Aside from Ohio State's implosion, the signing of Wilson, the former three-year standout quarterback with N.C. State, to play one season with the Badgers was the biggest story of the offseason, and it was obvious that the record numbers of media members attending the two day convention want to continue buying into the hype that the 5-foot-11, 210-pound quarterback has made Wisconsin the clear favorite in the Big Ten Leaders division and in the conversation for the national championship.
The hype and excitement was apparently so great that one media member couldn't wait for Bielema, the day's second speaker, to get up to the podium, asking Illinois head coach Ron Zook about what the impact of a high-energy newcomer meant to the Badgers.
"Anytime you have a high-profile player in there, it creates excitement," said Zook, whose Fighting Illini will host Wisconsin on Nov.19. "It creates stories for y'all. That once again raises the level of interest in the game … I think anytime you have any positive things that happen in the conference, I think it's great for the conference."
The headlines and national publicity were warranted because of what Wilson can do – he threw for 3,563 yards, completing 58.4 percent of his passes, and rushed 143 times for 435 yards last season – and what Wisconsin's current quarterbacks couldn't do – a combined 22 of 61 for 241 yards, with zero touchdowns and three interceptions in the spring game.
In three seasons in Raleigh, Wilson, the runner-up for ACC Player of the Year last year, completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 8,545 yards. No current quarterback in the ACC has thrown more touchdown passes than Wilson, as his 76 touchdown passes are 26 more than the total thrown by Miami quarterback Jacory Harris.
"Russell Wilson is going to add quality and depth to that position," said Big Ten Network analyst Gerry Dinardo. "I liked Wisconsin in the spring enough to pick them to win the division, and I certainly like them now because I think the quarterback is going to add another dimension to Wisconsin's offense."
Bielema said on the first day he addressed the local meeting that Wilson would have to come in and earn the starting job away from sophomore quarterback Jon Budmayr and the other three signal callers on the roster. Bielema stuck to that comment Thursday, especially since he hasn't seen his prized offseason acquisition take one snap in a competitive practice per NCAA rules.
"You kind of have to let him do what he does," Bielema said. "The players have been very positive … I think I might know what will happen, but until it happens, that's where we're at."
The transfer quarterback is always a leery subject for a coach, no matter the program, simply because the expectations for that quarterback to come right in and be as successful as he was at his previous stop. It didn't work well the last time Bielema went that route with Kansas State quarterback Allan Evridge in 2008, but worked glowingly for Purdue coach Danny Hope last season with Robert Marve.
A transfer from the Miami (Ohio) after the 2008 season, Marve started the first four games of last season, completing 67 of 99 passes (67.7 percent) for 512 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions, before a knee injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
Marve, now a senior and expected to be one of the key pieces to the offense for the Boilermakers, was able to make the transition because of his personality and his humbleness, traits Bielema said exist in his new addition.
"Robert Marve is a special passer, runs well. It was unfortunate that he was injured last year because I think he was starting to get it together," said Hope, whose team travels to Camp Randall on Nov.5.
"He's a guy that has a tremendous passion for the game, a tremendous passion for his teammates. He's an outstanding team person. Very loyal to his coaches, loves to be around his teammates. It was an easy transition for Robert Marve."
And Bielema expects the transition to be successful for Wilson. Lauding him to be a man of immense preparation and faith, Bielema will get to see firsthand if the product is worth the hype when the Badgers open fall camp August 5.
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