QB Joel Stave finds stability with Chryst for No. 20 Badgers
MADISON, Wis. (AP) This time last year, quarterback Joel Stave wasn't having much fun.
He has a much different outlook playing for a new, quarterback-friendly head coach in a new system at No. 20 Wisconsin.
Most important for Stave is that he has job security as the unquestioned starter going into the season opener against third-ranked Alabama.
''It was different from this year for sure,'' the senior said with a laugh. ''It was a frustrating time for me at this point last year because I knew I wasn't going to be playing. So this year is a lot more fun going into this week in that I'll be playing on Saturday.''
Actually, Stave has been the starter since the spring, quite a contrast from the drama he endured the previous two seasons under former coach Gary Andersen.
Seeking a more diverse look to the Badgers' attack, Andersen had Stave competing with dual-threat signal-caller Tanner McEvoy, who was named the starter for last season's opener against LSU. Stave began having trouble with his throwing motion; Wisconsin had trouble getting going on offense.
Stave eventually got over his issues, and the Badgers regained traction with running back Melvin Gordon getting stronger as the year progressed.
McEvoy is still around, but he's now a two-way player at receiver and safety. Gordon departed for the NFL. Andersen left in December for the same job at Oregon State, replaced by Paul Chryst.
Unlike the defensive-minded Andersen, Chryst is known for his offensive acumen and work with quarterbacks. He was the Badgers' offensive coordinator before leaving for a three-year stint as head coach at Pittsburgh.
Chryst has injected a sense of stability quickly after his arrival in December.
''Coach Chryst, he comes off as very sincere. I think it's because he truly is a very sincere guy,'' Stave said in preseason camp. ''He kind of brings that level of comfortability when you're around him. He's just a fun guy to be around.''
That trust has to be earned for Chryst. In his mind, Stave, who has a 21-7 record as a starter, had earned the right to have the job. Stave, by far, has the most experience among the quarterbacks, though he has had maddeningly inconsistent stretches.
''At the end of the day, you want them to feel confident and to be able to play the game with as little thinking as possible,'' Chryst said. ''Yet you want to be able to talk in very lengthy conversations about the game as well.''
Chryst's return does somewhat add a sense of mystery for Alabama coach Nick Saban. He can study Chryst's previous teams at Pitt and Wisconsin, but there is no film of the Badgers with Chryst back as head coach.
''This team has obviously been a very, very strong running team,'' Saban said, ''but I think Paul has always been a guy that has been able to create balance with what he does and has a lot of pro background and is a very good developer of quarterbacks.''
Stave began his tutelage under Chryst with a solid base.
In the Outback Bowl in January, Stave was 14 of 27 for 121 yards and three interceptions in the first half against Auburn. But Stave had some big throws in the second half on a 64-yard drive to help send the game into overtime and the Badgers beat the Tigers 34-31.
''I think he's grown through all those - and it's well documented - his experiences, positive and the struggles he's gone through,'' Chryst said this week. ''And yet I think I've been impressed with how he's going to come out the other end of it.''
NOTE: Walker Williams (guard) and Hayden Biegel (tackle) were named starters on Monday on the right side of the offensive line, though offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph expects redshirt freshman Micah Kapoi to see significant playing time. Rudolph said Kopoi, a surprise in camp, could even end up starting. ''He really competed his tail off,'' Rudolph said Tuesday. ''Between those three guys, those two spots have to settle in.''
AP freelance writer Dennis Semrau contributed to this report.
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