Phillips Ready to Go

A little over five months removed from a major knee injury, redshirt freshman Curt Phillips is back in the quarterback mix for the University of Wisconsin.

MADISON - When he got the news that he had not only been medically cleared to fully participate but be a part of the game plan, Curt Phillips did his usual celebration - gave a nod of approval, strapped on his helmet and started preparation for Saturday. After an ACL injury, he wasn't about to attempt a back flip.

"I am excited about it," Phillips said. "The knee is consistently feeling better every day and I hope to get a chance to play."

Phillips was thought to be in the mix for certain situations for No.20 Wisconsin this season after playing in five games last season. That changed after an unfortunate scramble during spring practice, in which Phillips' planted right leg simply gave out as he scrambled down field.

The result was not only a torn ACL, but injuries to other ligaments and tendons and a minor break in one of the bones, putting the entire 2010 season in jeopardy. But when a medical redshirt was not an option, Phillips, much like his celebration, strapped on his work gloves and started rehabilitating.

The results were so positive that UW coach Bret Bielema made the announcement during Big Ten Media Days in August that Phillips could feasibly be ready by UW's conference opener. As it turns out, the coach was one week premature.

"I just kept working through it and try to progress," Phillips said of his time table. "If the opportunity comes up, I would love to be in there and play. We never set a point where it was ‘OK, now I am ready.'"

Not only is Phillips ready, but he believes he is a more complete quarterback. In his time on the field last season, Phillips was known more for his running ability. He led team with career-high 92 rushing yards on four carries against Wofford, but most of his attempts from the passing game came on roll outs from the pocket.

Finishing with just 28 passing yards in his limited work, Phillips took advantage of his inability to scramble by developing a better sense for passing in the pocket.

"It was a good opportunity to make myself comfortable in the pocket and do what Scotty (Tolzien) and Jon (Budmayr) do so well," Phillips said. "I definitely feel I am progressing with it, but I haven't been given that many reps to work on it. In camp, there are a lot of reps to go around. During the season, we need to get done with what Scotty and the offense need to get done.

"The speed isn't there yet and the strength staff has been really helpful working with me in the mornings. The last couple practices, I have tried to get out of the pocket more, just to build my confidence and run around some people. It's progressing."

His communication skills have been beneficial, as well. Still helping call in signals, Phillips has been able to relate better to Tolzien and to the offense, being able to sit on the sidelines and help the starting quarterback study the defense from a different perspective.

"First and foremost, I am excited for Curt because he has worked his tail off to get back," Tolzien said. "He's so far ahead of where everyone thought he would be. He's rehabbing everyday and that's tough to behind closed doors. It's a long process and he's made the most of it. He's been so helpful to me and he's going to help our offense with him being back."

Phillips will be inserted as the No.3 quarterback when Wisconsin hosts Minnesota on Saturday, backing up Budmayr, who played his first collegiate game two weeks ago against Austin Peay.

Whether he plays or not in 2010 is irrelevant. Phillips main concern now is getting ready to compete for the starting quarterback job in 2011.

"I definitely need to continue progressing and get better health wise but competitively, I came here to get on the field and play," Phillips said. "We all know it's going to be a completion next year so I figured, why not get started now?"

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