Junior QB Danny O’Brien will start for WisconsinBielema has named the Maryland transfer his starting quarterback for Wisconsin’s regular-season opener against Northern Iowa on Sept. 1.
MADISON (AP) — Danny O’Brien seems to have a knack for taking care of the ball and Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema is rewarding him for it.
Bielema has named the Maryland transfer his starting quarterback for Wisconsin’s regular-season opener against Northern Iowa on Sept. 1.
The coach took to Twitter on Sunday night, saying that the junior earned the job ahead of senior Curt Phillips and redshirt freshman Joel Stave.
O’Brien said Monday that he felt confident in his ability to clinch the spot.
“I think I went into the competition with the mentality that I’m going to start and just kind of focus on myself,” he said. “I didn’t know when the (starter) was going to be named, and I just wanted to work every day. But I was happy to hear it, but now the work really starts and we’ve got to move forward.”
O’Brien had two interceptions in a pair of seven-on-seven drills through three weeks of fall camp. That number, coupled with game experience in 17 starts at Maryland, pushed Bielema and assistant coaches in O’Brien’s direction.
“The No. 1 thing probably, by far, (was) turnovers,” Bielema said. “A lot of those guys were in double digits with turnovers with practice. And then I think just the presence he’s shown since he’s been here.”
O’Brien announced his decision to transfer to Wisconsin in March and moved to Madison for summer workouts in June. He followed in the footsteps of Russell Wilson, a North Carolina State transfer who played last season for the Badgers. Wilson helped lead the team to an 11-3 record, the Big Ten Conference championship and a Rose Bowl appearance.
O’Brien, who has two seasons of eligibility remaining, seeks to make an impact of his own.
“To be a part of this team is a privilege in itself, but to be named starting quarterback here was something I am proud of just because it’s a lot of hard work,” O’Brien said. “We have a great quarterback room. It was a really tough competition, a lot of talent in that room, which is awesome and something you want. I’m honored.”
Bielema has been impressed with O’Brien’s maturity and that he didn’t try to “gain all this allegiance with certain player groups,” in an effort to win the top job.
Bielema also likes the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder’s tenacity and mobility to make plays in tough situations.
O’Brien made 10 starts his freshman season at Maryland playing in a pro-style offense. He threw for 2,438 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions en route to ACC rookie of the year honors as a freshman in 2009. In 17 starts with the Terrapins, he threw for 4,086 yards and 29 touchdowns.
“The thing that’s kind of intrigued me ... is his ability to make something happen when nothing is there,” Bielema said. “He has the ability to do some things with his feet that I didn’t really know coming into this that he was as good as he is.”
Besides a desire to take care of the ball, senior running back Montee Ball said he appreciates O’Brien’s work ethic in the locker room and on the field.
“One thing about Danny is that he’s learning and willing to help us win,” Ball said. “There were three quarterbacks battling hard, playing hard and contributing.
“Whoever steps up to the plate really deserves it. Danny is deserving of the job and will do whatever it takes to help us win.”