When somebody handed Coach Bret Bielema lemons, he made lemonade.
Then-junior quarterback Tyler Donovan stepped into the shoes of John Stocco and did something the heralded senior never did – beat the Hawkeyes and do it convincingly. Completing 17 of 24 passes for over 225 yards and two touchdowns, Donovan clinched a Capital One Bowl bid for the Badgers.
One year later, Donovan is looking to become the starter on a more permanent basis. In fierce competition with junior-transfer Allan Evridge, Donovan looks poise to take the reign of a Wisconsin team with national title aspirations.
Between throwing tight spirals to his talented wide receivers and giving handoffs to his workhorse running backs, senior quarterback Tyler Donovan sat down with Badger Nation publisher Benjamin Worgull to talk Wisconsin football.
Badger Nation After the year you had and the accolades bestowed upon you, is it hard getting up for practice and getting ready for the season not knowing if you're going to be the guy?
Tyler Donovan: It's not hard getting ready [to play]; it's just me having the right mindset that I am that guy. I'm put in a position that people expect big things out of. Having the right set and be mentality sharp day in and day out is been the key for me.
BN: When you look back and put last year into perspective, how much does those two games help from game to game last year and practice this year? Have things been easier because of that?
TD: Oh yeah, getting that game experience is priceless. I was in there [at quarterback] at times through my career, but maintaining a full game was a whole different step for me. I'm going to keep building the momentum from those two games. You know, being a competitor and wanting to win.
BN: Everybody wants to know when a decision will be made on the starting quarterback. Do you want a decision sooner or later?
TD: That's really not up to me and I am not really worried about that to be honest with you. I know they're going to call one guy. If we just handle our stuff, things will fall into place and that's been my mindset. Just do my thing, do what I do good and try to help this team in whatever way I can. I think things will work out for the best.
BN: Are there things this team is going to do different because of your legs and the different strengths you and John Stocco have.
TD: Yeah. I think that's one of Coach Chryst's strengths – building an offense and identity around the players that he has. I think there will be some different things that we'll do that will work around my kind of game and also other players. That's the cool things about Coach Chryst that he's able to work around his players. We may do some more spread stuff and some bootlegs, but all that's really not important right now.
BN: How did you feel up until this year? You were recruited, came in and not promised the world, but you had high expectations and then sit for three years. Were you frustrated or mad?
TD: It's a process for me. Growing up here, I was playing behind a quarterback [Jim Sorgi] that brought in wins and never really allowed himself to be pushed and that kind of thing. I learned from John [Stocco] and how he went about his business. I learned from that. More than anything, it was kind of nice, because it's put me in a situation right now – with that kind of experience from John – to be able to take off from that.
BN: The competition right now for quarterback must be keeping you sharp. How are you handling it?
TD: There has always been competition. [The coaches] aren't going to just give you a spot. That's the cool thing and that's Big Ten football right there. You're obviously going to be challenged and it does keep you sharp and keep you on your toes having to always play your best. There's always been competition for me, so nothing has changed from last year to this year. It's just me taking care of my business and trying to be a leader for the team.
BN: What type of guy are you in the huddle? Are you more of a rah-rah type guy or a quiet leader?
TD: I'm not a rah-rah guy. I am more of a quiet leader to tell you the truth. I try to lead by example on the field. I am not really big who-rah-rah get up in your face kind of guy. I like to make plays and when things are going right, tell them we need to take care of things and move the ball down the field.
BN: How do you feel about the team? You aren't exactly taking over a dog here. This team is pretty well loaded to go.
TD: That's one of the cool things [about this team]. We have a solid defense, great up-front offensive line, good receiving core. Everything is there. How we build together as a team is going to be the important part for us and that's what we're trying to mold right now through camp.
BN: Is the installation of the offense right now slower because Stocco isn't here?
TD: To tell you the truth, [the offense] has picked up a little faster. We've thrown in some new things, which is the cool thing that the coaches aren't holding back. We're going for it all. We're taking one day at a time, going through all our different kind of plays. We're not moving slowly. We're trying to move ahead everyday and get better everyday.
BN: How are you planning to get the ball to Travis Beckum this year, as he's probably going to be a marked man by opposing defenses?
TD: That's the special thing about Travis. There's probably going to be game plans that will doubled up on him. Yet, Travis is such a good athlete that we're still going to be able to get him the ball. But, then again, it's going to open other things up for our offense, which is a cool thing about him. When you have such a dynamic player like him, he's only going to make our offense better.