I caught up with Wisconsin senior quarterback Scott Tolzien last week at Big Ten Media Days. Here is my exclusive one-on-one interview with UW's second-year starter:
B5Q: So what's going on? How was the offseason?
Tolzien: It's been good. It's been a fun summer. Shorter than ever. Every year it seems like the summer gets shorter. But it was a good summer program. I thought guys rallied and did a lot more running this summer and think the guys are in much better shape than they were a year ago.
B5Q: Going into this season, what do you think has changed as far as you as a starting quarterback?
Tolzien: I wouldn't say too much. I know a year ago I was fighting for a starting job, but I try to be the same guy and try to attack each day. When you do that, and just work your tail off in the film room and wait room, I think guys notice it and ultimately it gets you to where you need to be.
B5Q: When you look back at last season, most of your mistakes came in those two losses in the middle of the year against Ohio State and Iowa. When you look at how you can improve this season, are those the two games you go back to?
Tolzien: Yeah, definitely, without question. Just 'cause those two games I threw five interceptions, two of them for touchdowns and obviously we didn't win those games and I take a brunt of that on my shoulders. And that's just not how Wisconsin wins games. We win games when the offense controls the clock and doesn't turn the ball over. That's our recipe for success. So it's definitely a learning experience and hopefully I can learn from that this year.
B5Q: Who are some of the freshmen that are already standing out?
Tolzien: It's tough to tell. The one thing that stood out is that they all have a great work ethic because most of it is weight room and conditioning stuff and they all worked their tails off. I know a bunch of them made big gains and some of them come from programs where they really haven't lifted much in the past. It was awesome to see the steps they took in an eight-week program, but usually you can feel that out in the first two weeks with the pads on [to see] who the players are that can contribute this year.
B5Q: It's possible that Curt Phillips could be back for the Big Ten season. How do youfeel about the quarterbck depth right now?
Honestly, I feel great about it. I know Curt has worked his tail off all summer rehabing his knee. The minute he got injured, he was in the training room everyday working hard, doing every little thing he can. I think he will be just fine and hopefully be ahead of schedule. Then Jon Budmayr, he's super talented and I think that anyone who has been at practice has been able to see that. He can really throw the ball and he's a really smart kid and a hard worker as well. When you put all those attributes together for both of those guys, I think the future is bright.
B5Q: Your teammate John Clay was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year last season, but he was not named Preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year this year. How do youfeel about that?
Tolzien: Well, youknow, personally I don't care too much about preseason awards. I'm sure John would say the same thing. A lot of the awards come with team success and hopefully when it is all said and done, we got a lot of wins and hopefully John has a tremendous season, hopefully even better than last season. Then we'll let the media decide [the awards], but for us -- and I know John would say the same thing -- let's go get some wins first.
B5Q: You guys led the Big Ten in offense last year and you have a great offensive line coming back and a lot of other key pieces. How much better do you think the offense will be this year?
Tolzien: I think the approach we had last year was that we were underdogs and no one really expected us to do much. We just had a workers mentality and one of our goals was to reestablish Wisconsin football, which was tough, disciplined, mistake-free football. And we just need to carry that same blueprint for success into this year. You know, not worry about the hype and all that stuff. If we take care of those three things and play the way Wisconsin teams have in the past, and as we did last year, hopefully it will be a successful season when it is all said and done.