Spring Grades - Quarterbacks

With the spring game now in their review mirror, the Wisconsin Badgers turn their focus to their 2009 season opener against Northern Illinois, which is just over 135 short days away. After letting the dust settle, Badger Nation publisher Benjamin Worgull breaks down the positions post spring.

MADISON - It was no surprise that head coach Bret Bielema only laughed when someone asked him if he was going to name a starter after the spring game.

It was a surprise to Bielema, however, how well redshirt freshman Curt Phillips performed under the gun.

"I saw a guy, Curt Phillips, go out there and do some things," Bielema said. "I know he can do some things with his feet, but to see what he did today in the passing game made a big statement to me."

And with that, the UW quarterback race is looks to be a two horse race.

Fifth-year senior Dustin Sherer still looks to have a grasp on the starting quarterback position but is still battling consistency issues. One drive after the senior drove the Badgers down the field for the opening score, hitting Garrett Graham in stride for an 18-yard touchdown, Sherer settled on the checkdown route to Mickey Turner, but failed to check thoroughly, as Tony Megna stepped in front of Turner for the pick and returned it 24 yards for the touchdown.

"The one thing I know we took out of the experiences of our past is we can not beat ourselves, before the snap or by unforced errors," Bielema said. "That throw came out late … You can not have those types of situations, especially out of a fifth-year player."

Sherer finished the game 6-for-9 for 101 yards and one passing touchdown and also rushed for a touchdown, showing that he does contain some speed in his frame. Selling the handoff and with the help of Lance Kendricks blocking out in front (and taking out two defenders to make life easier), Sherer took the naked bootleg 11 yards into the corner of the end zone.

Unfortunately, the throw that people, and the head coach, will remember is Sherer's late pass to Turner that was intercepted, an unfitting conclusion for a player that has improved tremendously over the course of a year.

"Like I said in my opening press conference four weeks ago when someone asked what Dustin (has) to do and I said he has to be better than the rest by a significant amount," Bielema said. "He's a fifth-year player (and) he's a guy that started for half the season. During the course of spring ball, there were things that popped up that just weren't there. On the same accord, Dustin has done a lot of good things. He's improved a lot. If you look at him today from where he was a year ago at this time, he's significantly better. That got me excited."

Phillips also worked primarily with the first-team offense and while his throws weren't up to the same level as Sherer, he did one-up the senior on the ground game.

Phillips ran the naked bootleg twice, the first time getting a solid block from left tackle Gabe Carimi behind the line of scrimmage and tight end Mickey Turner inside the five-yard line to allow him to cross the goal line.

Phillips did have some good tosses: connecting with Garrett Graham on his first pass attempt, took advantage of miscommunication between safety Will Hartmann and cornerback Shelton Johnson to hit Nick Toon for a 41-yard gain and lead the offense on a 74-yard touchdown drive in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

"Our plan going in was to get him in as soon as we can with the ones and let him the benefit of a good solid offensive line in front of him (and) get a little continuity," Bielema said. "I like the fact that he threw a couple strikes. I think that first dig over the middle to Garrett was great on time, great rhythm, was the correct throw and gave a little bit of an indication of where is as a quarterback."

Unfortunately for junior Scott Tolzien and true freshman Jon Budmayr, the duo probably have to wait another year before starting under center.

Tolzien worked primarily with the second-team offense throughout the spring season and never really developed a rhythm. In the spring game, Tolzien went 4-for-8 with the first team and 5-for-14 with the second team, throwing for 122 yards and getting sacked six times.

Budmayr, who missed time because of a groin injury, struggled to get back into the flow of the offense, either delivering passes too low or too high for his intended target.

Although he didn't complete a pass on Saturday, Budmayr did show some of his signature poise, staying in the pocket long enough (getting accidentally hit pretty good) and delivering a deep pass to receiver Richard Kirtley that the fifth-year senior apparently lost the ball in the clouds.

"His best week of practice was week one, before he got injured," Bielema said. "I like these guys going forward."

Over the course of spring, both Sherer and Phillips worked primarily with the No. 1 offensive units and both were able to showcase their strengths (Sherer with his confidence delivering passes in the pocket and Phillips with making plays happen with his legs). If Phillips continues to make an impression on Bielema, however, Wisconsin's could have a 19-year-old starting quarterback

Projected Depth Chart

1) Dustin Sherer, Senior

2) Curt Phillips, Freshman

3) Scott Tolzien, Junior

4) Jon Budmayr, Freshman

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