Things change quickly—in life, and in football.
Two weeks ago, Curt Phillips was making a steady recovery following a November ACL injury, his second such setback suffered in a year. He was still somewhat of a long shot to grab the starting quarterback position for the Badgers this season, but was healing faster than expected.
Last Thursday, head coach Bret Bielema announced Phillips would undergo a somewhat minor knee procedure—this time to ""clean some things up.""
""It shouldn't be anything major, hopefully,"" Bielema said at the time. ""Curt's a pretty tough kid and as soon as he can go, he'll go.""
Following the team's annual Spring Game Saturday, Bielema announced Phillips will not be going for at least another year. The surgery, as described by Bielema, did not go the way the team had expected and an additional procedure will be necessary in the near future.
This latest setback will put Phillips out of play for the 2011 season, and after having used one red shirt season already, the junior will be forced to apply for a potential sixth season of eligibility.
A highly touted quarterback out of high school who was Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year his senior season, Phillips faces a murky future with Wisconsin. The only thing certain now is that Phillips will not be under center for the Badgers this fall.
Red shirt Sophomore Jon Budmayr appeared the favorite for the starting position since the clock hit zero in Pasadena this past January. Red shirt freshman Joe Brennan has kept pressure on Budmayr throughout spring, but his progress has plateaued.
After Budmayr and Brennan, though, the Badgers have just two quarterbacks left on the roster: Red shirt senior Nate Tice and true freshman Joel Stave.
Fans might remember Nate Tice from last season—he appeared in just two games and never threw a single pass, but made a memorable 17-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put the Badgers up 82-20 against Indiana Nov. 13.
In Saturday's Spring Game, however, Tice managed just one pass completion in six attempts for nine yards, and two rushing attempts tacked on another nine for the Edina, Minn., native. Fans shouldn't expect Tice to be in competition for the starting job come fall, but his chances at a backup role have, at the very least, increased slightly with the Phillips injury.
Joel Stave, however, might have been one of the biggest surprises in the spring for Wisconsin.
Stave, a Greenfield, Wis. native who left Whitnall High School early to join the Badgers for spring practices, has shown a tremendous amount of growth in the past few months.
More importantly, Stave put in,debatably the best performance of any quarterback Saturday.
The 6'-5"" Stave went 8-for-15, passing for 77 yards, including an 18-yard strike.
And while Stave might not yet be ready mentally or physically to take over a Wisconsin team by September, a lot can happen over the summer and into fall camp. If nothing else, with Phillips' newest injury and his performance in the Spring Game, Stave has at least been pushed into quiet conversation.
Time will only tell if conversation turns into contention.