Tolzien to make first start for Wisconsin
Walworth-Big Foot grad Travis Frederick will start at center Saturday for the Badgers...
MADISON Fourth-year junior Scott Tolzien will get his first career start at quarterback when the University of Wisconsin opens its football season here at 6 p.m. Saturday against Northern Illinois.
Tolzien beat out redshirt freshman Curt Phillips and senior Dustin Sherer, who started UW’s final seven games last season.
Coach Bret Bielema said Monday that Tolzien has responded well to the pressure of being named the starter.
The depth chart shows Tolzien listed first, followed by Phillips, with only an “or” separating the top two. That means both are likely to get significant playing time against the Huskies.
Several other positions, including junior Zach Brown and sophomore John Clay at running back, are listed in the same manner.
Tolzien, 6-3 and 205, from Rolling Meadows, Ill., redshirted in 2006, didn’t play in 2007, and had only limited playing time in three games last season. Bielema was asked if Tolzien, a late commitment to the Badgers who was heavily recruited by the Mid-American Conference, was a “Plan B guy who panned out.”
“He’s the Scott Tolzien plan. Every guy was recruited in a different fashion. Some guys are going to come in with 20 offers, some are going to come in with none,” Bielema said. “The greatest thing he’s done is, he’s come in here and taken full advantage of every opportunity.”
How well Tolzien responds as the starter is just one of the larger questions facing the Badgers as they try to recover from a disappointing 7-6 season.
Bielema, 39, has been candid in the lead-up to this season about mistakes that were made in 2008 and changes that have been made to fix them.
He has said there will be more discipline in the program. A tougher class attendance policy started in the second semester last year, shortly after Wisconsin was blown out 42-13 by Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
There’s a lot on the line for Bielema, the head coach personally selected by his predecessor and current athletic director Barry Alvarez.
After notching a 12-1 record his first season, Bielema’s teams have gone just 16-10 since.
Tolzien isn’t the only untested player the Badgers are resting their rebound hopes on this season. The depth chart lists only 10 seniors, compared with 31 freshmen and sophomores.
The Badgers will have a chance to work out the kinks at home with three non-conference opponents to open the season. Northern Illinois is followed on the schedule by Fresno State and Wofford.
Wisconsin has won 14 straight games at home against nonconference opponents since 2003.
The Big Ten season also starts at home for Wisconsin against Michigan State on Sept. 26.