When Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin in June, the team was short on experience and high on injuries at the quarterback position. Bret Bielema described it as a "unique" and "special" situation and was quick to say Wilson was "the type of player and person that fits very well" with the team and program.
Asked to comment on Danny O'Brien, who is scheduled to join the Badgers under remarkably similar conditions after he graduates from Maryland in May, Bielema's word choice was familiar.
"(O'Brien) reached out to us. It was another unique recruiting process," Bielema told reporters Thursday. "I'm excited about Danny. The best thing is, on his visit he blended in well with our guys. I think the overall exposure to them probably ended up being the difference."
O'Brien himself echoed this sentiment in a conference call Wednesday.
"There was no denying after I took the Wisconsin visit, especially after I talked to my family about it, that Wisconsin was home. It felt more like the place I wanted to be," O'Brien said. "It's kind of the complete package for what I was looking for: the style of offense, the coaching staff I connected with, the players I connected with, it's a great area to go to school at."
The similarities between the two quarterbacks run much deeper than their unique recruitment and ability to fit in at Wisconsin. Both started off at ACC schools, putting up huge numbers as underclassmen and earning plenty of post-season accolades, including ACC Rookie of the Year. Each quarterback thrived in pro-style offenses not unlike the one run by the Badgers.
But N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien dismissed Wilson after he split his time between football and baseball in the offseason and the spread offense instilled by Randy Edsall at Maryland in 2011 wasn't a great fit for (Danny) O'Brien. As you know, both players found their way to Madison by way of a rule that allows players to play immediately after transferring if they've already earned a degree.
But is it fair to stretch the comparison even further, to the way Wilson and O'Brien play the game? Both Bielema and O'Brien say no. Bielema pointed out O'Brien's situation is different becuase he'll have two years of eligibility remaining while Wilson only had one and also dismissed any on-field comparison between the players, instead likening O'Brien to Wilson's predecessor, Scott Tolzien.
O'Brien himself also shook off the idea that he's the next Wilson, saying he wouldn't be bothered by the inevitable comparisons.
"You can definitely see where comparisons can be drawn, but I don't think there's pressure at all because it's a new year, a new team and I'm a different player," O'Brien said.
So what kind of player is he, then? Judging by O'Brien's self-scouting report, the comparison to Tolzien seems apt.
"I pride myself on being very prepared, being accurate with the football, moving the chains and just getting in the hands of the playmakers, which at Wisconsin there are a lot of them," O'Brien said.
Regardless of how similar or dissimilar O'Brien is to Wilson, one thing is clear: there's a lot more certainty at the quarterback position now than there was last week.
Bielema said just like last season, the team was vulnerable at the position, and he wasn't content to stand pat with the mix of injured and inexperience quarterbacks he had. He relayed to reporters what he told his team when O'Brien first showed interest in transferring to the program:
"I don't want to leverage the overall well-being of our football team based on a catastrophic number of injuries at one specific position. It just happened to be the quarterback position that brought it up. I would do the same thing if it was the safety position, if it was tailback, defensive end, defensive tackle. It's really just because of the situation we're in," Bielema said.