Badgers Release Depth Chart...Sort Of

John JacobContributor IAugust 28, 2009

TAMPA, FL -  JANUARY 1: Coach Bret Bielema of the Wisconsin Badgers disputes a call against the Tennessee Volunteers in the 2008 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on January 1, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  The Volunteers won 21 - 17. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

How do you release your team's depth chart while still maintaining a level of secrecy about who you plan to use at behind center and in the backfield?

Well, if you're Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema, you use the word "or" a lot. 

The Wisconsin Badgers released their depth chart Thursday morning, something that was expected to clarify several positions that had two or more competitors vying for starting roles. So much for that.

According to the depth chart, Wisconsin will start Scott Tolzien OR Curt Phillips at quarterback. At running back? Zach Brown or John Clay.

So there you have it. Arguably the two most important positions on the field, and certainly the two that have generated the most offseason buzz for the Badgers, and it remains unclear who will start. 

What kind of insight does Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst have to offer?

"Stay tuned," Chryst said after practice Thursday. "What it means is, I think that Scotty, if you take the course of the camp, has been the most consistent. And with that has earned that opportunity to get some snaps."

Sounds like Tolzien is the starter, but if that's the case, why the "or" next to his name? And how much playing time should we expect from Phillips?

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It remains unclear to everyone, including Bielema and Chryst, who will evaluate the two signal callers throughout the last week of practice before the team faces Northern Illinois.

"Shoot, we just made the decision," Chryst said. "We've got to go through it a little bit."

Tolzien and Phillips had emerged as the frontrunners last week, but it originally appeared the redshirt freshman Phillips was the favorite for the starting nod. That is, until he threw a rash of interceptions last Saturday in a scrimmage. 

Since then, everyone has expected Tolzien would get the starting spot in the rotation, but it was never official until Thursday. In fact, it really did not seem official until Bielema confirmed it himself, whether he intended to or not.

"(Tolzien) is just a steady performer, doesn't get overly rattled in any situation," Bielema said. "He's very, very intelligent. The part that probably jumped out to me—and not necessarily the fact Scott Tolzien is the starter—is accuracy, just the way he's been able to complete the pass."

Some not familiar with the program may be wondering just who Tolzien is exactly. He is a junior from Rolling Meadows, Ill., and he has played in a total of three games at Wisconsin, all coming last season. 

Tolzien recorded his first career touchdown last year at Indiana on a two-yard rush late in the game. He also saw quite a bit of time against Iowa, throwing for 90 yards on 4-of-7 passing.

While he does not possess the arm strength of third-stringer Dustin Sherer or the quickness of Phillips, Tolzien excels based on his accuracy and intelligence.

That accuracy should be a positive addition for a Wisconsin Badgers squad that completed just 54.1 percent of its passes last season, including 11 interceptions to just 11 touchdowns.

It remains to be seen, however, just how well the two (or three) quarterback system will work for the Badgers. Yet, Chryst doesn't seem worried in the least.

"I'll play three, four, five quarterbacks if it helps you win," Chryst said. "Each year's a little bit different. At this time, this fits who we are. I'm comfortable with it.

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