group … because Derek Watt could be in there and he could be a running back, a full back, a tight end, an H-back," Stave said. "That puts stress on a defense … all of sudden you think you have Big personnel and then Derek Watt is running a seam route, that could be tough."

Stave and McEvoy might not know yet which one of them will have the chance to pilot that offense, but if the pieces fall in to place it's easy to see why they might be confident about avoiding regression in their second year in Ludwig's system.



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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