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Badger Bits: Nearing the time for evaluation

We've been talking about Wisconsin's key position battles at lengths this offseason. Beginning with Monday's scrimmage, we could finally get some answers.

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Badgers' starting quarterback job still up in arms | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

No surprise there, but Jeff Potrykus breaks down Wisconsin's three top quarterbacks and their visible strengths and weaknesses through one week of camp. Tanner McEvoy is indeed still behind Joel Stave and Curt Phillips, but the threat of having a 6-foot-6, exceptionally talented rusher at the quarterback position is tempting. He still has the most broad need for improvement, however.

"I need to do everything right, from my steps to my form to making the play and just reading the (call) to the offense. Just do everything that comes with playing the quarterback position. Try to make plays and just not make any mistakes."

Curt Phillips has indeed looked stronger than he did last year, when knee injuries -- especially a torn meniscus in the Rose Bowl -- limited both his arm strength and his ability to drive through his throws to maximize arm strength.

He can spread the ball around on the perimeter, which is something Andersen wants in an effort to stretch defenses from sideline to sideline.

Phillips remains mobile enough to avoid defenders and get outside the pocket to pick up a few yards with his feet or find open receivers down the field.


"I think there is a lot I can improve on," Phillips said when asked to assess his first week. "But at the same time I think I have been consistent.

"I think I haven't made many mistakes. I've been playing smart. That is big for me."

And for Stave, the presumed leader at this point (even if he's 1A and Phillips is 1B), he's largely improved his deep ball and can connect better on immediate routes.

Stave last season generally underthrew his receivers on deep routes but was more accurate on those throws in the first week of camp.

He remains effective on intermediate routes as well but becomes less effective when he is flushed out of the pocket.

"I wouldn't say that necessarily," he said when asked about his ability to make plays on the run. "I've thrown the ball pretty well on the run this camp. It is just a matter of doing it every time ...

Gary Andersen says the quarterbacks won't be hit during Monday's scrimmage, of course, but they will be "buzzed pretty tight" to get a sense of their reactions to pressure. That'll be fascinating to watch, as well as how much pressure Wisconsin's new 3-4 defense will be able to generate, albeit in a practice setting. Andersen surely wants a smart quarterback he can trust, and while a dual-threat playmaker seems to nicely fit his offense, the ability to reliably move the ball seems most pressing.

"When you get into the team setting and it is first-and-10 at the 40-yard line and you're moving the ball down the field ... can the team go score?" he asked. "Ultimately that is the bottom line at the quarterback position."

Video: Tom Oates talks recruiting with Badgers coach Gary Andersen |

This video is from Big Ten media days last month, but it's interesting nonetheless to hear talk recruiting philosophies and any possible differences from Bret Bielema's tenure.

Badgers football: Ethan Hemer drops weight to play defensive end | WIsconsin State Journal

Ethan Hemer is down to 285 pounds after weighting as much as 320, and the result apparently has him primed for a big year at end in Dave Aranda's 3-4 defense. Tom Mulhern has some great insight here, not only into Hemer's dieting -- apparently portion control and limiting junk food did the trick -- but also into some specifics of that new scheme.

UW's defense includes two-gap responsibilities for the defensive linemen, which means the defensive player lines up directly over an offensive lineman and traditionally is responsible for the gaps on either side of the offensive lineman.

But [defensive line coach Chad] Kauha'aha'a said it's "not really a true two-gap, like some teams played in the old school."

Said Hemer: "Every gap is accounted for. You're allowed to leave your gap, once the play commits. The whole emphasis, the biggest thing is getting knock-back.

"As soon as you push that offensive lineman and re-set the line of scrimmage, it allows you to make so many more decisions than if you're just on the line."

Tom Oates: Badgers' window of opportunity is open | Wisconsin State Journal

I enjoyed this piece from Tom Oates, who opines on the three-year window Wisconsin has found itself stepping through between its recent spate of Rose Bowls and the improved non-conference scheduling featuring LSU and Alabama in 2014-16. The "new and old money" metaphor Oates uses is generally apt, though I don't think it's necessarily a matter of winning football that makes for a simple transition from new to old.

With athletic director Barry Alvarez having finalized an agreement for a two-game, neutral-site series with LSU, UW has its best chance in 50 years to become one of the nation's elite programs. That opportunity isn't based on the coaching or talent now in the program, though that ultimately will be the deciding factor. Instead, it is based entirely on the schedule UW will play in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Thanks to Alvarez's bold new approach - the Badgers will open the 2014 and 2016 seasons with LSU and the 2015 season with Alabama - and the Big Ten's apparent manifest destiny to expand, UW has a three-year window of opportunity to elbow its way to the forefront of college football starting this season.

Badgers football: UW players wear decal to honor former manager Kevin Green | Wisconsin State Journal

The Badgers will wear green stickers bearing the name "Otis" on their helmets this year, an ode to a former team manager who died in a car crash June 14 in Walworth, Wis. Otis was Green's nickname, and he came to the Badgers after playing with former quarterback and current student coach with the tight ends, Jon Budmayr, in high school.

This story from Mulhern provides a fascinating look into Green's legacy within the program, one many wouldn't get to hear without these sort of looks inside

"The responsibilities they have really are endless," said Budmayr, whose playing career was cut short due to injuries a year ago and now works with the tight ends as a student coach. "They don't get their name in the paper or all the glory they should, but a football program is a big-time operation. Without those guys, it wouldn't go."

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