With O'Brien still at Maryland, Stave takes a step forward

Bret Bielema wouldn't say Joel Stave has "moved ahead" of Joe Brennan at the top of the depth chart at quarterback, but Stave took all of the first-team reps in Saturday's scrimmage.

When Danny O'Brien graduates from Maryland and is able to move to Madison in May, he won't be given the starting job. Just like Russell Wilson did last year, O'Brien will have to prove to the UW coaching staff that he's comfortable enough with the playbook and has a good enough grasp on the offense to run the team.

Until that happens, the quarterback job is up for grabs. For most of spring camp, Wisconsin's only two healthy quarterbacks, Joe Brennan and Joel Stave, split reps with the first team offense while Jon Budmayr (elbow) sat out and Curt Phillips (knee) was limited to non-contact drills.

However, during Wisconsin's second scrimmage Saturday, the team's last before the upcoming Saturday's spring game, it appeared Stave had wrestled the starting job away from Brennan, who served as Wilson's backup last season. Stave took all the snaps with the No. 1 offense Saturday.

"Stave has really done a good job this week, controlling the huddle and making some good decisions," Bret Bielema told reporters after the scrimmage Saturday. "I don’t know if I’d classify it as moving ahead, but we just thought he gave a little bit more continuity with the ones."

Bielema was hesitant to say Stave had surpassed Brennan, but the latter quarterback's reduced role in the scrimmage was telling.

"I also wanted to stress to Joey to keep moving forward and he’s got to be consistent in his play. In his throws, his reads, his reactions. He’s got a nice arm, it’s just that you’ve got to be more consistent," Bielema said.

The offense struggled to move the ball in the team's first scrimmage April 14, but it operated more efficiently at times Saturday.

Bielema was also quick to praise redshirt freshman tailback Melvin Gordon, who received a hefty share of carries with Montee Ball (precautionary), James White (knee contusion) and Jeff Lewis on sideline, largely for precautionary reasons.

Bielema didn't have much to say about his defense, but the unit did play without all-Big Ten performers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor.

"I thought the offense in particular responded from last week. I thought they ran the ball. I thought Melvin really stood out," Bielema said. "Defensively, I think when you don’t have Chris and Mike in there it really affects the number one defense in getting to the line and being confident in their calls."

Other notes

  • Bielema also praised the blocking of fullback Sherard Cadogan and tight end Sam Arneson and the running of junior walk-on tailback Kyle Zuleger, who also received additional carries Saturday.
  • The head coach mentioned he's challenged his young group of healthy wide receivers to play more consistently and is pleased with the results.
  • On that note, Bielema was once again upbeat after practice, saying "he couldn't be happier" with the team after four weeks of spring ball.
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