Life without Russell Wilson doesn't look very promising right now for Wisconsin.
Not only are the Badgers getting acclimated to a new offensive staff, but Bret Bielema's squad has major issues under center after it was revealed that potential new starting quarterback Jon Budmayr would miss spring practice due to a nerve in his right elbow not properly healing. In addition, freshman Bart Houston has been knocked out of spring drills because he needs surgery on his right throwing arm.
So now, Joe Brennan is the de facto starter entering the start of spring practice March 22 after appearing in six games last season as Wilson's backup, attempting only 15 passes in mop-up duty in 2011. Redshirt freshman and former walk-on Joel Stave will be the last healthy body in camp, as Curt Phillips is still dealing with a health issue after missing each of the last two seasons while trying to come back from multiple knee injuries. He is, however, expected to participate in the spring in some capacity.
ICONBret Bielema and the Badgers have issues under center.
With so much uncertainty and a lack of experience at quarterback, former Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien would be a tremendous addition for this football team and new offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
There's no question that the Badgers would instantly improve the quarterback position with the 6-3, 215-pound O'Brien, who went 7-3 as a starter in his ACC debut season. He passed for 2,438 yards with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions that season, and his efficiency rating of 134.5 ranked fifth nationally among FBS freshmen. Running the Terps' pro-style offense, he looked poised to continue his success in College Park. However, a change in offensive philosophy hurt his development.
Maryland began running the spread under Gary Crowton after Franklin assumed the Vandy head job, and O'Brien struggled a bit with his reads, especially early in the year. It also didn't help that top receivers Torrey Smith and Adrian Cannon moved onto the NFL, leaving big voids at receiver. He passed for 1,648 yards with 10 interceptions and seven touchdowns in nine games, losing his starting job to C.J. Brown before suffering a broken bone in his non-throwing arm in a loss to Notre Dame.
While the former ACC newcomer of the year would not be able to arrive in Madison until the summer, the fact that he would miss spring practice wouldn't be so detrimental considering he's a smart player who would be able to pick up the offense quickly as Wilson did last year when he arrived late in the summer. The most important thing is he will be able to play immediately and he'd give the Badgers stability at the position because he has two years of eligibility remaining. And the new offensive staff will run the team's traditional pro-style offense that matches O'Brien's strong skill set.
Could O'Brien, who has also been linked to Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Stanford, Washington, Arizona, South Florida and Mississippi, help lead the Badgers to yet another trip to the Rose Bowl? That remains to be seen. But he certainly would give Bielema & Co. a top option at the QB position to add to an offense that already features a stud running back, strong offensive line and capable receivers.
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