- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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With spring practice just around the corner, we're taking a closer look at the quarterback battles looming for several Big Ten teams. They're guaranteed to get plenty of attention from fans during the 15 spring practice sessions and throughout the summer.
Next up in our series: the Wisconsin Badgers.
Incumbent (2012 stats): Senior Curt Phillips (540 passing yards, five touchdowns, two interceptions, 56.8 completion percentage) started the final five games. Sophomore Joel Stave (1,104 passing yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions, 58.8 completion percentage) started six games.
Summer contender: Tanner McEvoy, sophomore (transfer from Arizona Western).
The skinny: This is no doubt the most crowded quarterback competition in the Big Ten, if not the nation. The Badgers have three players who started games under center last year in Phillips, Stave and O'Brien. Stave was starting to really play well last season before he broke his collarbone against Michigan State. Phillips then guided the team to the Big Ten title game victory and Rose Bowl berth, and though he didn't put up big passing numbers, he did make some key plays at the end of games.
O'Brien, the Maryland transfer, fell out of favor quickly last year but will have a clean slate with a new coaching staff this spring. Houston had everybody excited for his potential when he signed in 2012, though a shoulder injury kept him from making any impact last season. He was reportedly throwing very well during Rose Bowl practices. Budmayr was once viewed as the team's quarterback of the future but is trying to come back from a series of arm problems. And then there's McEvoy, the junior college transfer who's a great athlete and dual threat who will bring something a little different to the table when he arrives this summer.
At the very least, new head coach Gary Andersen won't be able to complain about depth at the position. But how will he get everybody enough reps this spring, and which direction will he and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig ultimately go?
Prediction: It's a muddled picture in Madison, but Stave and Phillips appear to have a leg up based on last year's performances. Stave looks like the better pure passer right now, though Phillips should improve his mechanics as he gets farther away from his third knee surgery. Phillips also showed some nice wheels in the Rose Bowl.
Look for those two to battle it out for the starting job, with possibly a 1 and 1A situation after spring practice. And then McEvoy's arrival could throw another monkey wrench into the competition. This will likely last into August, but the wealth of contenders should help make everyone better.
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