Different kind of quarterback controversy?

Tyler Donovan and Dustin Sherer will continue to compete for No. 2 job throughout fall camp

MADISON — There's no question in the minds of the coaching staff and University of Wisconsin football fans that John Stocco is going to be the starting quarterback for the Badgers when the team opens its season Sept. 2 in Cleveland against Bowling Green.

The real question on people's minds concerning the quarterbacks is who is going to back up Stocco this year and who is going to lead the Wisconsin offense after Stocco graduates.

After Saturday's annual intrasquad spring game, the backup quarterback role remains up for grabs.

With Stocco playing solely with the Cardinal squad (first team) and only in the first half, junior quarterback Tyler Donovan and redshirt freshman Dustin Sherer rotated series with the White in the first half. In the second half, Donovan assumed the controls of the Cardinal and Sherer led the White, while Stocco watched from the sidelines.

Donovan, who was Stocco's backup the past two seasons, struggled in the first half, as his last five plays before halftime resulted in two sacks, an interception and a botched snap that Cardinal defensive tackle Jason Chapman recovered.

Donovan's interception — into the leaping arms of senior free safety Roderick Rogers along the far sideline — came one play after a Dywon Rowan touchdown run drew the Cardinal within 14-7.

Donovan's only completion in four pass attempts for the White squad was on the first play of the game. But tight end Travis Beckum's reception actually lost a yard.

Donovan had more success in the second half with the Cardinal, completing 8 of 14 passes for 107 yards and directing a 13-play field-goal drive. That drive, though, included three consecutive passes thrown into coverage that were broken up — one by strong-side linebacker Jae McFadden and two by safety William Hartmann — and could have been intercepted.

Donovan also had numerous passes broken up in the second half, as miscommunications with the young receiving core showed.

Out of the two quarterbacks vying for the backup role, Sherer looked like he had improved his stock the most. Late in the first half Sherer showed some good decision-making and the ability to counter the opposing blitzes. One play that stood out in particular was at the end of the first half where Sherer scrambled out of the pocket to his right and connected with tight end Garrett Graham for 25 yards.

For Sherer, the play stood out for him as well, since he has had to learn how to throw on the run.

"[Scrambling] wasn't something I did a lot of in high school," Sherer said. "I think that's one of the keys here is that the teams are a lot faster and I feel more comfortable being able to do that."

On the afternoon, Sherer completed 6 of 11 passes for 72 yards — all with the White. More importantly, Sherer did not have a turnover and he used his scrambling ability to gain 26 yards on the ground (quarterbacks wore green no-contact jerseys, so the whistle blew whenever a defender touched a quarterback).

"Things slowed down a little bit and I was able to adjust to things," Sherer said. " I felt more comfortable out there, but that's a tough defense I was going against and I still have more to work on. Overall, I felt I did all right."

"In the first half, there wasn't a lot of movement with the [quarterbacks], but I like the way Dustin came out and moved the ball [in the second half]," Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said. "I like the way he composed himself on the field."

One of the big issues that the Badgers will have to address on offense is the consistency of the quarterback-center exchange. Stocco fumbled once, but recovered and scrambled for a few yards. Donovan fumbled twice — losing the one in the first half with the White, but regaining one in the second half with the Cardinal.

"There had been some issues with quarterback exchange and that's obviously the most elementary issue that we need to make sure we can take for granted on every snap," Bielema said.

Even so, Bielema was pleased with how both backup quarterbacks performed with their respected offensive units. Although he didn't mention which quarterback was on the inside track to be named the backup, Bielema was adamant that either quarterback could fill in for Stocco if the situation arose and perform with the first-team offense successfully.

"They're coached up to do certain things," Bielema said. "The person who will enter the game should something happen will be determined between now and [the first game]. Whether you're comfortable or not is the reality of the situation you are put in … I liked the way they competed in the long run."

With Wisconsin's 15-practice spring season complete and fall camp a little more than three months away, both quarterbacks will look to improve on their performances in the scrimmage. With no clear cut favorite to backup Stocco, the competition for the job will be sure to heat up as the opening game is a mere 19 weeks away.

"I'm a big, big believer that competition brings the best out of people," Bielema said. "I believe that from the standpoint, not only within your team, but who you compete against on Saturday.

"[The quarterbacks are] young, they're eager and they want to get better and we'll coach them that way."


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