Wisconsin's Tolzien steady as he goes

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The term game manager makes most quarterbacks cringe, especially in this era of silly stats and gimmicky offenses.

Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien has a different opinion.

"I take that as a compliment," he said. "If you're managing games, usually that's a good thing for your team. If someone wants to call me a game manager, I'm completely fine with that."

Badgers head coach Bret Bielema decided to call Tolzien his starting quarterback, and the 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior from Rolling Meadows, Ill., will lead the offense onto the field for Saturday's opener against Northern Illinois. Redshirt freshman Curt Phillips also is expected to see time for Wisconsin, but Tolzien has earned the first opportunity.

Tolzien seemed like an afterthought in the quarterback competition entering preseason camp. Senior Dustin Sherer started the final seven games last season, and Phillips came on strong toward the end of spring practice and inched ahead in the race midway through fall camp.

But Tolzien picked up his play during the second full week of practice and gradually won over the coaches with his steadiness and consistency.

"My game is just playing steady, sound football," Tolzien said. "I felt like doing that would give me the best chance to win [the competition]. And also, just trying not to take the game too seriously, going out there and having fun with it."

Maintaining a relaxed approach isn't easy during a scrutinized quarterback competition, especially one for a team that needs improved play under center this fall. Then again, Tolzien has been through this before.

He competed with Sherer and eventual starter Allan Evridge last year and was a redshirt freshman when Evridge and Sherer lost out to Tyler Donovan in 2007.

"I've been around that and learned from the past on how to deal with it," Tolzien said. "Each year, you're supposed to get wiser, and I felt like I learned a lot from that, learned not to take it too serious and don't make it more than just a game."

After two seasons on the sideline, Tolzien saw his first game action last fall, completing 5 of 8 passes for 107 yards and an interception in three appearances. He also rushed for 13 yards and a touchdown.

Despite his limited experience, Tolzien isn't concerned about cracking in the spotlight. Often described as a heady player, his mental approach and consistency could be his biggest strengths.

"He just handled the whole camp a little bit better than anybody else, just the composure of day-to-day business," Bielema said. "But on the same account, he showed me an improved accuracy in throwing the football, did a better job than he did in the spring of handling everything that came at him, from pressures to getting things right at the line of scrimmage.

"I'm excited to see him go out there and play Saturday."

Asked if Tolzien fits the game manager mold, Bielema laughed.

"That's why we made the move," the coach said. "We hope he is."

And Tolzien seems just fine with the title.