When I talked to Curt Phillips in late December for a feature story on his career, the Wisconsin quarterback was optimistic that he would get a sixth year from the NCAA. But you never know for sure with the NCAA, and so he was making sure to savor the Rose Bowl experience just in case.
On Thursday, Phillips found out that he had indeed been granted an extra year of eligibility. That's great news both for he and the Badgers.
The NCAA has been doing a better job of late in granting these waivers, and Phillips had one of the best cases ever for using the rule. He missed the 2010 and 2011 seasons with two ACL tears and a third surgery after his body rejected the second operation. It was inspiring to see him assume the Wisconsin QB position after Joel Stave got hurt, as Phillips started the final five games of the season, including the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl.
Phillips went 10-for-16 for 83 yards and a touchdown in the 20-14 loss against Stanford and threw an interception on the Badgers' final drive. Some fans wanted to see more of Stave in that game as he returned from his broken collarbone to throw two passes in Pasadena. But Phillips also showed some great mobility in the game, running five times for 64 yards, including a 38-yarder. He was originally recruited as a dual-threat quarterback, but the knee injuries never really let him show that in college.
Wisconsin now has much more depth at quarterback than it has seen in a while, and the competition this spring under new head coach Gary Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig will be fun to track. Phillips and Stave will battle it out, along with former starter Danny O'Brien, former hotshot recruit Bart Houston and possibly Jon Budmayr if Budmayr can overcome his arm injury issues. At the very least, the Badgers will have some experienced options behind the starter.
Phillips did not show tremendous arm strength this season, but his father, Dr. Jim Phillips, told me that Curt had to change his throwing mechanics this year to adjust to not having much leg strength. He believes that with another year away from the knee surgeries, Curt will get back to a more natural throwing motion and have much more zip on his passes.
It wasn't guaranteed that Phillips would get a chance to do that again at Wisconsin. Thanks to the right decision by the NCAA, he will.