Wisconsin fall camp: Don't count out Curt Phillips

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With Joel Stave's early success before injury in 2012 and Tanner McEvoy's wild card status, is Curt Phillips overlooked in the starting quarterback race? On the field, his teammates don't think so.

As another football season begins, another quarterback competition unfolds in Madison. After Russell Wilson claimed the reigns of a high-octane offense in 2011 by out-playing an oft-injured Jon Budmayr, 2012's stable of signal callers battled until another transfer quarterback, Danny O'Brien, was named the starter. 2013 is no different, as senior Curt Phillips and redshirt sophomore Joel Stave are competing with junior college transfer Tanner McEvoy for Wisconsin's starting quarterback job.

With Stave's impressive showing after replacing O'Brien prior to his own injury against Michigan State, and the hype surrounding the arrival of McEvoy, have at times seemingly written off Phillips. According to his teammates, however, the sixth-year senior should not be overlooked.

"I think they all got a fair chance," senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis said.

Abbrederis worked with both Phillips and Stave the first two days of fall camp with the No. 1 offense and believes all three are in contention for the job.

"Obviously, it helps if you're going with the ones or something like that, but coaches are taking fair evaluations of them, and they'll put the guy in there that they believe will be successful."

Phillips has had his share of setbacks in his six years at Wisconsin -- namely, three ACL surgeries, three rehabilitations and a torn meniscus suffered during the Rose Bowl. Phillips fought through all of them, and in the latter instance, he continued to play through the torn meniscus against Stanford.

He's battled back each time, and now finds himself in a prime position to lead the Badgers' offense.

"This is the longest I've been without a surgery in a while. I'm fired up about it." -Curt Phillips

"I feel good. I have no excuses," Phillips said at Wisconsin's media day last Friday. "I'm excited. This is the longest I've been without a surgery in a while. I'm fired up about it. I feel great coming into camp. I don't think I could be in any better spot physically. I'm just ready to have all the hard work pay off.

"You know, I'd hope that leadership would be one of my strengths being here for six years, but at the same time, I think I've always kind have been more of a leading by example kind of guy, so that's something I've been working on." Phillips added on Tuesday. "I haven't been here as being more of a vocal leader and kind of stepping up into that role, so we're working on it."

Senior guard Ryan Groy has seen Phillips, as well as Stave, grow as a leader coming into the season and getting his fair shot at the job.

"He's definitely not overlooked. He's definitely getting a lot of shots," Groy said. "Him and Joel are splitting the ones right now, and they're both playing well so it'll be tough.

Fifth-year senior tight end Jacob Pedersen believes Phillips uses the underdog mentality as motivation in this three-way battle.

"The media is obviously going to like to have their favorites and everything else that they feel, but all the quarterbacks have been playing really well," Pedersen said. "I think Curt kind of embraces that dark horse kind of role, always the underdog and what not. I think he's embraced it. I think it just makes him work harder. Those other two quarterbacks, they're gunning right at his heels for good reason, so it's gonna be a great competition."

Although competing with McEvoy during fall camp, Phillips mentors the junior college transfer as part of Wisconsin's "Big Brother" program to first-year Badgers. With Coach Andersen having the big brothers themselves determine when the young players can don the Motion "W" on their' helmets, Phillips gave praise to his own younger brother, as well as some insight as to how earn that letter.

"For me, I enjoy watching [McEvoy]. He's an exciting player," Phillips said. "Defintiely some athleticism, so I think once we see a couple big plays from him, we'll get that off and get that W on."

Between a new coaching staff and his third offensive coordinator in three years, Phillips has seen a lot since his freshman year in 2008. But even with the younger quarterbacks in Stave and McEvoy receiving hype, recent history shows, and his fellow teammates assert, Phillips should not be overlooked.

As for the first two days of camp under new head coach Gary Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, Philips has played with the starting offense and is happy to be back on the field.

"It's exciting," Phillips said. "I think we're excited to be back out here. Definitely a bit of a spark from the new staff. I think everybody's rallied around them very well. It's gone well so far."

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