Ex-Terps QB Danny O'Brien will transfer to Wisconsin

It worked for another post-graduate quarterback. Why not Danny O’Brien?

The former Maryland star decided Tuesday to transfer to Wisconsin, which won last year’s inaugural Big Ten championship game thanks in part to the play of North Carolina State transfer Russell Wilson.

“Our paths are kind of similar coming from the [Atlantic Coast Conference] to Wisconsin specifically, but it's a new year,” he told reporters on a conference call. “The 2012 season has yet to be written. I'm a completely different player and a different guy, so I don't compare myself to him. … I don't see it as pressure at all.”

O'Brien, the ACC Freshman of the Year two seasons ago, did say that Wilson’s transfer made him feel more comfortable attempting the transition. He made his final decision after taking a second visit to Penn State on Monday. He also considered Ole Miss.

“There was no denying that after I took the Wisconsin visit,” he said, “Wisconsin was home.”

O'Brien will be pursuing a master's degree in a program not offered at Maryland, meaning he can play right away. Unlike Wilson, he’ll have two years of eligibility remaining.

Though he stayed quiet during the process, it's clear that playing time weighed heavily in O’Brien’s decision. None of his three finalists have an established starter. He ended up picking a Badgers team that has only two healthy quarterbacks participating in spring practice, and two others who have been dealing with long-term injuries. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said O’Brien would not be given special treatment.

“As is the case with any player who joins our program, we have not promised Danny anything other than the chance to come in during the fall and compete for the starting quarterback position,” he said. “He understands that and is excited for that opportunity.”

Wilson threw for more than 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns (compared to only four interceptions) last season and was the MVP of the 42-39 championship game win over Michigan State.

O’Brien, who threw for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns in 10 starts as a redshirt freshman, lost his starting job last year and broke his left, non-throwing arm against Notre Dame. He said Tuesday that the bone “set perfectly” and that he’s “stronger than ever now.”

He struggled in first-year coach Randy Edsall’s offense, and sought a pro-style scheme. Wisconsin has a new offensive coordinator in Matt Canada — Paul Chryst left to become Pittsburgh’s coach — but the Badgers won’t stray from using a powerful running game to set up the pass.

“It was the complete package: the style of offense, the coaches I connected with, the players I connected with, it's a great area,” he said.

A possible future backfield partner, Big Ten offensive player of the year Monte Ball, tweeted about O’Brien shortly after the transfer was announced: “Danny o brien just messaged me this.. 'let's do this'... it shall be done then my man. #wiscONsin.”

Edsall’s original decision to bar O’Brien from transferring to Vanderbilt — where he would have played for former Terps offensive coordinator James Franklin — caused a backlash from national media. Though Edsall eventually reconsidered, it appears O’Brien never seriously considered Vanderbilt.

ckorman@baltsun.com
twitter.com/chriskorman

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