On the surface, a one-year marriage between Wisconsin and former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson makes a lot of sense. And for those fans still panicking after the awful performance of the current UW quarterbacks in the spring game last month, it really makes a lot of sense.
To catch some of you up, Russell Wilson -- a three-year starter at North Carolina State who ranks third all-time in the ACC with 76 passing touchdowns -- is reportedly interested in transferring to Wisconsin to finish his eligibility. Wilson had a falling out with North Carolina head coach Tom O'Brien after opting to play minor league baseball this summer in the Colorado Rockies farm system.
After North Carolina State granted him a release from his scholarship last month, Wilson publicly said he never wanted to leave the Wolfpack, he just wanted a fair crack at the starting job, which was no longer guaranteed after he chose to play baseball.
Bottom line: Wilson wants to play football this fall and Wisconsin could use another quarterback. He is eligible to play immediately because he completed his undergrad requirements at NC State.
But is this a good idea? Let's take a look at the pros and cons of Wilson joining the Badgers:
Pro: Russell Wilson is pretty damn good quarterback. He would immediately become the best quarterback on the roster and depending on when he would actually join the team, he would be the favorite to earn the starting job.
Con: Wilson's baseball season isn't set to end until Sept. 5, four days after UW's season opener against UNLV. How is Wilson supposed to learn a new playbook and earn the respect of his teammates if he misses fall camp? It's bad enough he will miss summer conditioning.
Pro: His stats speak for themselves. Wilson ranks third in NC State history with 8,545 career passing yards, a number that puts him 12th all-time in the ACC. His 76 touchdown passes rank second in NC State history and third in ACC history. He also has 17 career rushing touchdowns and his 93 total scores rank second at both NC State and in the ACC.
Those numbers blow away any number you can find in Wisconsin's record book. Darrell Bevell has the most touchdowns with 59. He also has the most passing yards with 7,686. Rushing touchdowns? Wait, Wisconsin has had quarterbacks who run the football?
Con: That's all true, but Wilson's numbers are a product of the offense he played in at North Carolina State. Wisconsin runs the football a lot more and he wouldn't fit in. Wilson threw the ball 527 times last season. Scott Tolzien threw it just 266 times. That's not going to change this season with the Badgers arguably even stronger in the backfield. Not to mention Wilson has 26 career interceptions -- 14 in 2010 -- and has never completed more than 59 percent of his passes in a season. Tolzien threw just six interceptions last year and completed 72.9 percent of his passes. That was a huge reason why the Badgers went to the Rose Bowl last season.
Pro: There's no doubt about that, but Tolzien isn't on the team anymore. Furthermore, there's no evidence suggesting Jon Budmayr or any other quarterback on this roster won't turn the ball over in 2011. In fact, the evidence thus far points to that happening a lot. Wilson is a talented, veteran quarterback who can fill the biggest hole on the 2011 roster.
Con: But remember, Wilson is only on a one-year loan, so to speak. The spring game was just one practice and there is a lot to like about Jon Budmayr. Plus, Budmayr has a chance to be a three-year starter, something the Badgers haven't had since John Stocco. What will this do to his confidence?
The verdict: I'm only supporting this if Wilson can attend all of fall camp. A big reason why Wisconsin has come so far in the last two seasons is because of the continuity Bret Bielema has built within the program. Bringing in an outsider for just one season is a dangerous move with a team that believes in the quarterbacks that are currently on the roster.
With that said, there's little doubt Wilson would be the best quarterback on the team. I have concerns about his interceptions and inaccuracy, but there's no guarantee Budmayr will be any better and you know Wilson is going to find the end zone and provide a ton of passing offense with his arm. I also feel like working in UW's run-first offense will actually make Wilson a better overall quarterback. The Wolfpack really relied on Wilson to make plays and that resulted in a lot of pressure and lot of passing attempts at NC State. Wilson would join the Badgers knowing he will be handing the ball off a lot more, but he will also be working with an offensive coordinator in Paul Chryst who loves working with quarterbacks and is not afraid to let them make plays when needed. It's very possible Wilson needs the Badgers just badly as they need him.
There is one other large logistical issue besides Wilson's baseball commitment. Wisconsin currently has 86 scholarship players on the roster and has to cut that number down to 85 by the time the season starts. Adding Wilson would make that task even tougher and there are a few walk-ons -- namely Jared Abbrederis -- who deserve scholarships and will likely get them if they become available.
But in the end, while I think this would be a risky move, I don't have a problem with the Badgers adding talent where it is needed. Wisconsin is going to have an improved defense to go along with an even more talented running game. Budmayr may end up being just fine at quarterback, but Wilson could be even better. At the very least, there is hardly any depth at that position and Wilson would fix that problem.