The beauty of spring, Jon Budmayr said, is an absence of conversations about the depth chart.
Spring performance can lead to more reps in the fall, of course, but individual improvement trumps all during March and April — not competition for jobs that will be won four months down the line.
Even so, the University of Wisconsin quarterbacks coach expects his most experienced player to carry himself as if that job was already his.
“He’s doing everything we ask of him,” Budmayr said of junior Jack Coan, who started four games last season. “He understands what he has to get better at, and he understands what his strengths are that he needs to keep building on. So I think I’d be disappointed if Jack wasn’t viewing himself as the starter.”
With three-year starter Alex Hornibrook on his way to Florida State after graduating next month, Coan entered spring as the Badgers’ only quarterback with meaningful game experience.
Coan completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 515 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions in five games last season filling in for an injured Hornibrook. With the exception of the Pinstripe Bowl against Miami, he didn’t know at the beginning of game week whether the Badgers needed him to start.
He may face competition this fall, but Coan’s now got an entire offseason to prepare as if he’s the No. 1 guy.
“I’m trying to approach it that way, but that’s the way I’ve always approached it,” Coan said. “... I definitely feel more comfortable coming into this year. I feel like you get more comfortable as you get more playing experience.”
While Coan may not feel the need to change his mindset with Hornibrook gone, his role in the quarterback room appears to have evolved.
He’s often spotted giving advice to the Badgers’ younger quarterbacks this spring. During UW’s first two open practice scrimmages earlier this month, he led only two series before stepping aside to help out the other three players at his position.
“Ultimately, the most important thing is to put a quarterback out there on Saturday afternoons that will give us a chance to win,” sophomore quarterback Danny Vanden Boom said. “Jack does a great job of ensuring that — whether it’s him or whoever. He helps to make sure we’re doing our job in the backfield.”
Coan’s taken the large majority of first-team reps this spring, while Vanden Boom continues to split time evenly with redshirt freshman Chase Wolf and true freshman Graham Mertz.
It’s likely the deepest group of quarterbacks the Badgers have rostered in some time. Even for spring, it’s uncommon for four players at that position to receive a significant amount of reps.
“I think they’ve all flashed, but in the end, we’re looking for consistency, who can be the best play in and play out,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. “But they’ve all done some things to really show their growth.”
Budmayr said this type of workload division won’t be possible to maintain come fall as UW readies itself for the actual season.
Coan will likely enter fall camp as the favorite to be the Badgers’ new starting quarterback. This spring could determine which of UW’s other three quarterbacks are presented with the opportunity to challenge him.
“Once it comes fall camp, now you’re transitioning to where you’re preparing for the season,” Budmayr said. “And you’ve got three weeks and about 20 practices to do that.
“So there’s limited reps. There’s not endless opportunities. And the guys get that. They know that. That’s why this is such a big spring for the whole group.”