The five-man battle at quarterback is real and that's a scary thought, for no other reason than I like someone to cheer for. In a two-man or three-man battle, it's easy. Each quarterback is more likely to have a distinct playing style, level of experience and personality, and often one stands out more prominently than the rest. When you have five viable quarterbacks, you get a sliding scale of attributes that makes it difficult to definitively to say one guy will be better than the next. It's even harder to figure out what will be good for the gander when your offense is set to feature option elements for the first time in a while.
So I won't play favorites this year, but that won't stop me from playing the odds. Here's a quick attempt to handicap the field at quarterback, based on nothing but gut feelings. Please disagree.
Joel Stave, 2:1 -- I really believe that Stave was about to take his game to the next level, just as he was hurt against Michigan State. Even before that game, we were letting our imaginations run wild with what his legacy could be as a four-year starter. Stave is easily the most proven quarterback on the roster. He is arguably the least mobile, however, making him far from a guarantee to earn the starting job given Gary Andersen's apparent preference for a signal-caller with some wiggle. If Bielema was still the head coach, I'd probably go up to 1:2.
Bart Houston, 3:1 -- Houston had more hype coming into Wisconsin than any quarterback I can recall, and after sitting out the regular season while recovering from shoulder surgery, he came back for bowl practices and showed off a spectacular arm. Houston isn't speedy by any means, but he did run the triple-option in high school. His ceiling may be the highest of any quarterback on the roster, but as a redshirt freshman he also has the least experience.
Tanner McEvoy, 3:1 -- His throwing motion is apparently wonky, but McEvoy is by far the most mobile quarterback on the roster, and he is the first and only quarterback ever scouted and recruited by Andersen at Wisconsin. Whether McEvoy gets the starting job will depend on the extent the new coaching staff wants to take the offense in a new-ish direction. In a way, he may already be the presumptive starter.
Old and Reliable
Curt Phillips, 5:1 -- Phillips was thrust into the starting role after the Michigan State game and played reasonably well, throwing five touchdowns to two interceptions over five starts. He was never asked to do much, but when forced to lead game-tying drives late in regulation against Penn State and Ohio State, he delivered. His arm strength is middling at best and, thanks to an awful history of knee injuries, so is his mobility. Phillips is a 6th-year veteran, however, and just about the definition of "steady."
Danny O'Brien, 8:1 -- The arm is fine and he can move okay. O'Brien will need to prove that his head is right if he is going to contend for the starting job, however. After completing over 82 percent of his passes in the season-opener against Northern Iowa, his confidence declined precipitously. From then on, he averaged just 4.82 yards per pass attempt. Right now, the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year may be Wisconsin's fifth-string quarterback.
Gilbert's reaction, when he saw the new defense, was, "I can't wait until I'm healthy enough to go out and do that."
"It's all the things coach (Charlie) Partridge wanted to let me do but he couldn't," Gilbert said of his former defensive line coach, "because of the (old) defense. The things he knew I was good at, he let me come from a two-point (stance) when he could and I appreciated it, I appreciated him for everything. But this is the defense that I feel like I can thrive in."
"That night I knew it wasn't an ACL," he said. "But still moving forward I didn't know how I was going to react working up the next morning."
Andy Baggot with a somewhat bleak take on Blake Geoffrion.
Bad news for the Huskers, though thankfully the injury doesn't sound too serious.
Wrapping up: CatLab does something WONDERFUL, and it may involve Bret Bielema eating puppies.