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Wisconsin Postcard (cont.)

Posted: Friday August 17, 2007 1:29PM; Updated: Tuesday August 21, 2007 6:44PM
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Three observations

Tyler Donovan
Tyler Donovan, who threw for 536 yards and four TDs in two starts last season, is the leader to replace John Stocco at QB.
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1. One of the country's most closely contested QB races is being held in Madison, and it could yield a surprise victor next week. Bielema said at Big Ten media days on July 31 that it was "very hard for me as a head coach to envision [Donovan] not being the guy," what with the fifth-year senior having started and won two games (against Iowa and Buffalo) in '06 while Stocco was injured. Donovan told me Wednesday that he feels like it's his job to lose, but the competition in Wednesday's two workouts was wide open -- even to the degree that he and Evridge decided who would start certain drills by playing rock, paper, scissors; and then followed make-it, take-it rules after that, only yielding the position after an incompletion or bad read.

Donovan has the experience factor on his side, but has failed to separate himself in fall camp. Meanwhile Evridge, who had his first introduction to the offense the night before the Badgers opened spring practice, has made enough gains -- and has showed occasional big-play ability -- to give himself a realistic shot at the job. Upon mention of his earlier QB-race quote, Bielema reiterated that "it's very tough for a head coach to envision sitting down a guy that's 2-0 as a starter, but at the same account, you have to go with what's in the present."

The present, with Evridge breathing down Donovan's neck, makes for good drama. But the reality is also that neither QB -- even with the Badgers' veteran receiving corps at his disposal -- is likely to match Stocco's pleasantly surprising numbers from '06. Both are average passers who still seemed mistake-prone in practice.

2. Jonathan Casillas, the leader of the Badgers' vaunted defense, is about to become a nationally known name. A New Jersey product who nearly went to UConn to stay close to home, Casillas is an ultra-fast, albeit undersized (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) outside linebacker who was all over the field in scrimmages and is especially dangerous in pass protection. "Jonathan was probably our second-fastest player after Jack [Ikegwuonu] last season," said Bielema. "We can use Jonathan in sub packages as a defensive back; he's covering wide receivers man-to-man at times."

3. There is no stud to replace Joe Thomas at left tackle ... and a redshirt freshman might win the job. Badgers players walk by Thomas' smiling mug -- on his All-America plaque -- outside the locker room, and it's a constant reminder of losing of the No. 3 pick in the '06 NFL Draft. "Joe was so dominant on the left side," said Hill, "that he'd blow 2-3 people off the ball, by himself." The new player in that spot will merely hope not to be a liability. Sophomore Jake Bscherer, the post-spring frontrunner, has been moved to a backup role on the right side, while 6-8, 292-pound local product Gabe Carimi has emerged as a strong contender, doing battle with fifth-year senior Danny Kaye.

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