Senior has to prove he deserves to be starting QB for Badgers
A fifth-year senior, Sherer understands this is his best and last opportunity to open the season as the University of Wisconsin's No. 1 quarterback.
If Sherer performs well in preseason camp, better than he did during his seven-game stint as a starter last season and again last spring, he'll likely be under center when UW opens the season Sept. 5 against Northern Illinois.
If he struggles when camp opens on Aug. 10 and commits the type of mistake the UW staff saw in the spring game—an interception returned for a touchdown—Sherer understands he could lose the starting job.
"I've just got to be more relaxed, got be myself and play football the way I played growing up," said Sherer, whose primary competition should come from redshirt freshman Curt Phillips. "That's what I plan on doing."
Sherer must learn from the mistakes of the past, both in practice and in games.
During camp last summer, Sherer focused so much on his battle with then-senior Allan Evridge that he began worrying too much about how well Evridge was practicing and it affected his play.
"That was the biggest thing I took away from the whole competition with Allan," said Sherer, who replaced Evridge in Week 7 at Iowa. "Don't worry about anybody else. Worry about yourself. I think that is the mentality I took in the fall after Allan won the job. I learned from it and I started playing better. I took the pressure off my shoulders."
Once Sherer was given the starting job, the results were mixed.
UW was 4-3 in Sherer's seven games as a starter, but one of the victories came against a Football Championship Subdivision team (Cal Poly), and the other three victories came against teams that finished a combined 15-22.
As a starter, Sherer completed 93 of 172 passes (54.1 percent) for 1,246 yards (178 yards per game). He had just five touchdown passes and four interceptions and was sacked 20 times for 130 yards in losses, an average of 2.9 sacks per game.
Sherer acknowledged his throwing motion needs to be more consistent; he needs to get rid of the ball more quickly to avoid sacks; and he needs to limit his mistakes.
"I need to be consistent," he said. "The thing about being consistent is just being good. It's doing the same thing over and over again …
"I might not be the best quarterback that has ever been here, but at least the coaches know what they're getting."
Phillips is an outstanding runner who could put pressure on any defense. He and Sherer attended the same quarterback camp before spring practice, with both looking to correct flaws in their throwing motion.
Phillips' passing improved as the spring progressed, in part because he got more work in practice and because his understanding of the offense has improved.
"I'd like to say that I've improved each time," he said. "I'm more comfortable with the offense and I feel like I know what is going on and I'm more comfortable with what I'm seeing as far as the defense goes.
"So it's just a matter of getting the ball out on time and letting those guys make plays."
Will Sherer hold onto the No. 1 job in camp? Will Phillips make another big move and overtake Sherer? Will junior Scott Tolzien show enough improvement to shake the label of perennial backup?
Sherer has the inside track to start because of his age and experience but Bielema made it clear he wants to see more.
"He's got to be better than the rest by a significant amount," Bielema said. "During the course of spring ball there were certain things that popped up that just weren't there."
Senior defensive end O'Brien Schofield is eager to see the battle unfold.
"Dustin is our guy right now," he said. "He has that leadership and he has been in the program longer. But just to see what Curt brings to the table is interesting.
"I just want to see those guys battle it out. It's going to bring the best out of Dustin and it's going to bring the best out of Curt. And whoever the coaches feel is the best guy, that's who we're going to roll with."