Friday, April 22, 2011

Wisconsin Suffering at Quarterback

I didn't think Wisconsin had the chops to post that "best-case" 11-1 record last year. In the end, I was dead wrong about the Badgers.

They coughed up an early road game against Michigan State, but rebounded nicely to finish 11-1 in the regular season before losing to TCU in the Rose Bowl.

To be blunt, it was a much better season than anyone probably could have expected or asked for, especially given that the injury bug never really left this team.

With Scott Tolzien gone, along with John Clay, Lance Kendricks, and Gabe Carimi, the offense is getting a makeover at spring practice. One of the key pieces of that makeover, however, is quarterback Curt Phillips, who has undergone two ACL surgeries already, and apparently had another procedure recently.

"It shouldn't be anything major, hopefully," Badgers coach Bret Bielema told local reporters following Thursday's practice. "Kind of just deal with the cards after they are there. If it's something they can take care of and clean up, hopefully, he'll be back full-time in June."

It might not be a huge setback, but Phillips was already facing an uphill climb to wrestle the starting job away from Jon Budmayr. With only freshmen on the depth chart, it's key for Phillips to get healthy and stay there, but he may never be the same quarterback again.

Phillips -- more than any potential UW starter since Brooks Bollinger -- really likes to use his athleticism to make plays. Lately, the Badgers have used pocket quarterbacks like Jim Sorgi, John Stocco, and Tolzien to run the offense (the one athlete they had during this recent run was Tyler Donovan, whose competitiveness was greatly appreciated, but Phillips at 100 percent is probably a better athlete).

That's not to say either style of quarterback really gave Wisconsin any more or less success. However, they haven't started a redshirt freshman at quarterback in a long time, and having some experience pushing or backing up Budmayr -- whichever it is -- could be a big thing for his development and the Badgers' chances of having a good season to follow up last year's stellar one.

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