When quarterback Scott Tolzien or running back John Clay enter the McClain practice facility, its commonplace to see a crowd of well over a dozen reporters and cameramen engulf the two main cogs of the offense, asking them countless questions with either a microphone or bright light shining in his face.
Fifth-year senior Dustin Sherer knows that feeling well, although it's been slim pickings for him since the end of fall camp.
"I'm pretty sure this is the first interview I've done since camp ended," Sherer said. "Things are a little different compared to last year."
Such is life when you're the third-string quarterback.
Starting the final seven games last season, Sherer recorded a 121.78 passer rating as a starter, completing 93-of-172 passes for 1,246 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions, Sherer came into camp listed as the starting quarterback and having a solid mindset. But when Tolzien and redshirt freshman Curt Phillips started getting the majority of snaps during the second and third week of fall camp, Sherer could see the writing on the wall.
"When you come to school for five years and work for something that hard and have it taken away from you, it's not fun to hear," Sherer said. "I just tried to prepare for it in the days leading up to it. There's nothing I can do about it."
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Sherer, who took great strides to improve his throwing motion heading into fall camp, going so far to spend part of his spring break vacation at an elite quarterback camp in Florida. It was so trying for him that Sherer toyed with the idea of transferring.
"When I got the news, I was going to leave, go somewhere else and play my last year," Sherer said. "I felt I could play better, you always feel like you can play better, but I knew I could still compete."
"It was tough, but I thought about it, and I wanted to stick it out. I've been through a lot of stuff here and I have always wanted to stick it out. So, why quit now? I have a lot of respect for the guys on this team. I have been here for so long, I have a lot of friends and I love coming here and being around them."
So Sherer swallowed his pride and went to the familiar spot on the depth chart, where he spent most of the 2006 and 2007 season. But instead of being a young quarterback in a complex system, Sherer has donned the headset, trying to use his experience to help Tolzien and put the negative things in his past.
"Any kid here will tell you they want to play, especially since I am competitive and I want to be the guy out there, but I am not," Sherer said. "So, it's something you've got to deal with. It's been fun being kind of a coach. Experience is something you can't coach a kid, but it's the comfort level out there that I can share and let him benefit from."
The big benefactor has been Tolzien, who has completed 64.1 percent of his throws on the season and helped his offense rank 29th in the country in total offense, averaging 422.3 yards. With the duo always watching film together and speaking with together after every offensive play, Sherer's calm, collective nature has been a big benefit to Tolzien.
"That's one thing that goes under the radar because Dustin has been huge on the sideline," Tolzien said. "He's the calm of the storm. There's a lot of chaos on the sideline and he keeps everything loose and in perspective. He's a guy that goes about his business, doesn't show weaknesses and wants you to have fun."
Added Sherer of Tolzien: "It's great to be on the sidelines with him during a game. He's probably one of the more calm quarterbacks I have been around, up there with John Stocco."
While Sherer knows that he's only one snap away, just like he was last year, the fifth-year senior is ready should the situation calls for it. But from his vantage point, he couldn't be happier with the positive strides his team has made from last season.
"I've been apart of some really good teams and I don't think we have the talent that we had my freshman and sophomore years, but I think this is the closest group I've been around," Sherer said. "Everyone is hear for the same reason, they want to work, get last year out our mind and move on and learn from that."
"We are all here for the same goal and I think that's going to help us with football games."