Spring preview: Quarterbacks

Three-year starter John Stocco will be introduced to a radically different slate of skill players

Starter returning: Senior John Stocco (13 starts in 13 games; completed 197 of 328 passes for 2,920 yards, 21 touchdowns and 9 interceptions).

Other key returnee: Junior Tyler Donovan (3 games; 3-6-49-1-0).

Key departure: Bryan Savage (No. 3 quarterback last season as a redshirt freshman, transferred out).

2005 position coach: Jeff Horton

2006 position coach: Paul Chryst

Spring storylines

Two years ago Stocco went into spring practice as the favorite to win the starting quarterback job and ran away with a competition that never really materialized. Last year there was some talk of Stocco being challenged for the starting position. Never happened, and really not by any fault of the backup, Donovan, who has continued to steadily improve as a collegiate signal caller.

Stocco, though, simply proved that he was clearly the team's best quarterback and he put that reality on full display in the fall, enjoying arguably the best season of any quarterback in Wisconsin history, setting school records for passing yards, touchdowns and completions.

Now entering his senior season, the third-year starter must spend this spring getting accustomed to an entirely new corps of receivers: from running backs to wide receivers to tight ends, the entire lot of returning players caught a whopping four passes last season—four players with one reception each.

Much of the talk surrounding last season's successful passing game centered on the rapport Stocco had developed with players like Brandon Williams, Brian Calhoun, Owen Daniels and Jonathan Orr. It is a chemistry that now must be developed with their understudies, who will begin to be thrust into the limelight this spring.

Stocco will also likely take on an even larger leadership role—while not a captain, he has been known as a team leader since winter workouts two years ago, when he began to separate himself as the Badgers' best option at quarterback. Look for him to become a captain whenever that honor is announced.

It will be interesting to witness the development of Wisconsin's passing game this spring and into fall training camp and the 2006 season. With such a veteran quarterback to work with, offensive coordinator and now quarterbacks coach Paul Chryst should be able to unleash a more versatile playbook than that developed in 2005. The question is not whether Stocco can handle it, but whether his new receivers can keep up.

Donovan heads into spring workouts as the favorite to keep the No. 2 quarterback job for what would be the third straight season. In two years as the backup, he has hardly played, a product of Stocco's extraordinary durability. Donovan is a very good athlete with excellent instincts when he runs with the football, giving him an added dimension at the position. He has improved considerably each year as a passer, and will have to do so again to hold off the challenge that Sherer will try to provide for the backup spot.

As a true freshman last fall, Sherer quickly adapted to the college game, displaying a good arm and an impressive pocket presence in scrimmage sessions. The first spring practice season is notoriously difficult on a quarterback, but if Sherer can grasp the tasks before him and perform well, he could make a push to become Stocco's backup.

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