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Wisconsin could reveal surprise backfield today

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

If you picked Scott Tolzien and Zach Brown to form Wisconsin's starting offensive backfield before training camp, hop on the first flight to Las Vegas.

Wisconsin will reveal its depth chart for the season opener at some point this morning, but Tolzien and Brown are expected to occupy the top spots at quarterback and running back, respectively. It's an unlikely pairing, to say the least, and further proves that nothing is guaranteed in preseason camp and strong performances are rewarded.

Both Tolzien and Brown looked like long shots for the starting jobs after the spring.

The quarterback race appeared to be between senior Dustin Sherer, who started the final seven games last fall, and versatile redshirt freshman Curt Phillips. After talking with offensive coordinator Paul Chryst last month, I wasn't surprised to see Phillips leapfrog Sherer in the pecking order. Last week, Wisconsin gave Phillips more reps with the first-team offense. Right around the same time, Tolzien started to make a push. While Phillips continued to struggle with his consistency, throwing four interceptions in Saturday's scrimmage, Tolzien continued his steady play.

Head coach Bret Bielema says he'll likely use multiple quarterbacks in the Sept. 5 opener against Northern Illinois, but Tolzien could walk out there first. Chryst obviously wanted to see more clarity in this year's QB race than last year's, when he "felt it was [won] a little bit by default." With all the shuffling, I'm not sure Wisconsin achieved separation, but Bielema sounded pleased with his quarterbacks following Wednesday's scrimmage.
"It's not like we've got a situation where we don't know who we are putting in there," Bielema said. "We're trying to find the best fit. I'm comfortable with what helps us win. Asked last spring if I'd ever play a two-headed monster at quarterback I said no. That pretty much would be my preference.

"But when you have [multiple] players playing well -- and I'm not saying we're at that point -- but if that is what it is, then that's what it is and you move forward."Brown might have pulled the bigger upset in supplanting John Clay for the top running back job. Though Brown certainly had some solid credentials, Clay finished as the Big Ten's seventh leading rusher last fall and was pegged as the obvious heir apparent to P.J. Hill. Clay's size, ferocious running style and local roots make him a fan favorite, but Brown simply outplayed him this month.

I can't say I saw this coming, but it certainly adds intrigue to the start of a critical season for Wisconsin.