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Wilson bolsters Badgers’ QB situation

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Jeff Potrykus
August 2, 2011
— Less than six months ago, the University of Wisconsin’s football coaching staff suffered a bitter recruiting defeat when Jacoby Brissett, a dual-threat quarterback from West Palm Beach, Fla., chose Florida over UW.

Brissett might have been the jewel of UW’s 2011 freshman class.


The addition of former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson, who joined the UW program last month and is set to use his final season of eligibility this fall, could turn out to be a more significant coup for the staff.


Wilson still must beat out redshirt sophomore Jon Budmayr in camp, which opens Thursday.


However, Budmayr has three games on his college résumé; Wilson has 36 starts. In three seasons at North Carolina State, Wilson passed for 8,545 yards, 76 touchdowns and only 26 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,089 yards and 17 touchdowns.


The combination of his game experience and playmaking ability should allow Wilson to emerge from camp as the starter and place him among the better quarterbacks in the Big Ten Conference in 2011.


UW coach Bret Bielema insisted the starting job has not been promised to Wilson, who chose the Badgers over Auburn. However, Bielema made it clear the staff didn’t bring in the fifth-year senior to hold a clipboard.


“I told him as a guy with one year of eligibility: ‘I’m not bringing you in with the intention of seeing how you sit on the bench,’?” Bielema said. “I wouldn’t have gone down this path if it wasn’t someone I really respected as a person that I thought could handle this situation.”


If Wilson can wrestle the starting job away from Budmayr, who experienced growing pains during spring practice after playing sparingly in three games last season, the staff should be able to enter the season knowing it has adequately replaced departed senior Scott Tolzien.


“He is a gifted athlete,” Bielema said of Wilson. “Our offense is a little bit different now. You’ve got the play-action and the run-action that’s going on.


“In combination with his skills, it’s pretty special.”


How did Budmayr react when he learned the coaching staff had decided to pursue Wilson?


“I loved Jon’s reaction,” Bielema said. “He goes, ‘Coach, whatever happens, it’s not going to change the way I prepare.’?”


Tolzien won 21 of 26 games as a starter and last season completed 72.9 percent of his passes for 2,459 yards, with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He threw one interception every 44.3 passes.


Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst notes spring practice allows his quarterbacks the opportunity to learn what they can and can’t do.


Budmayr forced balls into coverage in the spring and too often the result was an interception. He completed 10 of 23 passes for 113 yards, with one interception, in the spring game.


The interception came because Budmayr locked in on his intended receiver and never saw cornerback Devin Smith drift over to make the play.


“I don’t think it would have been that great of a throw even if I had seen him,” Budmayr said after the spring game. “I was thinking we had it. Right as I threw it I saw Devin there, and it was one of those ones I could have run and batted down.


“They’re going to come throughout any quarterback’s career. The biggest thing is limiting those. All the successful quarterbacks, you see they have a very low amount of turnovers.”


Wilson’s interception totals at North Carolina State were 1 in 2008, 11 in 2009 and 14 last season. However, his pass attempts rose from 275 in 2008 to 378 in 2009 and to 527 last season.


He set an NCAA record for pass attempts without an interception (379), a streak that started in his freshman season in 2008 and ended in ’09. He also had a streak of 168 passes without an interception, which started in his sophomore season and ended last season. His 26 interceptions came on 1,180 passes, or one every 45.4 attempts.


“Probably the most impressive stat to me was the NCAA record for most pass attempts without an interception,” Bielema said. “He is very conscientious. The fact we led the nation (in) fewest penalties kind of fit into his mind-set, and I stressed that to him.?.?.?.


“The part that really jumps out to me is his ability to throw the long ball and be accurate on the run.


“It is going to be fun for us as coaches to watch him in fall camp to see what he can do.”



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