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New QB Wilson makes Wisconsin Leaders division favorite

BY MATT COZZI | SEPTEMBER 02, 2011 7:20 AM

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Russell Wilson was faced with a decision to make.

After he was released from his scholarship with North Carolina State and hung up his baseball spikes at the minor-league level, the dual-threat quarterback had options.

Wilson considered his transfer to Auburn or Wisconsin, two perennial BCS teams.

Head coach Bret Bielema is pleased with his new quarterback’s choice.

“No matter how good a football player Russell Wilson is, the first thing I wanted to find out is what kind of person he is,” Bielema said at Big Ten media days in July. “I always say that in recruiting, you recruit your own problems. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t recruiting somebody who was going to be potentially a problem at Wisconsin.

“He’s a stand-up guy, great character. Just a really, really good kid.”

Despite Bielema’s claim that there would be a quarterback competition in fall camp, Wilson has been the front-runner since his arrival in Madison.

A three-year starter with the Wolfpack, Wilson threw for 3,563 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. Wilson also rushed for 435 yards and nine touchdowns in 2010.

With Wisconsin’s depth chart consisting of a trio of inexperienced signal callers after the graduation of last year’s starter, Scott Tolzien, the choice likely wasn’t too difficult to make for Badgers coaches.

In total, Wilson had 36 college starts heading into Wisconsin’s game against UNLV on Thursday night. The Badgers won, albeit behind Montee Ball and the running game, 51-17.

Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said Wilson’s experience eased the quarterback’s transition to the team’s offensive playbook.

“[Experience is] invaluable,” Chryst said after Badgers’ practice on Aug. 10. “I think the toughest thing for him was learning a new [offense]. He’s done a great job of diving into it. I think experience tells him it’s good to know everything. He’s s smart guy, he’s got great football intelligence. He’s eager, and guys have been great helping him learn it.”

Players have taken to Wilson’s playing ability as well.

Senior Bradie Ewing said Wilson had been receptive in fall camp and that the team is eager to see how the season progresses with their new man under center.

“I hadn’t seen him play much at NC State, but since he’s come in here, I’ve had nothing but respect for him,” the fullback said on Aug. 10. “He’s a great person. He’s leading the offense well, and we’re looking forward to seeing him in [the regular season].”

Wilson has also boosted the Badgers’ squad with his leadership ability. The Richmond, Va., native was named by Bielema, along with senior defensive back Aaron Henry, as a captain for 2011.

The former Colorado Rockies’ draft pick said the Badgers have to be determined in order to be successful this season.

“Most of all, you have to be a leader on and off the field, and you have to make sure you put the hard work in every single day,” Wilson said after practice on Aug. 22. “You got to make sure you’re doing the right thing all the time. I’m blessed to just be here at Wisconsin, and it feels good to be a captain.”


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