Russell Wilson did more than lead Wisconsin to a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl appearance. He made Wisconsin a top destination for transfers.
Head coach Bret Bielema said in December that the staff had heard from about 10 players interested in transferring to Wisconsin, twice the number usually interested in heading to Mad-town. One of them, Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist, ended up transferring to Kansas after visiting both KU and Wisconsin.
There's another quarterback transfer on the table, and like Wilson, he's leaving an ACC program. Like Wilson, he's on track to graduate and would be able to play immediately.
So where is O'Brien headed?
From The Baltimore Sun:
Those close to O'Brien said Wisconsin, Stanford and Vanderbilt could be among his transfer options. It's not known whether those schools are interested.
His release excludes Vanderbilt, meaning that's not an option. It also excludes upcoming ACC opponents as well as upcoming nonconference opponents such as West Virginia and Temple. Maryland, which was 2-10 last year, opens the season against William & Mary on Sept. 1.
Just to clarify, O'Brien could rejoin former Maryland assistant James Franklin at Vanderbilt, but he couldn't receive a scholarship from the school. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that O'Brien has yet to contact Wisconsin.
Wisconsin certainly could use another quarterback, especially one with starting experience in a BCS automatic-qualifying conference. Jon Budmayr and Curt Phillips both are coming off of major injuries, and Joel Stave, Joe Brennan and incoming freshman Bart Houston all are unproven.
While O'Brien struggled in 2011, completing just 56.4 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions, his issues could be traced, at least in part, to the team's spread offense. O'Brien fared better in the pro-style system Maryland ran in 2010, when he earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors and passed for 2,438 yards with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He wouldn't have to worry about playing in the spread at Wisconsin, which will keep its pro-style system despite a coordinator change.
Wisconsin doesn't want to get in a habit of taking transfer quarterbacks every year. But like in 2011, there's a glaring need at quarterback for the Badgers, who have some excellent pieces on offense, namely Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball. While it's unrealistic to expect another Wilson to walk through the door, Wisconsin doesn't need a first-team All-Big Ten quarterback to win the Leaders division in 2012.
The Badgers need options under center, and O'Brien would give them another.