CHICAGO — The news that senior Curt Phillips is a serious contender to be the starting quarterback at the University of Wisconsin likely will be met with healthy skepticism.
Phillips is coming off three ACL surgeries on the same knee and hasn't appeared in a game in more than two seasons.
Yet UW coach Bret Bielema declared Phillips a contender, along with transfer Danny O'Brien and redshirt freshman Joel Stave, on Thursday during the Big Ten Conference Football Media Days event.
When asked if Phillips is a legitimate contender, Bielema acknowledged the doubts.
"I'm kind of the same way as you," he said, "because A, you haven't seen him for two years, and B, it's a third ACL.
"He's so smart and gifted and talented as a human being, that's probably what has willed him back to where he is."
Phillips was limited to 7-on-7 passing drills during spring practices and had a hard time planting his injured left leg, which is the front one, while throwing.
But Bielema said he had no reservations putting Phillips back on the field despite his injury history, provided he is medically cleared, which is the case.
No matter how good Phillips may look during summer passing drills, Bielema admitted it will be different when he starts practicing again in full-team situations.
"Life gets real when bodies are around you," he said. "It's going to be interesting to see where it goes."
The Badgers have signed three walk-on quarterbacks to help make up for the shortage they endured in the spring. One is Thad Armstrong (6-foot-5, 215 pounds), who played at Wheaton South High School in suburban Chicago and is the brother of UW junior linebacker Ethan Armstrong.
The others are Chase Knox (6-1, 175), from San Diego and Clay Rust (6-5, 190), from Sturtevant, who played at Shoreland Lutheran.
Junior Jon Budmayr will miss the entire season with elbow and hip injuries, while incoming freshman Bart Houston won't be able to practice until the spring after shoulder surgery.
"We just felt we wanted to have five quarterbacks in camp," Bielema said. "Only five will come to camp and we'll work through the rest."
Safety D.J. Singleton, a highly ranked member of the incoming freshman class from Jersey City, N.J., has not been cleared by the NCAA and won't be with the team this fall. Bielema said he hopes Singleton can join the program in January. ... Walk-on wide receiver Drew McAdams, a former Madison East quarterback, is no longer with the team. ... Bielema said he hopes offensive lineman Casey Dehn, who left the team due to academic reasons, "can have things on track to have a successful life."