Spring Game Analysis: Quarterbacks

The 2008 Badger Spring Game was an ugly affair offensively that showed the offense has many more improvements to make. In the highly contested quarterback competition, little progress was made towards determining a starter in a battle that will wage on until fall.

MADISON – As soon as former starter Tyler Donovan took his 9-4 record and left the team, the Badgers began looking on their roster for their next quarterback. Because of his fifth-year senior status, Donovan left a large hole for Wisconsin to fill. That competition to determine his replacement began in the 2008 Spring Game.

Fortunately for the cardinal and white, they have another fifth-year senior who will probably fill in quite nicely.

Allan Evridge, a transfer from Kansas State, competed last year with Donovan to become the starter. Evridge lost the job last year because of a lack of consistency and knowledge with the system. On the positive side, the lefty has a nice frame and impressive athleticism. With another full year studying the system, the job now is his to lose.

"The thing that Allan has is experience, you know he's been able to be there before," said head coach Brett Bielema. "It must have been frustrating for him last year only getting play bits and pieces in some games. He was never able to get in the flow of games and only be in there by surprise."

In the Spring Game, Allan played fairly poorly during the first quarter and didn't play again until the third quarter. Many of his passes were long and there really was no big gains to show for much of the first quarter. Worst of all, he gambled instead of taking the safe pass, a pass that resulted in an interception.

"That was an awesome play by Maragos (on the pick) and my hat goes off to him," Evridge said. "I did well, for the most part, in my reads except that pick. I knew it was going to be close when I threw it up there. I would obviously would like to have that one back."

"Bottom line a quarterback has to manage the game, and today we made some mistakes that we'll have to take care before camp starts," added Bielema.

Evridge returned in the third quarter and threw a nice 20-yard strike to Gilreath. He followed that up again with another 20-yard bomb to Gilreath. Yet, he overthrew T.J. Theus on what should have been a sure touchdown. Overall, the day was underwhelming for Evridge because of several large errors that shouldn't have happened. Most important to his coach, the offense didn't finish the job when they should have.

"We had a ton of yardage out there, but not a lot of points," said Bielema.

"That's the great thing about spring," Evridge added. "It's another practice, you learn from your mistakes and you come back in the fall." Bielema claimed that the quarterback competition is open between Evridge, Dustin Sherer and Scott Tolzen. However, by naming the Evridge the starter with the first team offense, he did give a slight nudge to Evridge.

The main challenger to become starter next year is Dustin Sherer, a tall system quarterback who returns to the Badgers for his fourth year. He would rather throw the ball than run, but he has some athletic ability. Most importantly, he's been the most consistent quarterback in camp and it showed Saturday.

Sherer went 5-for-8 in his time on the field, making his reads and connecting on his checkdowns. Additionally, he made the best play of the first half came when he threw a 35-yard pass to receiver David Gilreath on a long crossing route. "He's not the biggest guy in the world but he can catch the ball," Sherer said about Gilreath. "He's going to make us better on offense."

On the very next play, he scrambled for another six yards, which showed his diversity. With the team in the red zone, he also threw perfect pass to Isaac Anderson in the endzone; unfortunately he dropped the ball, a common theme throughout spring practices.

"We should of have at least two more scores," Sherer said. "I was really happy early. I was throwing the ball really well and Coach B said I finished well. The big thing for me is consistency. I want to do the same thing everyday and not have off days.

Even though Sherer might have gained a slight advantage Saturday, the Spring Game won't likely determine who plays under center next year for the August 30th season opener against Akron.

"Just like last year, we'll probably name a starter two weeks out from the game," said Bielema.

As far as the potential backups go, the results were fairly similar. Scott Tolzien had receiver Maurice Moore wide open in the endzone early in the first, but threw long as a defender rushed him. Continuing the interception trend, he also was picked off twice - once when he threw into double coverage and the second on a ball that he lead his receiver to far.

Fortunately for Wisconsin, highly touted Curt Phillips played much better, especially when he was on the move.

"I was happy with what all the quarterbacks did," said Bielema. "For the most part I like the way they managed the huddle"

But in Bielema's system, the number one goal as quarterback is to not make mistakes.

"I thought the quarterbacks did an outstanding job moving the ball early, but they threw a couple critical interceptions," said Bielema. "We can't turn the ball over."

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