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Lockout Benefits Young Chargers QB

Accurate Tolzien makes most of urgent tempo



    Lockout Benefits Young Chargers QB

    Count Scott Tolzien, an undrafted quarterback from Wisconsin, as a beneficiary of the NFL lockout.

    When the 4½-month stalemate pushed back training camp for certain free agents, among them Chargers backup quarterback Billy Volek, coach Norv Turner had to groom another quarterback.

    Tolzien, 23, has reaped the windfall: Seven days of intense practices amid several Chargers starters and second-stringers.

    "The one thing that's nice about the lockout," Tolzien said, "is there's an added sense of urgency. It kind of forces you to respond to that, and really challenges you to use your time wisely because you've got to learn it faster. A lot of times, that will bring out the best in you."

    Thursday, when the veteran Volek will make his first practice at Chargers Park, Tolzien will have gone through a crash course of NFL Quarterbacking 101 under one of the league's quarterback gurus.

    "So far," Turner said, "I like the decisions he's making."

    Just two years ago, Tolzien was third on Wisconsin's depth chart. He won the job, then went 21-5 as a starter over his junior and senior years.

    Undrafted, he signed a non-guaranteed deal with the Chargers, who didn't have a quarterback behind Volek.

    As he did with Wisconsin, Tolzien is drawing on his smarts and true aim to counter shortcomings in arm strength and footspeed.

    "The thing that kind of intrigued us about Scott was his accuracy," said Chargers director of player personnel Jimmy Raye.

    Tolzien had an influential man in his corner, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who coached under Turner in 2001 and recommended him to the Chargers. "Scott had some familiarity already with what we were doing (on offense)," Raye said. "He was a good leader, and he kind of had that moxie that you like to see in a quarterback."

    Between the ears, Tolzien is better than he is at outrunning defenders.

    "I felt like he was a smart quarterback," said Chargers rookie linebacker Jonas Mouton, who started for Michigan and faced Tolzien in the Big Ten. "In gameplanning, I felt like he wasn't going to make too many mistakes and put the ball in harm's way. He was one of the better quarterbacks in the Big Ten."

    Turner calls Tolzien's pass release "very quick." Anticipation skills honed by good coaches since his high school days, Tolzien said, speed up his play. "You've got to know where your guys are going and what the defense is trying to do before any of your physical attributes come in to play," said the quarterback. "That's a part of the game that you have to take pride in, because otherwise you're not giving yourself a chance."

    For all of his success last year as a senior -- a 72 percent completion rate, 16 touchdowns and only six interceptions -- Tolzien said he's still troubled by the outcome of his final college game, the 21-19 loss to Texas Christian in the Rose Bowl.

    "Just because we worked so hard to get there," he said of Wisconsin's first trip to Pasadena since the 2000 Rose Bowl.

    The vision of Badgers tight end Jacob Pedersen unguarded in the end zone, awaiting Tolzien's pass with the game on the line, is part of what still bugs the quarterback.

    "It was man coverage and no one guarded him," Tolzien said. "He was just standing there, wide open at the front of the end zone, literally five yards from me."

    But Tolzien's pass never got there. Speedy TCU linebacker Tank Carder, whose blitzes had thwarted other plays as well, swatted the pass to scuttle the potential tying two-point conversion.

    "That guy was a heck of a player," Tolzien said. "He was all over the field that day. He was everywhere, and he made a great play at the end of the game.

    "We came up short," Tolzien said, "but I stand here now, and you learn a lot more from the losses than you do the wins. I know all of us on our Wisconsin team could say the same thing."