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August 1, 2011

Fall outlook: Quarterbacks

MADISON - The pomp and circumstance surrounding the most important position on the field, in regards to Wisconsin football, has been deafening throughout the off-season months.

Not that that's a bad thing - landing a bona fide, established star is anything but negative - because if anything, even if the experiment with Russell Wilson turns out to be a disaster, it has brought plenty of national spotlight to Madison.

From all accounts, while this move is absolutely unprecedented at UW, the Wilson addition has gone about as smoothly as it possibly could. The players gearing up for the 2011 season that have been around for a while seem to be adhering to Wilson as a player and person.

He's quality all around.

"He's meshed really well with the guys," UW senior wide receiver Nick Toon said at last week's Big Ten Meetings. "People liked him right away and it feels like he's been with us for a while. I know guys were all excited to work with him and we're happy to have him as part of the Wisconsin family."

For Toon, a player that is returning from a season he tabbed as being personally 'disappointing,' the addition of Wilson is one that should be clearly exciting for him. He adds so many dimensions to the UW offense's repertoire that a guy like Toon could flourish even more than he has in the past.

Though he's not your typical Badger quarterback, he'll fit into Paul Chryst's system without a hitch. It may be modified more than it has before, but with all the returning parts, especially at the skill positions, UW's offense will be dynamic once again simply because Wilson has the ability to create things with both his legs and arm. And more importantly, using his career at NC State as the standard, he's not shy about being a multi-dimensional player.

"When you look at some of the ways we missed plays last year it was a lot of sacks that were missed," UW senior defensive tackle Patrick Butrym said. "Going against him, he's going to keep you honest when you rush the passer. It's going to be nice going against a guy that moves around back there and not be afraid to take off if you slip a little bit. I'm excited for that opportunity.

"He's not the most typical Wisconsin quarterback, but we've said this before, we don't need him to be spectacular for us to be spectacular. He just needs to play his game and be in our system. When it's his chance to make a play, make it."

Chances are there will be more spectacular moments from Wilson than underwhelming ones. There's nothing to suggest otherwise.

Burning question

What about Jon Budmayr?

Budmayr has said all the right things, he seems to be handling the process in stride and he plans to compete during camp with hopes of keeping the same starting quarterback spot he held at the end of spring camp.

But you'd have to be completely nave and remiss to think that there wasn't, at least at some point, some thoughts that crossed his mind. If you finished spring camp as the No. 1 starter, only to have your team go out and get another guy, often viewed as being better than you, wouldn't that be reason to get upset?

But he's never shown a glimpse of that in public. He knows how lacking the depth was at the position. He knows he hadn't proven anything on the field as of yet and now he knows he'll have another opportunity to get better behind an established signal caller.

That's a great approach, and one that should have any Badger fan excited about the future with Budmayr.

"I think Budmayr will have a much better camp now that (Wilson) will be around," Butrym said. "Jon will have to compete. He'll have a good camp and he'll be a better player because of it. I'm excited for him, too and to see his approach going into camp. I had a chance to speak with him and he said it's going to be exactly the same."

On the rise

Joel Stave

Considering he was the truest form of a true freshman - enrolling early to get extra reps during spring camp - Stave was overtly impressive back in March and April. He displayed that he has a natural knack for productivity at the quarterback position. He wasn't perfect by any means, but he proved that there is plenty of potential there. Assuming he'll continue to progress, he'll be a guy that will eventually contribute to the team in some capacity.

Stock falling:

Joe Brennan

Brennan didn't necessarily have a bad spring camp, but he didn't exactly have a great one either. He was very erratic throughout camp with at least one bad day casting a dark cloud over any of the good one he had. There was just a lack of consistency from Brennan. Considering it was his first spring camp as a Badger those irregularities come to be expected. Will he bounce back this fall? That remains to be seen.

The most interesting man

Russell Wilson

He hasn't been made available to the media that often. He hasn't had a chance to work with any of the coaches during the summer. He hasn't operated within the Badger system yet and he hasn't won the starting job according to his head coach, Bret Bielema. There are just so many unknowns surrounding Wilson that won't be answered until fall camp opens later this week.

Key competition:

The battle for the starting gig

Bielema clearly wouldn't bring Wilson in, and Wilson wouldn't have committed to Wisconsin, if he wasn't the projected starting quarterback. Where the so-called 'competition' will be interesting resides around Budmayr. How will he handle such a unique situation? How will he handle the possibility of being knocked down on the depth chart? Again, we won't fully know until camp wears on.

Noteworthy

Wilson comes to Wisconsin following three-straight years as an All-ACC performer at NC State, including a first-team distinction as a freshman.

Quote worthy:

Patrick Butrym on what Wilson brings to the table

"It will be a little different than going after Tolzien. He had a presence in the pocket, but I wasn't too concerned about him taking off. He could move around the pocket and not get sacked. But Russell, that will bring a new element. That will definitely make us better pass rushers. He'll be moving around out there. We go against great quarterbacks in this league that can run a lot. If he can do that and use his legs that will make us better players, too."



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