Fruehauf going off


Story by Steve Fruehauf, Staff Writer

As Russell Wilson, last year’s Big Ten Quarterback of the Year prepares for his first NFL start with the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday, his alma mater Wisconsin looked to a new face; junior Danny O’Brien to lead the team in their home opener against Northern Iowa Saturday.

The Maryland transfer beat out senior Curt Phillips and redshirt freshman Joel Stave for the Badgers’ starting quarterback position. But after two polar opposite seasons with the Terrapins, talk about the junior’s possible success with his new team has rightfully been under question.

O’Brien received 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year honors his freshman season, throwing for 22 touchdowns and just over 2,500 yards. But the inability to adapt to a new offensive coordinator’s spread scheme and an arm injury late in the year lead to a very disappointing sophomore season, winning only 2 games and throwing nearly 1,000 yards less than the year before.

Luckily for us Badgers fans, it looked like the O’Brien of old made his way to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison for his season debut. The quarterback threw for 219 yards including two touchdowns to solidify a 26-21 opening day victory over the Panthers of Northern Iowa. His success was in large part due to Wisconsin’s offense mirroring the one O’Brien exhibited his freshman year with the Terrapins.

But the big question prior to the Saturday’s game was how O’Brien would compare to the Wilson of 2011. When comparing the ACC transfers, statistics show that O’Brien had a better arm, at least his freshman year. He threw for just under 500 yards more than Wilson along with an additional five touchdowns.

Wilson’s outstanding run game is something O’Brien needs to improve on if he wants to open up the field and win more games. In the meantime, he has last year’s Heisman Finalist Montee Ball (who ran for 120 yards including one touchdown on 32 carries in yesterday’s win) to look to for run support.

As for the twelfth ranked team in the country, they’ll need to lean on their defense more than last year and look to their wide receivers for more production, but I’m confident that they’ll have a winning season with the group they have. Although, I’m not yet convinced Wisconsin will sit atop the ultra-competitive Big Ten conference or have as good a year as they did with a multi-talented Wilson in 2011. But it’s possible.