Camp Report: Tolzien Making Strides

Although fifth-year senior Allan Evridge and junior Dustin Sherer are thought to be the top two contenders to be Wisconsin's starting quarterback in 2008, redshirt sophomore Scott Tolzien is quietly proving that his name should be included in that conversation as well.

MADISON - Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has likened his team's quarterback situation, with senior Allan Evridge leading junior Dustin Sherer for the start on opening night, to what happened a year ago.

Going into last season, senior Tyler Donovan came into fall camp as the established favorite from spring and held off Evridge to become the starter.

What's a little different this year is that a third signal caller is trying to make it a three-way quarterback race.

Impressed by the way he played in spring and during the first practice of the season, Bielema said sophomore Scott Tolzien could wind up being "the X-factor" and earn repetitions on par with Evridge and Sherer.

"I don't think it's a two-man race," Bielema said. "I think Scott Tolzien has more than shown he can [increase] his opportunity to get in there pretty good. As camp goes, it's really going to be based on what they do."

What Bielema likes about Tolzien is his consistent approach. While he may not be the fastest afoot or have the strongest arm, Tolzien hasn't drawn too much attention for negative plays.

"He just does everything the way it's supposed to be done," Bielema said. "Doesn't really do anything bad. Doesn't maybe do anything to make you raise your eyebrows, but he manages the game well."

While Tolzien is a long shot to get the starting call, with the proven running game, offensive line and tight ends UW has, a game managing quarterback could be all that is needed for a productive offense.

"That's my game is to just execute the offense," Tolzien said. "Play within myself and know what everyone's doing. … Just move the chains and then score in the red zone. Coach preaches on that all the time, that's what he wants.

Consistency key for Tolzien

While the quarterback situation is the most scrutinized position on the offensive side of the ball this August, there are still a good amount of questions about the wide receiving corps.

A year ago, two fifth-year seniors started for offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's unit. This year, that duty will go to a pair of sophomores, Kyle Jefferson and David Gilreath.

Jefferson and Gilreath both gained valuable experience filling in for the injured Luke Swan and Paul Hubbard at times last season, but their stints were flawed by some usual freshman hang-ups: some dropped passes and imprecise routes.

Since members of the media aren't allowed to watch practice this year, it is tough to judge exactly how players are performing through the first two days of fall camp.

But judging by the words of people that have seen everything that has transpired, it sounds as if the maturation of Jefferson and Gilreath is coming along nicely.

"We definitely turned up our summer throwing and we saw that on film the first day after last night's practice," Tolzien said. "They're running some crisp routes."

Should that trend continue and become a constant, the physically gifted duo could solidify the Wisconsin offense as solid across the board.

"They've got to stop the run, they've got to stop (tight end) Travis (Beckum)," Gilreath said. "Then you've got us guys out there, we can do some things."

The potential both players possess was enough to garner recognition from various preseason publications.

Gilreath was named a second-team preseason All-American and first team All-Big Ten by Athlon. Jefferson was named third-team All-Big Ten by Phil Steele.

The two complement each other nicely: Gilreath, a small short-route receiver with ankle breaking moves and speed to wreak havoc after the catch; Jefferson, at a lanky 6-foot-5, has sprinter speed and can stretch a defense down the field.

"The good thing is usually you have the short, fast guy and the slower big guy," Gilreath said. "We can both fly."

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