Many words have been typed this week about a budding quarterback quandary as well as ways to establish more opportunities for a three-headed monster at running back, the latter fueled by comments by Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema himself.
Why is it that I feel more confused than ever about where this Badger team is headed? Is it because UW's own leader is confused as ever, too?
Hiring Mike Markuson seemed like a good idea in the offseason, but oops, Bielema suddenly decided that zone blocking is not what Wisconsin football is about. He then benched Danny O'Brien in the middle of a game three weeks ago, yet thinks his transfer QB is now somehow a two-minute drill savant. Bielema keeps talking about getting his full stable of backs more involved, though he's pounded Montee Ball for 30-plus carries in three of five games for 3.7 yards per carry. Melvin Gordon and James White combined for 53 percent of their season carries in one afternoon only after Ball had been knocked out of the UTEP game.
Forgive me if I find a confused Bielema to be a difficult concept to grasp. This is a former defensive coordinator who quickly rose through the ranks to head coach, and ripped off 60 wins in his first six seasons. He never shied away from pummeling an awful rule into oblivion to his benefit or putting more points on the board when it wasn't socially acceptable.
And even in the case of Markuson, Bielema was decisive in a time of crisis. He took some heat for removing a key cog at that juncture, but when push came to shove, Bielema didn't worry about what others thought or hurting Markuson's feelings.
So here we are. Part of me thinks Bielema is finding ways to keep O'Brien involved because he likes the kid and fought so hard to get him to transfer to Madison. Additionally, after all Montee Ball has been through, you know Bielema still adores the fact that his star tailback returned for his senior season while the program's coaching staff was crumbling all around him.
Is Bielema playing favorites?
Nothing is clear cut with the quarterbacks. But Wisconsin hasn't lost a game (2-0) that Joel Stave has finished, and O'Brien has lost two. O'Brien has also lost a fumble in three of his four games, while Stave hasn't lost one yet. (In O'Brien's defense, he was missing Jared Abbrederis for half the time he's been under center.) Regardless, you can easily make the argument that Stave gives the team the best chance to win.
Ditto for monitoring the mileage on Montee Ball's tread -- especially given that there are no holes at the line of scrimmage to run through more often than not. The best UW has looked all year on offense was when Gordon and White were running wild in relief of Ball. All the comparisons to the 2010 juggernaut of Ball, White and John Clay make total sense to me.
I can only hope Bielema comes to his senses and gives it more than lip service.