Though first-year head coach Gary Anderson has made no public announcement, analysts around the country are expecting Joel Stave to take the reigns at starting quarterback for the Badgers season opener against UMass on Saturday. The sophomore was seen working with the first-team offense during the team's final days of camp, while his competition, senior Curt Phillips, drilled with the second-line.
Stave and Phillips were the last to stand after spring and summer training camps whittled down the corps to just the pair. Starter through week four of last season, Danny O'Brien is the most notable name to be booted from competition for the spot in 2013. O'Brien lasted mere weeks as Wisconsin's lead signal caller before Stave took over the job through week 9. A broken collar bone in a game against Michigan State sat Stave for the season, allowing Phillips a chance for the final five games of the regular season.
During their respective times as helmsmen of the huddle, Phillips and Stave had virtually identical stats. Both completed nearly 60 percent of their passes with at least five touchdowns. Five interceptions between them was the low-point of their numbers on the year, though Stave's ratio of attempts-to-turnovers is significantly better due to his 119 possible pass-plays compared to Phillips 86. Stave's average 15 yards-per-pass also out-did his counterpart's in 2012; Phillips managed just over six.
That power of the long-ball is what most critics expect has kept Stave as the front-runner as camp winds-down. He told reporters this week that he has really been focusing on stretching the field with a stronger arm this summer.
Anderson also acknowledged his pleasure with the younger quarterbacks improved distance and accuracy, citing the Badgers being too dependent on their ground-game in 2012. Specifically the coach mentioned Wisconsin's ranking as the 16th most rushing team on first down in the country, a down he thinks Stave could add a little flare to with the occasional surprise deep-ball.