Gary Andersen met with reporters Thursday evening for his usual end-of-the-week media availability, talking about Wisconsin's ongoing quarterback situation and the status of the offense ahead of Saturday's game vs. Illinois.
The full video of Andersen's media session is above; below are the highlights of his comments pertaining to Joel Stave, Tanner McEvoy, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and more. There was a report on Thursday that suggested Stave will start Saturday's game, but Andersen did not confirm that outright.
Who will start at quarterback on Saturday?
"Andy and Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy will handle that. They're in a good spot. I think they'll understand exactly where they fit. I've said it before, I'll say it again: the key is, how's the offense around those two kids?"
"That's Andy Ludwig's call," Andersen said again when asked if he can confirm if Stave will start. He did say that Ludwig has probably already decided who will get the first snaps on Saturday.
"He's communicated with the quarterbacks and I'm sure as he sees fit, he'll communicate with the quarterbacks and with the offense as needed. But like I said earlier, we do expect them both to have an opportunity to go out there and play."
Did Andersen have input in the QB decision this week?
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"Andy and I have sat down and we've discussed the offense. I watch practice; Andy is a very good coordinator and he gets paid to turn around and make those decisions. I think right now, the opportunity for him to do what he thinks is best for his offense and have both those kids in that spot is important. I want to know, I want to be a part of it, I want to be involved in it, but he's in a position to continually be with those kids all the time and we're going into it thinking they're both going to play, so you might as well, I guess, flip a coin and call heads or tails to see who's going to take the first snap. Just because one person takes the first snap, does not mean, oh, they're ahead now. Let's not all of a sudden make this a bigger creature than it is, if that's possible."
On finding one QB to manage the offense
"We'll go into this game with the bottom line of what the best opportunity we believe is for us to be able to win. I think both those quarterbacks have had enough opportunities to be in a spot and to be able to play. Joel has been, obviously, just limited to one game this season. But they've both been in the moment, they've both been in those situations. So if we have a young man that's rolling through the game at a high success level, we could very easily stick with that. But those packages for certain situations will still be available to us, much like you would say you get a call sheet and it's 2nd-and-4 and it's a control down for Andy, and he has the power play, he has the zone play, he has the bash, he has the bob, he has some play-action -- there's an opportunity to have Tanner in there that opens up two or three different runs. So you may see him in those settings in certain situations.
On fixing the offense's slow starts
"I don't know if there's really one thing I can put my finger on. I feel like there's numerous ways where we've stopped ourself from having success in the first quarter and in the second quarter, whether that be a turnover, whether that'd be a missed third-down opportunity that we leave out there on the field, poor execution, a penalty -- they're all there. That's easy to say, because that's usually how drives do stop and how things don't go your way on the offensive side of the football. A lot has been made about the slow start and I think these kids want to start the right way. On the flip side, we've started fast most of the week on defense. So we're good on one side, bad on the other. It's a combination, not just one thing that's stopped us from being successful on offense."
Could Bart Houston play if Stave, McEvoy continue to struggle?
"We have to find a quarterback that can function and run our football team the best we can be. I'm not going to rule out anything at this point, but I would say this: again, I don't look at last week's film and sit back and say, 'Wow, those quarterbacks cost us that football game.' In no way shape or form do I believe that, from the play of Tanner or from the play of Joel. Do they want to play better? Sure they do. But there's a lot of things that go into an offense being effective. So that's when I say again, we need to find the quarterback that will manage the game and kind of gets the offense moving consistently in the right direction."
Is there a chance Stave, McEvoy could take the field at the same time vs. Illinois?
Andersen mentioned this is a possibility on Monday, but on Thursday seemed to downplay the possibility of that happening this weekend.
"I don't know if that'll take place this week, but as we move forward, that'll be something we'll discuss. Again, the key focus, our offense being able to steadily run best using the kids that we have available to us, I think that's more important right now than inventing things to try to make us move down the field. We want to functionally run our offense and that's important for us at this point."
How are the wide receivers progressing?
"I think they've done a good job this week in practice. Those kids are living in a crazy world. I walked out of here last night and walking to Mendota and it's 6:30 and out runs George Rushing from the locker room with a still-sweaty shirt on and a backpack, sprinting to make it to a tutoring appointment in 15 minutes. So those kids live in a crazy world right now, but as far as their performance out on the field, I see those steps. We need to give them those opportunities to get out there and hopefully do it in this setting, which is big as it gets in college football."
Andersen said linebacker Marcus Trotter (groin) is likely out, or "doubtful," as he called it. Otherwise, there were no injury surprises this week. "We should be operating at a pretty good spot," Andersen said."