Joel Stave has indeed worked his way back into playing shape. After Wisconsin's junior quarterback told reporters earlier this week that he had worked past issues with his throwing motion attributed to "the yips," head coach Gary Andersen confirmed that Stave will be the Badgers' No. 2 quarterback for Saturday's game at Northwestern.
"Joel will be the backup," Andersen said. "If there's an opportunity to get Joel into the right setting, that could be a possibility. Again, like I said, I think he's continued to progress and handled some more team activities in a solid way this week."
In early September, the Badgers issued a release saying Stave was dealing with shoulder issues -- he had offseason surgery, and also broke his clavicle in 2012 -- before Andersen, later that same day, said Stave actually wasn't hurt. Shortly thereafter, Stave admitted he was suffering through some sort of mental block that was preventing him from completing routine passes -- essentially "the yips," a condition that can be brought on after athletes suffer some sort of "trauma" on the field. In Stave's case, that was linked to him losing the starting job to Tanner McEvoy. Before Wisconsin's Aug. 30 season opener vs. LSU, Stave was seen wildly misfiring on normal passes. From there, his issues seemed to snowball.
Non-Con in Review
Offense seeking consistency in Big Ten play
After an underwhelming performance against South Florida, many questions still surround Wisconsin's offense heading into Big Ten play.
Non-Con in Review
"I tried to tell myself, 'Just stay positive, don't worry about it,'" Stave said this week, per Fox Sports Wisconsin. "But you get in your own head a little bit. And when you get in your own head a little bit, it's kind of tough. But it was a new thing for me. I had to work through it, and I feel a lot better coming out of it because you've had those days where you start to throw the ball bad and your practice will just go into the toilet."
After Stave told reporters on Tuesday that he was "ready" to play again, his returning to the No. 2 quarterback spot seemed likely. Sophomore Bart Houston took over that job after Stave was shut down and received garbage-time reps vs. Western Illinois and Bowling Green.
Thursday, Andersen said he wasn't exactly sure what kind of game situation vs. Northwestern would be ideal for Stave's return.
"That's a great question. From all indications that I've seen right now, you've just got to by Joel, right?" Andersen said.
"He's definitely progressed. I would agree. He's been throwing the ball like the old Joel out there. I think it's important to remember that he's working, he's doing a great job. He's a good quarterback and we're excited to have him back. ... He's excited. He has a good look in his eye. Like every other position or any other person, he'll never be perfect even though we may all want him to be perfect, but he's excited to have an opportunity."
Andersen said freshman quarterback D.J. Gillins, who was elevated to the emergency quarterback job behind Houston, will return to running the scout team. He will travel with the team on most weeks "just to get experience," Andersen said.
-- Andersen faced a couple of questions regarding the offense's early-game struggles. He shrugged both off, saying the issues were regular for this early point in the season.
"It's just a point of emphasis, we've talked about it a little bit with the kids," he said. "Some games have gone our way, some games haven't. We just need to execute."
-- Wisconsin had some early struggles running against South Florida's defense last Saturday before eventually breaking out. Northwestern's front has been strong as well, and Andersen faced a question about that on Thursday.
"They're very stout and they're very physical," Andersen said of NU's defensive linemen. "I would say much like the front four that we faced last week. These kids are taller, but both groups of kids are tough, they're good technicians, they play hard. So having those blocks, not allowing [Northwestern's defensive line] to control the combination blocks is a big part of the zone game. They'll want to control them, we won't them to control them. So we'll see how it goes. Those are really six or seven good players that they rotate through there. They've got good depth at the d-line."
-- Andersen faced an interesting, somewhat out-of-context question about when he realized this team had a strong mindset.
"After recruiting, when you get to be around them a little bit more," he answered. "You worry a lot about a team when there's that many powerful seniors that there was on last year's team, how are they gonna step up and accept that role of leadership and going through the daily work that they had to be able to go through? And they did, I think they shifted that pretty cleanly in their favor. That was good to see. Regardless of where this season takes us, this is a good group of kids that has a lot of care factor for themselves and for their teammates, which is always a good place to start."