A freshman All-American in 2010 under Ralph Friedgen, Danny O’ Brien‘s performance took a precipitous drop in 2011 under Randy Edsall and the quarterback ultimately transferred from Maryland to Wisconsin.
The Badgers were hoping, after losing one-year rental Russell Wilson, they had gotten the ’10 O’ Brien model. Instead, at least early on, it appears they have gotten the newer, less reliable model.
O’ Brien is ranked just 75th in the country in passing efficiency through three games, with the low point of the start of his Badgers’ career coming in the close shave against Utah State. An O’ Brien fumble — the QB has turned the ball over three times in a game and a half — helped the Badgers dig a 14-3 first-half hole against the Aggies, and prompted head coach Bret Bielema to yank O’ Brien in favor of backup Joel Stave. While Stave didn’t even remotely set a fire under the UW passing attack — he completed 2-of-6 passes for 15 yards — he was under center as the Badgers scored two third-quarter touchdowns — one on a punt return — and was able to stave off (see what I did there?) the Aggies the rest of the way for a 16-14 win.
While the coaching staff has yet to publicly name a starter for this weekend’s game against UTEP, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that offensive coordinator Matt Canada‘s “desire to ensure the players aren’t wary of losing their position too quickly suggests Danny O’Brien will retain the No. 1 job for at least another week.” Canada intimated that he doesn’t want his players in general and O’ Brien specifically to be looking over their shoulders.
“I don’t think that is anything I’ve ever been a part of, and I don’t think that is anything coach (Bielema) has been a part of, having a quick trigger and have guys worry,” Canada said. “If that was the case, it would have happened [in the game against Oregon State]. That’s not how I want a guy to play.”
When an official decision on the starter will be made is unclear.
The drama surrounding the quarterback situation is the latest in what’s been a rough start to the 2012 season for the Badgers.
Following a narrow five-point win over FBS program Northern Iowa in the opener, UW “parted ways” with its offensive line coach. The following week, the Badgers went out and lost to unranked Oregon State. The next week saw the Badgers struggle with a member of the WAC.
Montee Ball, a Heisman finalist in 2011 and a preseason favorite for the award entering this year, is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and scored just two touchdowns. The past two seasons, the running back averaged more than 6.2 ypc and scored 51 touchdowns on the ground.
Aside from all that, all is well in Madison.