Yesterday afternoon, Coach Bielema and the rest of the Badger staff named Hartland Arrowhead alumnus Tyler Donovan as the team's starting quarterback. This is understandable, but a little disappointing.
I don't say that just because I dislike Hartland Arrowhead for my own personal reasons. But rather because Allan Evridge is a little more talented. He's almost as mobile, stands at least two inches taller, has started more games than Donovan and has a stronger arm. What he lacks, however, is experience with this team. Donovan's spent five years in the program, three under Coach Chryst and his unique offensive system. Allan first arrived on campus last fall. It sounds like Chryst's scheme is a bit complicated to learn, and reports have made it very clear that the coaching staff didn't use their time last season to help Evridge get acquainted with the system. Thus, he's only had about five months to learn the plays, from spring football to now. That just wasn't enough time to surpass Donovan.
I'm also disappointed because I don't have a ton of faith in Donovan. Despite his solid performance at Iowa and his good work against Buffalo, I don't think he has great arm strength. I keep thinking back to the long touchdown pass to Swan in the Iowa game. Swan had his man beat, but Donovan significantly underthrew him. Then Swan made a great play to come back under the defender and retrieve the ball, totally saving Donovan's duck of a pass.
Also, based on the camp reports I've read, it sounds like Donovan has been throwing a lot of interceptions in practice, more than Evridge. Hopefully this is due to our defense being both awesome and very familiar with our offense, and Donovan getting a few more snaps than the other QBs. Unfortunately, some of these interceptions have occurred after tipped passes, which may be due to something Donovan can't control-- his height. He's listed at 6'1" but I think he's shorter. Now TD is a great runner. He showed that in the Iowa game. He doesn't have exceptional speed, but he's shifty and is very comfortable running the ball. Allegedly, the coaches have designed more options, rollouts and bootlegs, all designed to play to TD's strengths. These plays have the added plus of negating the issues with Donovan's height.
I honestly hope I'm wrong about Donovan. I hope he's Stocco combined with Bollinger-- a heady, accurate thrower with great running ability. But I'm skeptical. Also, with the announcement coming this late (a mere ten days before the team's first game), the competition was quite close. Considering the talent and experience the Badgers have at tight end and wide receiver (I think Hubbard and Beckum could both be first day draft picks next spring), if the passing game struggles, it's quite likely that Donovan could get bumped for Evridge at some point during the season. So stay ready, Allan, and keep your chin up. (Remember, you have all next season as well.) But I do wish Donovan luck. He's a Wisconsin kid who turned down other good programs to go to Madison, and he's put in his time. Besides some reports about his pretty-boy tendencies, I haven't heard a bad word about him. Also, as the picture below shows, he'll be taking us all to the Gun Show all season:
Aww, yeah. If the Badgers win the Big Ten with Donovan at the helm, I'm buying him this t-shirt. And no, I'm not a booster, so relax.
In other news, the Packers play their third preseason game tonight against the Yacksonville Yaguars. And it'll actually be broadcast live on national television-- on Fox affiliates across the country. Here in the Chiccy-G, that is, Central Time, it comes on at 7 pm. I'm heading to the gym to watch while Jazzercising.
The third game is typically when starters play the longest, usually about a whole half. I still think the team will play it carefully with some important starters like Woodson and Al. I bet they don't play more than a quarter. So the back-up corners could be in against the Jacksonville starters. All of these guys, probably with the exception of Blackmon who has definitely made the team, have a lot to lose with a poor performance tonight. Keep an eye on Jarrett Bush, #24, who played very well against the Ospreys, and Tramon Williams #38, Frank Walker #41 (the team's lone free agent signing), and Dendy #43. Whoever looks the worst may be gone by the weekend.
Former Iowa standout Abdul Hodge, #52, is also playing for his professional career. Besides a decent training camp last season and a gift-wrapped interception in Seattle last November, he hasn't done much as a Packer. Rookies Desmond Bishop, #55, and Juwan Simpson, #54, could very well make the team ahead of him.
Other things to look for include our offensive line's performance tonight. Jacksonville has two of the best defensive tackles in the league in John Henderson and Marcus Stroud (who we passed on to draft, sigh, Jamal Reynolds). If the Packers consistently get decent gains on the ground in the first half, that's a very good sign.
Unfortunately, there's still no interesting running back competition, since Morency and DeShawn Wynn remain injured. This is getting annoying. Jackson has looked fine, but I am very curious to see what these other guys can do. It's a shame, because barring a miracle Wynn is not going to make the team, and he's never gotten a chance to show what he could do. In his brief moments of health, he looked really good, according to reports, so I hope he clears waivers and gets signed to the practice squad.