March 17, 2010

Tolzien sees great team chemistry

MADISON - Coming off an impressive 2,705 passing yard performance in his first season as Wisconsin's starter, Scott Tolzien has entered spring camp as the quarterback of a team with high expectations.

While the regular season opening is still five months down the road, Tolzien has an opportunity to mold relationships and find chemistry with his offensive teammates over the next month of spring camp.

At the conclusion of Tuesday's practice, caught up with the senior signal caller. The following is a question and answer with Tolzien.

First of all, how did winter conditioning go for you?

Tolzien: It went real well. I thought guys had a good attitude throughout the whole and I thought the strength coaches did a great job of not making it too competitive. You could see that guys were fresh and we weren't getting stale. I thought guys put in the hard work and now it's real football. This is what we're here for, to play football.

Is that one of the main keys of winter conditioning, kind of switching it up so you guys aren't doing the same kind of thing. Also, does coach Ben Herbert do a pretty good job of that?

Tolzien: That was one thing that really stood out to me every since he got here. He's always changing things up. You can walk in the weight room and there's talk with guys trying to figure out what he's going to throw at us. There's always that element of surprise. It's a good thing because it keeps you on edge and it keeps you fresh as well.

Last year I was talking to some guys and they said it was very competitive. They said he would set up competitive situations or things during winter conditioning. Was that kind of the same again?

Tolzien: Yeah, I can think of a whole bunch of different things that we did. We had a one-on-one competition as well as picking a side where the loser has some sort of punishment or whatever. That's the base of this program, competing each and every day. That stuff really does carry over whether it's in the weight room or out on the football field.

That's the kind of stuff where you can build good chemistry, right?

Tolzien: Yeah, definitely. You see the seniors are gone now so that means the juniors have got to step up and take a leadership role. Then it's the same everywhere down the line. Everybody has got to take more of a proactive leadership approach.

Talk about yourself, if you rewind to this time a year ago you were in a totally different situation. Not many people though you were going to be the starting guy. Is it more relaxing this year? I guess you're probably never relaxed I'm sure.

Tolzien: It's a little bit more relaxing, but at the same time we've got some great young talent especially at the quarterback position. I'm aware of that. Just the way I was brought up is to capitalize on each and every day. I know the quarterbacks below me, Jon Budmayr and Curt Phillips, are doing the same. Hopefully, like they say, competition brings out the best in you. Nothing is different now.

That can only lead to good things down the stretch. They keep pushing you and you keep pushing them they will get better when you're gone?

Tolzien: Exactly, and that's what it's all about in spring ball especially. You're just getting better each and every day. When everyone is putting in the work whether it's in the film room, weight room or out on the practice field, it pushes everyone else down the line.

How are the tight ends coming along? You lose Garrett Graham and Mickey Turner, how are some of these young guys coming in?

Tolzien: It's really tough to say when we only have three practices in. I know Brian Wozniak had the flu today. So it's still a work in progress, but there is nothing there to tell me that those guys won't put in the work and put in the film study to keep getting better.

You look at some of these young guys like Jared Abbrederis, too. That's got to be exciting to see some of these wide receivers that maybe not many people are aware of contributing. I know it's early…

Tolzien: Right, the coolest thing about that for me was Jared was throwing every other day in the winter and you just saw how much time he put in. When it's just you and him throwing or whether it's Jon or Curt, he really wants to learn the game and keep getting better. He really pushed himself in the winter so it's nice to see it pay off.

You get the sense that that's the type of mantra this team is starting to take over the past couple of years?

Tolzien: That's the key to anything, having a good attitude, working hard and having a good team chemistry. You see how those little things carry over. I've been on teams in the past where I don't feel like the chemistry was as strong. It really does make a big difference I think.

Switching subjects, I was talking to Montee Ball a little bit earlier. He was like, 'Yeah we have some guys at the offensive line.' I said, 'You know, John Moffitt and Gabe Carimi haven't even been practicing.' He said he didn't even notice that. What kind of compliment is that for the guys that are in there?

Tolzien: Yeah, I said it once and I'll say it again. Those guys are the hardest working guys on the team. They get no credit other than when there is a holding call and 80,000 people are blaming them. Those guys work their tails off and they come in and are the first ones in here and the last to leave. When everyone else is taking a break from their practice, those guys are working and you see it paying off for those guys. It's really a cool thing.

It's kind of nice for you having guys that are 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds across the board.

Tolzien: Yeah, it really is. That's one thing that Wisconsin never struggled with, getting size up front. As a quarterback, that's always a good thing.

What are the expectations for you guys inside the locker room? Obviously coming off a 10-win season, a lot of people have early preseason stuff ranked in the top 15. How do you gear that in and are they realistic expectations?

Tolzien: Yeah, they're realistic as long as we put in the work each and every day. You know, the tough thing is that everyone is going to be telling us that great things are to be expected this year and I think it's up to us to throw that behind us and just keep working whether we were ranked high in the preseason or not ranked at all. Hope is not a method, so you've got to come out here and prepare each and every day whether it's spring ball or up in the film room.

Can that type of thing, if you let it affect you, really wear on a team. When you repeatedly hear that you guys are going to be good and have legitimate Big Ten title aspirations, could that make you complacent if you let it?

Tolzien: I think yeah, it's totally up to you, the individual. Then it's up to, in my opinion, the older guys to make sure that that's not the theme to be satisfied with some number on a piece of paper. We've just got to keep working. Spring ball is just a great time to practice our craft, whether you're a starter or whether you're third string, everybody is getting reps.

Did you add a little strength in your arm or anything? It looks like you have more zip on your throws.

Tolzien: No, it's probably just…I mean, it's practice three. My arm is still fresh now. Hopefully, the goal is to have it stay that way. You're always trying to get stronger during the offseason and I felt like I did that. I really don't know if my arm has gotten stronger. It's a good compliment I guess."

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