With defenses on guard, No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 13 LSU playing QB games before opener

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FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2014, file photo, LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings (10) passes during their NCAA college football practice in Baton Rouge, La. Tigers coach Les Miles has declared that he will use both sophomore Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)


FILE - In this April 12, 2014, file photo, Wisconsin's Tanner McEvoy (5) prepares to throw a pass as Brady Kelliher (39) defends during the second half of the NCAA college football team's spring football game in Madison, Wis. The Badgers appear to have settled on dual-threat junior McEvoy as the starter, though coach Gary Andersen will not officially name one. Andersen has said both McEvoy and last year’s starter, Joel Stave, will be ready no matter what. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Amber Arnold, File)


FILE - In this OCT. 13, 2013, file photo, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave throws against Northwestern during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Madison, Wis. The Badgers appear to have settled on dual-threat junior Tanner McEvoy as the starter, though coach Gary Andersen will not officially name one. Andersen has said both McEvoy and last year’s starter, Stave, will be ready no matter what. (AP Photo/Andy Manis, File)


FILE - At left in an Oct. 19, 2013, file photo, LSU football coach Les Miles is shown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. At right, also in an Oct. 19, 2013, file photo, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen watches during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Illinois in Champaign, Ill. One school has declared it will use two quarterbacks. The other hasn't officially named a starter behind center. Welcome to the coaching chess match before the high-profile season opener between No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 13 LSU. (AP Photo/File)


FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2014, file photo, LSU head coach Les Miles runs drills during their NCAA college football practice in Baton Rouge, La. Miles has yet to announce a starting quarterback and it remains to be seen how much of a role freshman running back Leonard Fournette will have in the offense. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)


MADISON, Wisconsin — Wisconsin hasn't officially named a starting quarterback. LSU has declared it will use two.

It might be that Wisconsin and LSU are both really that undecided about the starting quarterback job. Or both teams might really go with a two-QB system.

Welcome to the coaching chess match before the high-profile season opener between the No. 14 Badgers and No. 13 Tigers on Saturday night in Houston.

"I hope I'm in," said Wisconsin quarterback Tanner McEvoy. "I'm going to be ready if my number is called ... Whatever they ask, I'll go out there and do."

That includes keeping in line with coach Gary Andersen declining to publicly name a starter. This despite the reports last week that McEvoy was the pick over incumbent Joel Stave. Rumors floated on social media that Andersen said were fueled in part by a fake Twitter account.

Finally, star running back Melvin Gordon this week let out the worst-kept secret in Madison, apparently by mistake.

"I think Joel's a great player, people definitely overlook him," Gordon said. "But, even though Tanner was named the starter, I think Joel will continue to work and wait for his chance."

All of this has forced the Tigers to devote attention to two different kinds of quarterbacks — and that might be just as important to the Badgers as anything else.

The 6-foot-6 McEvoy went to South Carolina for a year before transferring to Arizona Western College. He arrived at Wisconsin in 2013 and got moved to receiver before shuffling to safety following a wrist injury.

McEvoy is considered more athletic than Stave, who has the edge in experience.

"So we are really preparing for both guys. But I think somebody said that Tanner McEvoy may well be the starter," Tigers coach Les Miles said. "Doesn't make any difference at this point. We're preparing for what is Wisconsin's best."

Miles plans to play both sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris. Jennings was the backup last year as a freshman to Zach Mettenberger.

Harris challenged Jennings in spring drills and preseason camp after enrolling in January.

"Well, right now, if there was one quarterback that gave us all the advantages to play, then at some point in time, that guy would be our starter after he determined that it was an advantage to his team to play him in all situations from start to finish," Miles said.

"That separation has not occurred. We are preparing to play both guys," he added. "If those things happen, it will certainly play out in front of us, but competition will make that work."

It's a little extra wrinkle for Wisconsin's defense to keep in mind as it breaks in eight new starters, including its entire front seven. Andersen did rotate players regularly, so there is experience among the new starters.

"We haven't necessarily changed any game plan on our part, but we are taking into account that they are dual-threat quarterbacks and they are very good athletes," said safety Michael Caputo, one of the three returning starters. "There's no real change in game plan, but there is an adjustment rather than playing just a pro-style quarterback."

Among the LSU quarterbacks, only Jennings has made a college start, in the 21-14 win over Iowa in the Rose Bowl in January.

Stave has the most time under center at Wisconsin with 19 starts. McEvoy has made four starts — at safety. Before that, McEvoy's last start was for Arizona Western at the El Toro Bowl against Nassau Community College to cap the 2012 season. He was 18 of 24 for 245 yards and three touchdowns in that game.

"I remember there (are) two end zones, and after a first down a couple times, you scored," McEvoy quipped about his last start.

Anything else stand out?

"Nope, we won," he said. "That's all that counts."


AP freelance writer Jim Hoehn in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed to this story.


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