Notes: Quarterback Confidence

Even with the quarterback with the most experience of his offense on the sidelines for a 'prolonged period of time,' head coach Bret Bielema is confident in the abilities of Russell Wilson and, if need be, Joe Brennan to lead Wisconsin in the opener of the 2011 football season.

MADISON - To say Russell Wilson has quietly transitioned into the University of Wisconsin and the football locker room would appear to be a vast understatement on the surface. He's already appeared in feature stories on the pages of national publications like the New York Times, Sports Illustrated and USA Today and constantly finds his name splattered throughout the local newspapers.

For a man pulled in so many different directions since fall camp opened, Wilson has not only taken the transition in stride, he's been accepted as an elected team leader, a process that head coach Bret Bielema isn't afraid to say is ‘unusual' to his long college tenure.

"This is my first five-year transfer rule that has been applied specifically (to me)," Bielema said at his Saturday news conference. "It's been pretty unique, but pretty planned out."

When Bielema first saw Wilson's transfer request in early summer, the sixth-year head coach said he research everything about the quarterback, from his abilities and personality to the way he transitioned into the Colorado Rockies baseball organization. The rest of the story has been written about at length about his journey, but Bielema still alludes to how Wilson has handled his business.

"Just the way he's handled his business, it helps that he's had the transition with the Rockies so it wasn't like the first time he was walking into a locker room with a strange bunch of faces," Bielema said. "He has been a professional athlete. He knows the pro side of sports, which has helped with his transition here."

Wilson will be the 49th different quarterback to start a game for the Badgers since 1951 and the results have been usually positive (27-19-2). While Bielema would normally have to caution a quarterback making his first start for the Badgers to try not and do too much, he knows he won't have to have that conversation with the three-year starter.

"I know he wants to make a good first impression … and want to put on a good showing but just knowing Russell, I would guess that's not on his agenda," Bielema said. "He's going to be worried about making a first down … He's always thinking about the game."

Should anything happen with Wilson, the Badgers would turn to redshirt freshman Joe Brennan as the back-up quarterback because redshirt sophomore Jon Budmayr is still being bothered with a right elbow problem. Budmayr hasn't thrown since Aug.9 and a meeting with a specialists Thursday said the quarterback has irritated a nerve that has swelled up to the point where it has caused numbness in two fingers.

"Until that comes back, he really can't grip a football or do anything in the throwing motion," Bielema said. "Only time will tell how fast that comes back or if surgery is needed. Right now, it looks like he's going to be out for a prolonged period of time."

After struggling with his consistency in the spring, culminating with a poor spring game performance, Brennan has taken huge steps forward with his communication, composure in the huddle and overall confidence in his abilities.

"He's just carrying himself a little better," Bielema said of Brennan. "I had a nice meeting with him last night and you could tell that there's a little bit of change in him personally, which is a positive thing. He made the comment to me, ‘Coach, I'm ready to be the No.2 quarterback and if called upon, I'll be ready.' Just for him to say that, most kids can't fake that type of confidence."

If need be, the Badgers also have true freshman Joel Stave and fifth-year senior Nate Tice. If Budmayr were to have surgery, Bielema is confident that Budmayr will be able to compete in spring from what he's been told.

A Good Mix

When Bielema and director of football operations Mark Taurisani started tallying the votes for team captain on Sunday, the duo found themselves making marks to virtually the same four names over and over again.

It was a unique, blended mix of two offensive players (Bradie Ewing and Wilson), two defensive players (Patrick Butrym and Aaron Henry) and four guys that each represents something different to the University of Wisconsin.

"You have two kids that grew up in the state of Wisconsin and Bradie and Patrick both reference being a captain at a school they idolized growing up," Bielema said. "Then you have two guys coming from out of state. Aaron Henry, all the trials and tribulations, a guy that turned down Florida and the national championship team to come play at Wisconsin … Russell just made reference that he's never been a part of anything like this, how he truly loved everybody in the room and felt accepted by everyone in the room.

"That's just kind of the culture we have. Everybody has a little bit different story, but they all come together as one."

Welch or French?

Continuing to try and strength his right quadriceps, senior kicker Philip Welch has kicked the last few days and is scheduled to kick again today in hopes of preparing himself for the season opener. With Welch being sidelined, Bielema has been impressed with the kicking of redshirt freshman Kyle French, who has been productive in his time with the No.1 kicking unit.

"I've tried to put as much pressure as I can on the kickers and both of them, Kyle and Alec (Lerner), have responded very, very positively," Bielema said. "Phil as we know has already kicked in pressure situations. I believe that because Phil has been there and done that, he can kind of slip back in this week."

Bielema said Charlie Partridge will make the ultimate decision on who will kick Thursday, but Lerner will handle the kickoff duties regardless.

Ready for Primetime

Contacted by ESPN in the spring if the school would have an interest in moving its season-opening game UNLV, originally scheduled for Sept.3, up two days so that the two schools could play the first game of the college football season in primetime, it was just another opportunity for Wisconsin to showcase its program.

Last season, the Badgers' primetime spectacle resulted in a 31-18 upset over No.1 Ohio State and to be put in this position again is a big deal, according to Bielema.

"They could have reached out to 120 other teams," Bielema said. "To choose us and UNLV and the environment in Camp Randall … I look at all these games that are drawing national attention and a lot of it isn't because of the game, but because of what's going on around it. The way we've been able to do things here, there's a national draw to it because it's good.

"There isn't a scandal, a player under investigation or hopefully a coach under investigation. It's good."

The Badgers will also play a home night game vs. Nebraska (Oct.1), at Michigan State (Oct.22) and at Ohio State (Oct.29), marking the first time in school history the Badgers have played four regular season night games. The Badgers have won 26 of their last 29 games played at night and are 8-2 at home in night games since 1998.

Extra Points: Bielema updated a couple injuries saying running back Jeff Lewis (hand) practiced last night and there is an outside chance that sophomore wide receiver Manasseh Garner (hernia surgery) could play on Thursday … Bielema said that starters will probably be involved in no more than two special teams units … Bielema won't ban Twitter from his players, but will bring examples of players who tweet dumb things, inappropriate things or things that could anger opponents and will ban players on a case-by-case basis.


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