Quarterback roulette

first_imgIn the movie “Field of Dreams,” James Earl Jones’ character remarks, “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.”If Jones were to focus his attention on the past decade of the Wisconsin football program, he could make a similar statement.One constant through all the years has been stability and little controversy surrounding the quarterback for the UW football team. From Darrell Bevell to Mike Samuel to Brooks Bollinger to Jim Sorgi and finally to John Stocco, the transition from one quarterback to the next has been a relatively open-and-shut case, with little question about who the next in line would be, despite hard-to-please fans.But the departure of Stocco after last season has set the stage for a true battle for the starting spot under center. The three men vying for the starting spot –Tyler Donovan, Allan Evridge and Dustin Sherer — are in different places in their collegiate careers, and all bring different intangibles to the position.UW’s spring practice was supposed to be a time for the three to separate themselves from one another. Instead, the picture has become more uncertain.”Probably not as much [separation] as you’d want,” offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Paul Chryst said.”I think they’ve all had their moments,” Chryst continued. “I don’t know if there’s enough separation, but they’ve all had their moments — good and bad.”Starting the spring as the longest shot among the three, Sherer has parlayed his skills into a strong spring and the struggles of Donovan and Evridge into a legitimate place in the starting conversation heading into the spring game this Saturday.With that in mind, take a look at the three who will continue to compete for the starting quarterback spot in the coming weeks and months.Tyler DonovanWhen it comes to football, Tyler Donovan knows what it means to be second best: Long days spent watching from the sidelines as someone else plays his position. The trend seems to follow him wherever he goes.Before thoughts of playing in front of sold-out Camp Randall crowds on Badger game days danced through his head, Donovan rode the bench in high school for two seasons. It was not until his junior year at Arrowhead High School that he became the primary signal caller. Now, after spending four seasons in a similar situation (He redshirted his freshman year), Donovan is finally looking to assume a permanent starting role — he started two games last season in place of the injured John Stocco — once more. All the more fitting that it would be in his final season.”It was something I’ve worked for since day one,” Donovan said. “It’s what I came here to do.” Sticking around when someone was always ahead of him is telling of the type of person Donovan is: a true competitor. “There’s obviously a little of that game mentality or attitude where nothing’s going to stop me,” he said.So it’s good that he’s always had a challenge when it came to football. First it was David Ring. Then it was John Stocco. Now, it’s Kansas State transfer Allan Evridge. Unlike an external conflict of human versus human — what you might expect in a heated race for a starting job — Donovan is embattled by internal conflict. “I think it’s more of a competition between myself,” he said. “I don’t try and look at the outside stuff. I try to just keep it within myself, play within me, do what I do best and keep getting better every day.”There is little doubt that Donovan strives to elevate his game to its utmost potential. But spring ball isn’t exactly an ideal situation to put that attitude to the test. Collectively, it’s a situation where the turnover at each position is 100 percent, as every unit gets some playing time here and there, so it’s difficult to make an accurate evaluation of how good someone is going to be when they actually get consistent repetition. With that said, the Hartland native has lacked radiance at times. Donovan’s the first to admit that he’s not quite where he needs to be to satisfy both himself and the coaching staff. Little things, such as what to do in certain situations, when to check down — everything that is learned by trial-and-error in game situations — are the areas in which Donovan would like to see improvement. “You want to find your comfort zone with some type of throw,” he said. “I feel myself kind of getting a feel for situations where, ‘Can I make that throw or can’t I?'”Whether Donovan ultimately assumes the starting quarterback position or someone else does, the conflict of self will never be resolved; it will never allow him to settle for anything less than his best. Allan EvridgeDespite not playing at all last season after transferring from Kansas State, Evridge has the most game experience of any of the three. The junior played in nine games, starting six, as a freshman for the Wildcats in 2005 to become the first freshman quarterback to start for then-Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.Even with a year of watching and learning the UW system, Evridge acknowledges he still has a little ways to go before he has it down.”Every practice is another opportunity to improve and another opportunity to get reps in the system, because everything is kind of still new,” the left-hander said.”Every rep and every day it’s coming along and making things easier.”Coming from a Kansas State system which placed an emphasis on moving the quarterback around and is “totally different” from Chryst’s, Evridge has had to relearn almost everything about the position.”Everything has been a big adjustment,” Evridge said. “There hasn’t been much carryover, except for at Kansas State they did a great job of teaching us about the game of football, which is a huge help. Now I have to learn how it fits into this system.”Learning the new system and adjusting to playing with new teammates has been at the core of some of Evridge’s struggles this spring, including interceptions and poorly thrown passes.”I can play a lot better than I am right now,” Evridge said. “Things are starting to click; (I’m) starting to learn the reads and the intricacies.”You can do a play on paper, but until you run it, … it’s a totally different monster there.”Aside from being an intelligent player with a good feel for the game, what Chryst has liked most about Evridge so far is his attitude.”He’s doing a good job trying to understand (the system),” Chryst said. “He knows exactly what’s happening around him, he asks good questions, has good knowledge, so I think he’s doing a good job that way.”Despite all the attention surrounding the quarterback competition, Evridge said the trio of quarterbacks has been able to keep their relationships with each other from becoming hostile.”My outlook on it is, instead on focusing on competition, I would rather be friends with the guys. … (They’re) great guys; we’re all friends, hanging out off the field and on the field.”A consummate team player who would bring athleticism and scrambling ability to the quarterback position, Evridge realizes that if he did not win the starting job, it would not be the end of the world.”It would be disappointing to some extent, but if Tyler or Dustin is the best to lead this team and they are doing better than I am, that’s fine,” Evridge explained. “The ultimate goal is wins.”Dustin ShererDustin Sherer doesn’t exactly boast starting numbers. In three career attempts, he has had one completion: to Indiana linebacker Will Patterson. Other than that, it has been all air.To complicate matters further, he’s playing catch-up to two signal callers who know what it’s like to start and succeed at the collegiate level.So it’s no wonder Sherer appears to find himself on the outside looking in when it comes to the debate over who should start for Wisconsin in the fall.Yet despite all this, the sophomore’s confidence hasn’t taken a hit.”I just go out and do my own thing,” Sherer said. “I know what I can do and I just want to prove to everyone, just show them what I can do. I think confidence is a big factor in it, and obviously all three of us are going for the same thing, but just knowing that you all are fighting to be the best you can individually [guides me along].”Heavily recruited from Arcadia Academy Heights High School in Indiana, Sherer came to Wisconsin knowing that there was a lot of traffic ahead of him, and quarterback John Stocco would start until his eligibility expired.He was redshirted during his first year and then worked his way into the third-string role during his second. As his third season at UW approaches, he finds that with Stocco gone for the first time since his arrival, the starting position is wide open.Sherer is trying to take full advantage of the situation in his own way.At last Saturday’s scrimmage, he looked the most consistent of the three or four vying for the starting role, passing for a touchdown and throwing just one pick, while his counterparts looked lost. Carrying the pocket-passer label, he even exhibited a burst of quickness that left the speedy linebackers surprised in his wake.One scrimmage, however, does not define success. Although Evridge and Donovan have been far from the model of consistency at times this spring, Bielema has indicated that they are the frontrunners for the job because of their past experiences.”I think [Donovan and Evridge] probably have come to the forefront just a little bit more just because of their game experience,” Bielema said at a press conference Monday.Sherer, from Cicero, Ind., may be on the outside with regards to plays under center, but with Chryst and Bielema not overeager to make a decision until they feel certain who the starter will be, the one thing Sherer has is time.”I think the biggest thing all of these guys need to do is just play and take advantage of opportunities,” Chryst said. “We’ve got a lot of time here before we need to say who’s one, two or three, so they just need to keep playing.”While his starting quarterback numbers aren’t going to get any better before a decision is made, Sherer will continue to work to be the one on the inside, looking out.last_img

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