To suggest University of Wisconsin sophomore quarterback Jon Budmayr is prepared for the opportunity in front of him doesn't begin to cover it.

Budmayr has spent most of the past three football seasons on the sidelines as a spectator, waiting for this chance.

He lost almost his entire senior year at Marian Catholic High School in Woodstock, Ill., with a fractured right collarbone suffered in the first quarter of the first game. That prevented him from throwing until December.

After enrolling early at UW in January 2009, he went through spring practices, then suffered a partially torn muscle in his right forearm in the first week of camp, which shut him down for eight weeks during his redshirt year.

Last season, he stayed healthy and was the backup to senior Scott Tolzien but only played at the end of blowout victories against Austin Peay, Indiana and Northwestern.

"I came here to play," Budmayr said. "That's what I want to do."

He will get the chance this year and enters spring practices, which start Tuesday, as the prohibitive favorite to win the job vacated by Tolzien.

Budmayr and redshirt freshman Joe Brennan will get most of the work in the 15 spring practices while junior Curt Phillips continues to rehabilitate from a second torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Phillips suffered the first injury last spring, then tore it again seven months later, on Nov. 9, during a practice.

With Phillips not expected to resume practicing until fall camp, UW coach Bret Bielema acknowledged recently it won't be much of a race during the spring, with Budmayr a clear-cut No. 1.

"Curt's not going to be in it full go," Bielema said. "Jon's just so much more advanced right now. ... This is his third spring now, going through it. That's a huge benefit, to come in at the time he did. The rewards are right now."

The other big benefit for Budmayr was spending the past two years studying under Tolzien. Budmayr soaked up everything he could to the end.

"His preparation is second to none," Budmayr said of Tolzien in an interview two days before the Rose Bowl. "He's up there (football offices) all the time, watching film. One of the things I've been able to take advantage of is being up there with him, learning how to prepare for a game. ... He does it better than anybody."

The Badgers go into the spring needing to replace five starters from the Rose Bowl on both offense and defense, though much of the focus will be on the quarterback.

"That's something I know I personally embrace, that opportunity," Budmayr said. "It's kind of a challenge. I just want to go out there and take advantage of each day this spring and take that into fall camp."

Tolzien has no reservations about the group of quarterbacks fighting to be his successor.

"I think they're going to be just fine because of how hard they work and how smart they are as quarterbacks and the feel they have for the game," Tolzien said.

"It's going to be a bright future. Like anything else, it's going to take time. I truly trust the preparation and the work. Those guys know how to do that. That's why I think they're going to be successful."

Still, there's nothing like getting into a game, which Budmayr was excited to do last season. His most memorable moment was a 74-yard touchdown pass to Jared Abbrederis against Indiana, which generated a bit of controversy given UW was ahead 69-13 at the time, in a game the Badgers went on to win 83-20.

"Game experience is second to none," Budmayr said. "You can't simulate that anywhere else. Just getting in there and being able to play, just getting a feel for college football, that was fun.

"Then, learning from Scott, the preparation, I think I really learned how to prepare each week for a game and be ready to go and have that confidence going into a game."

 

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