After spending most of last season watching Tyler Donovan exceed expectations with his toughness and surprising big-play ability, Allan Evridge is getting his turn.
Evridge takes over as Wisconsin's starting quarterback as the No. 13-ranked Badgers host Akron in both teams' season opener at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.
A senior who sat out the 2006 season after transferring from Kansas State, Evridge was beaten out for the starting job by Donovan and played mostly in mop-up situations last year. With Donovan moving on, Evridge narrowly won the Badgers' quarterback derby this year.
``Allan's done the most to earn this right to start, and that's where he's going to be,'' Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. ``You know, it was great for us because last year, during fall camp, there was a point in time where we really felt Allan was going to be the guy over T.D.''
Evridge might not be quite as mobile as Donovan, but has a strong arm and is capable of making big plays if he is able to nail down his timing with a group of receivers led by the highly regarded Travis Beckum, a potential NFL tight end who is listed as an H-back on the Badgers' depth chart, and tight end Garrett Graham.
As is usually the case with Wisconsin, Evridge also should have a strong running game to rely on.
``It's always nice to look behind you and see a slew of backs,'' Evridge said. ``You look to the left and you see Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham. There are tremendous athletes everywhere. We just have to continue to work and become one cohesive unit.''
Wisconsin's running game is led by P.J. Hill, but backup Zach Brown also could see significant playing time. Akron coach J.D. Brookhart expects Wisconsin to try to steamroll his team.
``Wisconsin is not going to spread the field and try a quarterback run,'' Brookhart said. ``They use his mobility to escape and run play action. They have good skill and speed at receiver. They are going to run the ball, take their shots and feel their way through the first game.''
The Zips came close to upsetting the Badgers at Camp Randall in 2003, narrowing Wisconsin's lead to three with 11 minutes to go before giving up two late scores.
This year's Akron team features a dangerous return game led by Bryan Williams and Andre Johnson. Williams ranked second in the NCAA in kick return average last season and Jones ranked 11th in the NCAA in punt returns.
But Akron's lackluster offensive and defensive production last season don't suggest a potential upset on Saturday. One example of the potential mismatch: All five Badgers offensive line starters weigh more than 300 pounds.
``They have got a big line, several tight ends and running backs that are about the size of guards for most teams,'' Brookhart said. ``They are talented, indeed, and their running back situation is pretty secure. They have a 230-pound tailback, a 250-pound fullback and some good tight ends, one of whom is extremely good at receiving.''
Wisconsin center John Moffit embraces the Badgers' run-first identity.
``Our reputation is built on running the ball,'' Moffit said. ``It's a great feeling to pound it out and take out your aggressions on a guy and blow them out.''
That's the kind of bravado the Badgers carried into last season, but the end result didn't match the high expectations. The Badgers went 9-4 and earned another victory in the Capitol One Bowl, but seemed to crumble in the clutch and were surprisingly vulnerable on defense.
``Guys have humbled themselves,'' linebacker DeAndre Levy said. ``Last year we came in thinking that things were going to be given to us last year because of the high expectations. This year people have a chip on their shoulder. They know we've got to work for it.''
Levy said the defense is drawing on last season for motivation.
``We've seen the mistakes that we've made,'' Levy said. ``The missed opportunities we've seen and the potential, too. I think that's the biggest thing. We've seen what we could've done and how easily we could have been a great defense. It came down to a play here and there getting off the field, making this tackle or that tackle.''
The defense's darkest moment of last season might have been a 31-26 loss at Illinois. The offense could point to a 38-7 loss at Penn State.
``We left a lot of things on the field,'' Beckum said. ``We made too many mistakes which cost us games. We just shot ourselves in the foot. Take Penn State, we just got our butts kicked. But in the other games, we left things on the field. Our biggest fear was we were going to beat ourselves and I think we did.''
Hill is happy to start over.
``It's great to be back and staring from scratch,'' Hill said. ``We're eager to play our first game. On the first day of camp, we wanted more than our helmets. We wanted to go after it right away.''

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