Should Wisconsin pursue Russell Wilson?

May, 9, 2011
5/09/11
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In case you've been living in a Big Ten bubble -- which is totally OK, by the way -- an ACC quarterback likely is available for the 2011 season.

A very, very good quarterback.

[+] EnlargeNC State's Russell Wilson
Mitch Stringer/US PRESSWIRERussell Wilson passed for 3,563 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for NC State last season. He also rushed for nine scores.
Russell Wilson has been granted his release from NC State and is "95 percent" certain he'll play college football next season. Wilson also has signed as an infielder with the Colorado Rockies and has been playing ball for the Class A Asheville (N.C.) Tourists. The Rockies expect Wilson to remain with the Tourists until early September, which likely would end his gridiron hopes for the fall.

But as colleague Ted Miller points out: "If Wilson really wants to play football, he will."

Because Wilson has graduated, he would be eligible to play immediately for another FBS program. Not surprisingly, more than a few schools have contacted the Wolfpack star about transferring, including a handful of SEC programs. The SEC appears to be the likeliest destination for Wilson, a Richmond, Va., native.

But what about the Big Ten? Could Wilson suit up for a Big Ten squad this season?

When I look at the Big Ten's quarterback landscape, Wisconsin makes by far the most sense for Wilson. Both sides could benefit from a move.

The Badgers are solid to excellent at most positions and have a very realistic shot at repeating as Big Ten champions and further elevating their national profile. But the big concern with Bucky rests at the quarterback spot. Jon Budmayr endured his ups and downs this spring, and all of the Badgers' signal callers struggled in the spring game. Budmayr is the only Wisconsin quarterback with game experience, and with Curt Phillips sidelined for the season, he likely won't be challenged for the top job in fall camp.

Wilson certainly would provide a challenge -- and another option for Wisconsin. He said he wants a fair shot to win a starting job, and Wisconsin could provide him one in August. If anything, Wilson could be insurance for coach Bret Bielema.

There's some risk for Wisconsin. Bringing in Wilson could damage Budmayr's confidence. It could create problems in the locker room that aren't there now. It could totally backfire.

But this also is an opportunity for Wisconsin to seize the moment. The Big Ten's power balance could be shifting depending on how the Ohio State/NCAA situation sorts out. Who knows if the Buckeyes can keep it together amid all the distractions this fall? If Wisconsin can win the Leaders division and the Big Ten title, it might become the team to beat in its division for years to come.

Wisconsin might be able to do all of this with Budmayr at the helm. He's a likable kid with a live arm and the chance to be good. My concern is what happens to Wisconsin if Budmayr struggles or goes down with an injury. Who pushes Budmayr? Who steps in? In 2008, we saw what happens to Wisconsin when it lacks stability under center.

Wilson would make a lot of folks feel better about Wisconsin's quarterback situation. This isn't a situation in which a starting job is promised. Wilson will have to catch up fast no matter where he lands.

Again, I'd be surprised if Wilson leaves ACC/SEC country to play football this fall. But if he wants to play for a contender and possibly be the missing piece in a title run, he could end up in worse spots than Madison.

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