The Badgers' head coach answers questions about the acquisition of Russell Wilson from NC State
MADISON - We learned a bit about new Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson's personal life from head coach Bret Bielema's chat with reporters at Camp Randall Stadium today. Bielema also expressed confidence that Wilson will make a smooth transition to his new team, discussed the unique recruiting process that brought Wilson to Madison, revealed how the Badgers' NFL hopefuls are staying busy during the league's lockout and even took a jab at the mighty SEC.
Wilson is expected to arrive in Madison within the week and enroll in the UW summer session that begins July 11.
After the jump: highlights from Bielema's 20-minute Q&A.
On Wilson's abilities and personality: "He's a very quick learner. I think it will carry over to the football field very easily. He is a gifted athlete. He throws the ball on the move very, very well. He definitely is a very task-oriented individual. Everything is kind of on a checklist. He's very guarded, very reserved. He's opened up more and more as we've moved forward. You can tell he's a guy who likes to have a plan out in front of him."
On Wilson's transition to Wisconsin: "I think the transition will go quicker than you think, especially when you're dealing with Russell. The biggest challenge, I think, will be in the locker room, getting to know guys. Last year when he did this, he didn't go back to NC State until August 1st, and he felt he didn't have himself prepared. He learned from that a year ago and knew he needed to get here ahead of that, and that's what we're doing. NC State's verbiage and Paul Chryst's verbiage are two totally different things, but there are true freshmen that have come in and played this system. Once he clears his physical, he's just like a true freshman."
On how he began recruiting Wilson: "I knew the name. I had seen the kid play. I really didn't know a lot about him and didn't recruit him in high school obviously. The first thing we did was reach out to the coaches at NC State and see what the whole situation was there. It was a lot of e-mail communication from our end."
The recruitment occurred during a period when NCAA coaches are limited to placing one phone call per week to a recruit.
Bielema said he tried to appeal certain NCAA restrictions that limited his ability to meet with Wilson and his family members.
"Because he's playing pro baseball, he literally had two days off, one day off in May when he went to visit Auburn and one day off in June when he came here. It was very frustrating for me. My point was that this is such a unique recruiting process, you can't really apply high school rules to this situation."
On the recruiting tactics he used to sell Wilson on Wisconsin, including making many players available: "I thought it was very important for him to realize that he was going to be part of a group of guys offensively, and as a team, that have to play well together. We had an opportunity to bring our offensive linemen into a room and let them sit down and visit with him. He had made a comment to me that he was really looking forward to playing behind an offensive line of our stature. The one thing we really believe in recruiting here is our players are our best ambassadors. They're our best salesmen, so let them sell why he should come here."
On countering other schools' negative recruitment of UW: "I had to battle that. Other schools were using it against us, saying we're a run-oriented school. We're an offense-oriented school. There have not been a lot of people in college football, especially over the last couple of years, that have been as balanced as we are. It has been a good awakening for me to realize on a national level that we can compete with anyone."
On how quarterback Jon Budmayr is taking the news: "I haven't talked to Jon yet. I haven't had a chance to visit with him since the announcement, but Paul and I both had a conversation with him when this whole thing was going on."
On the SEC's proposal to ban one-year transfers like this in which a player does not have to sit out a year because he's already graduated: "Everybody's recruiting story and everybody's career history story is unique. This really helps a kid out in this situation. He's a young man that was told by his coach that if he wasn't going to give up baseball, he wasn't going to be the starter in the fall, and it gave this kid an option to do this. I think it is a unique thing. I hope it doesn't change. I'm glad that the SEC is now taking such a leading role in NCAA proposals. It's a very entertaining thing for me to watch."
On managing the high expectations for Wisconsin in the wake of Wilson becoming a Badger: "I totally understand that. I know why people nationally are going to go down that path. One of the things I've tried to do is temper not only coaches' expectations but fan expectations. I think it's a sign of respect. We're not going to change what we do. We're going to approach fall camp the exact same way."
On what NC State coaches and others have told him about Wilson: "Ultimately, just the highest levels of compliments. I don't think he has any ill will towards them. Their coaches - glowing recommendation. You can see he was truly loved there. Everyone just talks about how well he blends with everything that he's been put into. I wouldn't have gone down this path if it wasn't someone I really respected as a person that I thought could handle this situation."
Bielema also mentioned that several former Badgers who are currently locked out of NFL practice facilities, including Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas and New York Jets safety Jim Leonhard, are working out in Madison this summer. Recently graduated NFL hopefuls, such as quarterback Scott Tolzien, running back John Clay and wide receiver Isaac Anderson, have been spotted practicing at Camp Randall as well.
For more on Russell Wilson and the 2011 Wisconsin Football season, make sure to check in regularly at B5Q.