An Efficient Decision

Announced as the starting quarterback Sunday night, junior Danny O'Brien earned the starting job based on what he did in two weeks of camp, not what he did at the University of Maryland.

MADISON - Since he stepped foot on campus to start preparing for the 2012 season, junior Danny O'Brien approached every film session and workout like he was the starting quarterback. He doesn't have to pretend any longer.

Emerging from a once tight competition, O'Brien was named the starting quarterback late Sunday night for No.12 Wisconsin's season opener against Northern Iowa.

"I was honored," O'Brien said following practice Monday. "Being a part of this team is a privilege in itself, but named the starting quarterback here is something I am proud of because it's been a lot of hard work. We have a great quarterback room. It was a really tough competition. There's a lot of talent in the room, which is awesome (and) something you want.

"I am happy to be a part of it now and take the next the step, which is to get ready for Northern Iowa because we have a lot of work to do."

O'Brien, who started a total of 17 games at Maryland before transferring to Wisconsin earlier this summer, appeared to gradually pull away from senior Curt Phillips and redshirt freshman Joel Stave because of his consistency and ball security.

O'Brien threw his first interception of camp on Friday in a 7-on-7 drill. He had his second one on Monday, in the same drill, when his receiver fell down.

"It's more based on what we've done since we've seen him here," said Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, who dispelled the notion that O'Brien was given the starting job based on experience.

"Number one thing by far is turnovers. A lot of those guys were in double digits with turnovers through practice 16. He had thrown one … and I think the presence he's shown since he's been here. (He's) really good in all types of situations."

Offensive coordinator Matt Canada said the percentages and knowledge of all three quarterbacks were really close, but felt that ‘right now, this was the best thing for our program.'

"He's done it more, which is part of what you look at as a big deal," said Canada. "The bullets have flown at him before … Danny has played, started a lot of football games and I think that helped in his ability to not turn the ball over."

O'Brien overall completion percentage in his two seasons at Maryland was 56.7 percent, a big drop off from UW's last two quarterbacks who completed over 70 percent of their passes (72.8 percent last season, 72.9 percent in 2010). Those numbers are misleading, however, as he completed over 60 percent of his passes in 10 games his freshman season and the Terrapins' offense didn't have as many high-percentage options like UW's tailbacks and tight ends.

O'Brien attributes his high percentage numbers in camp to the ability of being able to go through his reads, not take calculated risks and throw a check-down pass if needed; all things that have come with the experience he received in two years as a starter.

"I think this offense helps you (better your completion percentage)," said O'Brien. "We have a lot of guys who can get open and the run game sets up a lot … With this type of offense, I have really prided myself on taking care of the ball. This team is going to tire defenses out, so I think getting rid of the ball and keeping the offense fresh is a good thing."

He has also shown more mobility than some people expected, another factor that let to O'Brien getting the nod.

"The thing that's kind of intrigued me ... is his ability to make something happen when there's nothing there," Bielema said. "He has the ability to do some things with his feet, which I really didn't know coming into this, that he was as good as he is."

Listed as co-backups on the depth chart, Phillips and Stave will compete this week for the backup job, adding more depth and experience to a talented quarterback group.

"We have three very good quarterbacks," said Canada. They are battling. I don't think either guy has conceded that it's over to them. They're going to keep fighting and getting better every day."

O'Brien said both Phillips and Stave, although disappointed, congratulated him after being told them about his decision, and O'Brien said he responded by telling the group, ‘let's keep working.'

"There are guys that live with Curt and came in with Curt and guys that know Stave and in the same class as Stave, but the one thing Danny did was not try to gain his elegance with certain groups," said Bielema. "He just came in and did his business."

Bielema also put to rest the assumption that this wasn't O'Brien's job from the start.

"There wasn't any doubt that it wasn't an open race for all three people," said Bielema. "It might have swayed between the three of them, for me at least, four or five times before the actual day."

But for the meantime, the offense belongs to O'Brien and as the group sits today, he is comfortable with what his group can do moving forward.

"We've putting the big picture together," said O'Brien. "The more move-the-ball (drills) we do in live situations, the more realistic is becomes."

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