Spring Q&A: Danny O'Brien

After a lackluster debut, senior quarterback Danny O'Brien is out to prove that he is still a high-caliber passer capable of leading Wisconsin to a fourth straight Big Ten championship.

You told me at the Rose Bowl that this was going to be an important spring for you with the new coaching staff coming in. How have you approached this spring here with the strides you have made to show the coaching staff you can play at a high level?

Danny O'Brien: I am just preparing like I am the starter. I am in the film room before every one and leaving last, just trying to be the most prepared guy on the field every day. I feel like, especially in this system, it helps the more prepared you are with how you can handle the checks at the line. I am just trying to be prepared every day.

What's it like working with offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig?

O'Brien: Awesome. It's awesome in terms of every single repetition is coached up really hard. His West Coast offense background is awesome. He's had success everywhere he's been and has coached some quarterbacks that have made it to the NFL (editor's note: David Carr being most notable). It's been good. He's really detailed, super sharp, we meet all the time and talk a lot of football. It's great to work under him. He grinds, he's working all the time (and) it's awesome.

When you sat down with Gary Andersen and you guys talked, what was that conversation like? How did you approach him and how did he approach you with how they were going to handle things?

O'Brien: The main thing he emphasized was that he wanted an open line of communication between all the quarters. That was his first thing. Secondary he said I was going to get reps in spring, have a chance to compete for the starting job and that the best man was going to win the job. I just said, ‘Say no more.' That's all I needed to hear. From there it's been a real good relationship. He brings a lot of energy every day. He said there was going to be open lines of communication throughout the spring to see where everybody was at.

How tough was last year for you?

O'Brien: It was really tough, but I am grateful for it. I learned a lot. It was really the first time I have been benched my entire life in any sport … in really any venue of anything. It was really humbling. I think I have learned a lot from it. I am a lot tough mentally than I think I have been ever. Trying to look at the positive side of things, I think I earned a lot of respect from my teammates in terms of "how is he going to act when he's not the guy, when he's down, when no one is looking?" I think that shows a lot about your character. I've grown from that, too, and I think having a fresh start here has been good.

Do you think you were treated unfair last year at points too?

O'Brien: It's really not my call to say that. I was put in some tough situations, but you can both make it an excuse and say that's why you didn't have success, or you can embrace it, chalk it up on yourself and bounce back.

How have you changed as a quarterback? How did you prepare yourself in winter to make yourself ready for this opportunity?

O'Brien: I am a fifth-year guy who got benched, so I knew people were going to be wondering where I was at. My thing was to be the first guy in every day grinding my [butt] off in the film room, coming really early and staying really late, lifting my [butt] off in the weight room and busting my [butt] in there. That was a lot of action-based stuff and now it's about the work in the huddle, taking command of the huddle. It's a very familiar offense for me, kind of full circle form where I came in to play college football in the first place. There's a certain comfortable level I am trying to establish in the huddle. I think as the whole picture starts getting put in play, and there's a lot more on the quarterback's plate, which is awesome, but you have to be prepared. You have to be in the film room all the time and guys have to see you doing that extra work.

How is Wisconsin's 2013 offense different from what was its offense last season?

O'Brien: Just from a casual fan's perspective, you'll see some new looks, a few, but Wisconsin football is Wisconsin football. We're going to establish the run, be in a lot of multiple tight end sets, just because that's what we do here. There might be a few more opportunities in the passing game. The receivers are pumped up. They have a chip on their shoulder to get on the field a little bit more, too. I think we are going to be a little more multiple in terms of the play-action game will be able to compliment a lot more of the running stuff that we do. I think it's all going to fit together a little better in terms of our pass plays off our run game will look identical.

How much more comfortable are you now than when you came here last May?

O'Brien: Night and day. Not knowing anybody, leaning an offense, trying to establish yourself as not only a leader on the team but as a starting quarterback … not that it was uncomfortable, but it was a lot of work to get to know the guy, who they are on and off the field. Not having to worry about any of that stuff, I've kind of established a reputation of who I am. People know me now. I can just worry about football now and it's a lot more comfortable.

How much are you looking forward to the spring game in hopes of changing some of the perceptions that are out there about you?

O'Brien: Absolutely. I feel like I have a lot more to prove on the field. My playing days are not over. I'll be ready whenever that opportunity is. I have a lot of confidence that I can get the job back. I know every quarterback probably feels like that and I genuinely feel like that. I am looking forward to the spring game for sure.

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