April 20, 2010

Post spring camp: Quarterbacks

MADISON - A year ago at this time Scott Tolzien was buried as the third quarterback on the Wisconsin depth chart. At that point, he didn't seem to have any realistic chance to pass either Dustin Sherer or Curt Phillips by the time the season opener came about.

That, in essence, is the beauty of spring and fall camp. It gives plenty of players an opportunity to get reps they wouldn't normally see during the season and expand their games.

As a result of Tolzien's consistent and steady play not only throughout fall camp but the entire season a year ago, the Badgers will likely have their first two-year starter at quarterback since John Stocco led UW to a 12-1 record in 2006.

And that familiarity with the offensive sets and offensive personnel returning in 2010 should allow Tolzien to prosper yet again as the leader of a team loaded with expectations.

But Tolzien, a player now with plenty of experience, knows nothing will be handed to him or this offense, no matter how good it stacks up on paper.

"I'm thinking forward and thinking about the off-season," Tolzien said following Saturday's spring game. "We've just got to get everyone throwing throughout the summer. The receivers, tight ends and everyone, we've got to pay attention to detail and can't just be going through the motions when we're throwing routes.

"We've got to just maximize each day and keep building that comfort zone with everyone."

Its not surprising Tolzien would speak in such tones. From the first day of fall camp, and really dating back to spring camp of 2009, Tolzien approached each and every practice as if he had something to prove.

He knew his time on the roster was beginning to wind down and if he wanted to make anything of his career as a Badger quarterback, he would need to step up. So, for him to demand the same out of his receivers and offensive linemen throughout spring camp in 2010, fits the bill as a developing leader.

"That's what it's all about in spring ball," Tolzien said earlier in camp. "You're just getting better each and every day. When everyone is putting in the work whether it's in the film room, weight room or out on the practice field, it pushes everyone down the line."

Behind Tolzien, and as a player that saw an increase in reps following the injury to Curt Phillips, is Jon Budmayr. Throughout spring camp, it became evident that Budmayr probably threw the best looking ball of the group.

He has no problem slinging the ball around and seemed to have a solid connection with several players on the No. 2 offense, particularly Jared Abbrederis. Towards the end of camp, it was also evident that Budmayr looked more comfortable in the pocket as he moved around and read blocks well.

As a bit of a shorter receiver, it was welcoming to see Budmayr utilize his offensive line as best as he did because that is where the best throwing lanes will likely come from. He also showed a knack for escaping the rush and move the ball with his adequate speed.

While the freshman did struggle at times, particularly down the stretch of spring camp, with interceptions, he also made several strides throughout spring camp that have the coaching staff excited about his potential.

"Jon is a student of the game," UW head coach Bret Bielema said after the spring game. "You can definitely see the difference between last spring and this spring going through it for the second time. Sometimes that second unit gets a little frustrated because if they're going against the ones, they can't get things going all that much.

"But Jon does a really good job of feeling his way around the pocket. He has a nice touch on the football no matter what the situation is."

One area the Wisconsin quarterbacks could struggle though, especially with the Phillips injury, is depth. If Tolzien were to go down, it would be Budmayr's job to step in and keep the offense rolling.

And behind Budmayr, it doesn't seem as if Nate Tice is close to stepping in as a contributor any time soon and incoming freshman Joe Brennan will have plenty to learn when he gets to campus.

So, though UW looks pretty set with Tolzien running the operation come fall camp and the regular season, things could get pretty interesting with one wrong hit that could lead to an injury.

Otherwise, quarterback seems to be pretty set following a steady spring camp by both Tolzien and Budmayr.


...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!