The second week of fall camp festivities began Monday in Camp Randall, leaving just three weeks of preparation remaining until the season opener on Sept. 1 against Northern Iowa. The primary focus remains on the quarterback position, where head coach Bret Bielema said he'd like to name his starter at least 10 days prior to the Badgers' first game. I, like everyone else, fully expected Maryland transfer quarterback Danny O'Brien to become Wisconsin's starter to begin the season. Let me make it very clear I still expect O'Brien to lead the charge against Northern Iowa, but it's evident he's in the thick of a legitimate competition for that role.
Last week didn't allow media members to see much from team practices, but Monday provided them with the opportunity to watch an entire practice for the first time this fall. At quarterback, O'Brien, Joel Stave and Curt Phillips are splitting reps with the first team, while last year's backup, Joe Brennan, is exploring transfer possibilities after his prospects of starting dimmed.
While you should take these observations for what they're worth — since it's an extremely small sample size — it's worth noting how the competition is shaping up. With that said, here's what the experts are saying:
The BTN guys were in town on Monday, and while they may not be at Badgers' camp everyday like the local reporters, you have to respect their opinion.
No slight on others, but I'm not sure Stave isn't best— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 13, 2012
#Badgers QB. Has been impressive. How much do you factor in O'B's experience, though?
— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 13, 2012
@osuphil95 OL will reload. Impressive.QB - not sure how dynamic - more like QB's of old.Interestingly, Phillips is probably most mobile.
Despite these takes on the QB's, Revsine still see's O'Brien winning the job based on his experience. And from the tweets below, you can also see his co-worker, Gerry DiNardo, picked Stave as the frontrunner based on what he saw. See what else DiNardo had to say from Badgers' practice.
As far as QB's are concerned -based solely on today, Gerry said Stave,Howard said O'Brien. My guess would be O'B based mainly on experience.— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 13, 2012
BTN Bus Tour -— Gerry DiNardo (@gerrydinardo) August 13, 2012
#Badgers Surprised how close the 3 QB rI thought JS had best day DO has added depth & CP considering injuries doing great.
The local media had somewhat similar takes on the QB battle, but although Madison.com writers Tom Oates and Tom Mulhern saw bright spots in Stave's game (like his arm strength), they ultimately don't see him or Phillips legitimately challenging O'Brien for the job.
Tom Lea of espnwisconsin.com wasn't particularly impressed by O'Brien either and sees Stave in the thick of the compeition, if not leading it.
Much can change before Bielema names his starter within the next couple weeks, but it's safe to say O'Brien isn't in the same "competition" Russell Wilson was supposedly in a year ago. It appears O'Brien is in a genuine battle for the starting position, whereas it seemed to be a foregone conclusion with Wilson last year. Bielema somewhat alluded to this at practice the other day: "Really, over the last three or four years, we’ve had a clearly defined [quarterback] and that was it," he said. "We really haven’t had the depth we have now, which I think is a good thing."
See any of the links above if you want the latest on battle for starting quarterback.
A couple underclassmen made strong cases for themselves at safety.
Tom Dienhart also made an appearance at Camp Randall on Monday. See his impressions from Wisconsin's practice.
Other things to keep an eye on: lack of depth at defensive tackle with losses of Jordan Kohout (permanently to head injuries) and Beau Allen (ankle injury), progress of younger players in secondary and at wide receiver and competition for starting right guard.