Bret Bielema announced over the weekend that junior quarterback Danny O'Brien, the Maryland transfer who's eligible to play immediately for the Badgers, has officially been named the starting quarterback.
And since this is Bret Bielema we're talking about, it should come as no surprise that the coach made his announcement via Twitter. It's a brave new world we're living in, folks.
Also had so many questions about our QB situation that want everyone to know we are going to start Danny O'Brien in our opener against UNI.— Bret Bielema (@BretBielema) August 20, 2012
Both Curt and Joel had great camps as well, we are very fortunate that we have 3 QB's that can play winning football for us. On Wisconsin!— Bret Bielema (@BretBielema) August 20, 2012
Now, what's important to reiterate is that Danny O'Brien isn't going to be the same quarterback Russell Wilson was for Wisconsin. Wilson's currently in the NFL making Seattle's decision to pay $8 million a year for Matt Flynn look ridiculous, so that's a high bar to clear to begin with. But more broadly, these guys' skill sets aren't the same.
What sets O'Brien apart, however, is his preparation and accuracy. Wisconsin's defense isn't great, but it certainly isn't bad either, and O'Brien has been shredding it in practice. As a matter of fact, per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, O'Brien has thrown all of one interception in over 300 passes in practice, and even that one he (jokingly) blames on Bielema.
O’Brien entered the team’s closed scrimmage Saturday with one interception in camp. That came Friday morning during a seven-on-seven drill during which linebacker Ethan Armstrong jumped a sideline route.
The turnover came one day after Bielema informed observers at the team’s Thursday practice O’Brien had yet to throw an interception.
“He jinxed it,” O’Brien said with a wide grin. “First one of camp and it was almost 300 throws.
“I was trying not to talk about it or think about it. The other quarterbacks would always bring it up to try and jinx me.”
And when it comes to preparation, here's what his high school coach had to say to the Wisconsin State Journal after O'Brien signed with Wisconsin:
"I think Danny, being a student of the game, that will help him. That makes up for some of the athleticism he doesn't have. He's so smart, he studies film, he'll know everything about the opponents. The first thing he'll be trying to do is watch film and get ready for those first games right away."
That echoes this feature on O'Brien by the ACC before the 2011 season, which highlights his game study before anything else that happens on the field:
And most of all, no, O'Brien's not on Wilson's level of athleticism. But like the great pocket passers of college and pro football, he uses his feet efficiently both in and out of the pocket to set up throws downfield, as shown in this highlight package Maryland put together before his sophomore season.
So what Wisconsin's going to get out of O'Brien is a well-disciplined, smart-on-his-feet quarterback. That's going to help before the snap, when he'll be able to identify defensive sets and audibles into a more favorable play. It's going to help at the snap as he recognizes the coverage as it unfolds. It'll help after the snap when he's able to buy time in the pocket against the rush.
And he throws a pretty decent ball too.
Really, Wisconsin doesn't need a Howitzer-armed Super-Matt-Barkley at quarterback this year. That'd be nice, obviously, but it's not a necessity for the Badgers to put together another monster season. They've got what they need at quarterback with O'Brien under center, and as long as he stays healthy, it should be another great year in Madison.
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