The Danny O'Brien era in Wisconsin is over before it ever really took off.
According to Jesse Temple of Fox Sports Wisconsin, O'Brien is leaving Wisconsin's program after just one year. O'Brien began his college football career at Maryland, spending 2010 and 2011 as the Terrapin's most common starter. Temple confirmed the news with O'Brien's high school coach at East Forsyth in North Carolina, Todd Willert. Willert says O'Brien is home in North Carolina, though he's unsure what's next for the senior quarterback.
After starting just three games and appearing in seven last season, O'Brien remarkably fell out of favor in the Badgers' offense. He entered the season as the starting quarterback and enjoyed a solid debut, completing 19 of 23 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns against Northern Iowa. One week later, O'Brien struggled in a shocking 10-7 road upset at Oregon State, going 20-for-38 with 172 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Unable to adequately move the offense or hold onto the football, O'Brien was yanked at halftime of the following game against Utah State on Sept. 15. At the time, O'Brien was 5-for-10 with just 63 yards.
Joel Stave took over in the second half and managed to engineer a murky 16-14 Badgers win, though the entire offense was clearly on notice. Stave started the next seven games and gradually improved, completing 69 of 118 passes for 1,104 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. Yet, a nasty hit at the beginning of the second half of the Oct. 27 Michigan State game broke his collarbone and ended his season (save one for blink-and-you-missed it cameo in the Rose Bowl). Curt Phillips, apparently relegated to permanent back-up status upon O'Brien's transfer, took over for the rest of the year, leading Wisconsin to a 70-31 win over Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game before a 20-14 loss to Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
Wisconsin began its seven-week summer workouts on Monday, and O'Brien's departure trims the pool of possible starting quarterbacks to four. Stave and Phillips continue, in some order, as candidates 1A and 1B, with redshirt freshman and JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy next in line. McEvoy is the more likely dark horse, and some believe he could very well land the job before fall.
Neither O'Brien nor Wisconsin has commented, leaving Willert as the only authority on the situation.
"He's a great kid," Willert said. "He'll find something. I really don't know what his plans are right now. If it's to keep pursuing football, obviously he still has one year of eligibility left. I'm sure if it's to pursue football, he'll be very successful in that. Whatever he does, he'll be successful in. He's just that kind of kid.
"But in this day and age of college sports, nothing surprises me anymore. Four different head coaches in four years is pretty crazy."
O'Brien's been relatively quiet this spring as Wisconsin's quarterback situation blossomed to, at one time, a six-man race before Jon Budmayr elected to become a student coach. He did post an apparently cryptic tweet on May 2, writing, "I've had some serious ups..and some serious downs..but this story is far from over.." above a collage of three pictures of him at Maryland and Wisconsin, both passing and getting tackled.