Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin
By JESSE TEMPLE  |  Last updated 8/8/13
MADISON, Wis. -- It's so early in fall camp that players have yet to don full pads, so any major position proclamations would be premature. But through four fall practices, this much is clear about Wisconsin's quarterback battle: Tanner McEvoy still has a long way to go if he hopes to win the starting job. McEvoy's overall repetitions have been limited in comparison to Curt Phillips and Joel Stave. Both players, who combined to start 11 games for the Badgers last season, have garnered the bulk of the snaps with the first-team offense. McEvoy, meanwhile, is still learning the offense with the team's reserves, rotating with redshirt freshman quarterback Bart Houston. "Right now, I'm not going to put Tanner in a position to be with the ones a whole lot because he's still catching up with the offense," Wisconsin offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said following Thursday's practice. "He's gotten a heavy workload with the twos, a smattering with the ones, and he's been productive with the reps he's had." That isn't to say McEvoy can't and won't be the opening game starter when Wisconsin takes the field against UMass on Aug. 31. The Badgers still have 24 practices remaining, and Friday will mark a considerable change. Under NCAA rules, teams aren't allowed to put on full pads until the fifth preseason practice, which takes place Friday. Wisconsin also will hold scrimmages Aug. 12 and Aug. 19, and those days are expected to go a long way toward determining which quarterback takes possession of the No. 1 spot. For now, the disparity in the number of repetitions for McEvoy remains, and Thursday's practice provided a good example. During the team's skeleton drills, which leave out the offensive and defensive linemen, Phillips and Stave each threw seven passes. McEvoy attempted only three. Phillips completed just 2 of 7 passes and didn't look particularly sharp. Two of his passes were throwaways out of bounds when he couldn't find an open receiver, and another pass was dropped by wide receiver Jordan Fredrick. Phillips wasn't much better in 11-on-11 drills, going 0 for 2, which included an incompletion to Jared Abbrederis on a fade route in the back of the end zone. Stave completed 5 of 7 passes, including a 20-yard touchdown strike to tight end Brian Wozniak. Among Stave's completions were two checkdowns to running back Melvin Gordon and tight end Austin Traylor. He threw one incomplete pass behind receiver Connor Cummins. Stave did finish 3 for 3 in 11-on-11 drills, and the highlight was a perfectly thrown 31-yard touchdown to fullback Derek Watt down the right sideline. McEvoy completed 2 of 3 passes in skeleton drills -- a 20-yard touchdown to tight end Austin Maly and a slant pass to receiver Kenzel Doe. His lone incompletion came on a pass out of the back of the end zone. He completed 1 of 2 passes in 11-on-11 drills. What McEvoy possesses that neither Phillips nor Stave is particularly good at is escaping pressure in the pocket. On multiple occasions during the first four practices, McEvoy has kept plays alive by scrambling around the edge when a call breaks down. During 11-on-11 drills in Thursday's practice, McEvoy ran away from pressure once and gained yardage on a quarterback keeper on another play. Of course, the defensive pressure is far from game speed, and quarterbacks can't be tackled, so it's difficult to discern the true results of such plays. McEvoy also presents more of a threat should Wisconsin choose to use the read-option -- and the Badgers have shown bits and pieces of such looks during the first four practices. On Monday, for example, Stave fumbled while running a read-option play. Phillips converted one option pitch to Gordon during 11 on 11 drills Thursday. McEvoy obviously has plenty to learn, and it remains to be seen whether his strengths will be enough to beat out Stave or Phillips. But through four practices, he hasn't done much to hurt himself. "He's doing a nice job," Ludwig said. "He was here all summer, so that gave him a little bit of a head start. But there's no doubt he is in a catch up mode and he's done a nice job with it. It's important to him. He's had some production when he's out there. He's making the most of his opportunities." Armstrong out: Badgers outside linebacker Ethan Armstrong is out indefinitely after suffering a minor left-leg injury. Armstrong, the team's No. 1 field-side linebacker, appeared to injure himself during Tuesday's practice and limped to the sideline for treatment. He missed Wednesday's practice because of a doctor's appointment and wore a wrap on his left leg on the sideline Thursday. A UW spokesperson said the coaching staff hoped Armstrong would return for Wisconsin's Aug. 31 season opener against UMass. Last season, Armstrong started all 14 games and finished third on the team with 93 tackles. Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said he wasn't concerned Armstrong would fall behind as the team learned new concepts with a first-year coaching staff. Armstrong missed all of spring practices while recovering from surgery on his left shoulder but came prepared for fall practices. "We've got some intelligent guys on defense," Aranda said. "But I'd have to put Ethan at the top of the list in that regard. When we started in fall camp, he knew everybody's position. It's amazing to be around that. Just having gone the couple days with him, I can say that when he comes back -- and it's going to be sooner rather than later -- he'll be ready." Wideouts emerge: Wide receivers coach Chris Beatty singled out the play of Alex Erickson, Chase Hammond and Rob Wheelwright during the first four practices of fall. All three will challenge to work into a rotation with the team's top three wide receivers: Jared Abbrederis, Jordan Fredrick and Kenzel Doe. Erickson in particular has been impressive. The redshirt freshman from Darlington, Wis., made several nice plays during Tuesday's practice, catching a contested deep ball against cornerback Sojourn Shelton and another pass on a third-down play. Beatty said he hoped Erickson could wind up as the backup to Abbrederis, who will no doubt draw double teams all season. "I do feel good about him as far as he's been giving us quality reps when Jared comes out," Beatty said. "Thats a big deal. I'd like for him to be able to be a solid backup to him to where I dont have to flip-flop other guys around. We want one guy we feel comfortable with to back up Jared. He's been able to do that. He's impressed so far. It's all about continuing that and getting better every day. He works hard. He wants to do well. And thats a big part of it, too." Erickson, a standout defensive back and quarterback at Darlington High, also has caught the eye of his offensive coordinator. "When the ball is thrown his way, he's coming down with the football," Ludwig said. "I'm very impressed with his production early in fall camp." Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter
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