No, this isn’t the Friday night bi-annual visit to Deja Vu where Bielema “prepares” for the Golden Gophers game. Instead, Bielema hopes a case of deja vu leads the Badgers back to the Rose Bowl. Dipping into the well like Jeremy Roenick cutting across the crease going opposite corner in NHL ’94, Bielema has scooped up another “free agent” quarterback: Danny O’Brien.
Taking advantage of a loophole in eligibility requirements, O’Brien is taking his talents to the farmland for his two remaining years of eligibility after graduating from Maryland in three years – Tommy Boy he is not. A weird rule allows any player that graduates with eligibility left to transfer to another school and not sit out a year (which is normally required for a transfer) so long as the “student”-athlete enrolls in a graduate program that is not offered at his original school. Make sense? Of course it doesn’t. But, I’d like to think that this loophole plays right into the Badgers hands. Why you ask? Because there has to be a masters program in cheese-making, brewery, dairy-farming, or the like that other schools – like Maryland and N.C. State – of course don’t offer. Since the student part of student-athlete is an afterthought in the modern era of college sports, this is a loophole the Badgers should capitalize on.
Trying the rule out for a one-year rental of Russell Wilson worked out quite well. So, why not try it for a two-year rental. O’Brien comes to UW with similar high accolades – having earned ACC rookie of the year honors in 2010 after leading the Terps to a 9-4 record behind 2,438 yards and 22 TD’s. And those 22 TD’s were offset by only 8 picks. Alas, the rookie year did not lead to bigger and better things in his sophomore year: 10 picks to just 7 TD’s. A broken non-throwing arm (mercifully) ended his season early in November. (Don’t worry. The injury did not require surgery and is healed… until he does his first keg stand at the Mifflin Block party.)
So, what exactly are the Badgers getting in Danny Boy? Are the Badgers getting the 22/8 version or the 7/10 version? Well, there’s some reason for optimism that Danny Boy is more like his freshman year than this past season. Last year was marred by a couple factors: (1) the coaching staff that recruited him to Maryland left after his first season, and (2) the new coaching staff not only implemented a new system (a run-and-shoot type offense compared to the pro-style offense he was recruited to quarterback), but also tinkered with the lineup to the extent of playing two QB’s during the game. Reports indicate that O’Brien can make it rain out there. During his freshman campaign, he showed a nice touch on throws, and could also zip it into some smaller windows. Remember, he was a freshman doing this.
Still, Bielema maintains the quarterback position is not promised to anyone. (Uh-huh, sure Bret.) The truth is: this is O’Brien’s job to lose. And this is based on both O’Brien’s limited track record at Maryland and the lack of options behind him. Before O’Briens signing – whoops, I meant transfer – the Badgers had only two healthy arms: Joe Brennan and Joel Stave. The other two signal-callers on the roster – Jon Budmayr and Curt Philips – are injured and their status for the fall is unknown still. Little is known about any of these quarterbacks ability to play at a high level in major college football. Getting Danny Boy was a coup, to say the least.
O’Brien, of course, will be compared to Wilson considering how both arrived on campus. But, O’Brien is not the next Wilson. One key difference Badgers fans will notice immediately between the two is the size and athleticism. Wilson is 6’0″ (allegedly) and could pull the ball down and run, and catch for that matter. O’Brien is 6’3″, 215 lbs., and not known for his running. He’s a more of a pure quarterback. Wilson was known for being a leader, and the verdict is still out regarding O’Brien’s leadership skills. O’Brien will always be linked to Wilson, but he’d be smart to quash all comparisons coming his way because it will be difficult to match Wilson’s success.
Bielema was smart getting O’Brien and he appears to be a good fit for what the Badgers need. So, Badger faithful, let’s raise up our Spotted Cow and toast to the President of UW for making this a unique graduate level study that allows Bielema to sign these college free agents. And, maybe if we’re lucky, two years of success following major free agent acquisitions could rub off on TT next off-season! (We can hope, can’t we!)