Can anyone remember the last time they were excited about a Wisconsin Badgers quarterback? Badger football has made a living out of building up a legitimate running attack that runs behind a ginormous offensive line. This then allows the quarterback to benefit from defenses packing the box and running the play action, throwing primarily from the pocket and darting passes no more than 15 to 20 yards down the field. Rarely does Wisconsin design a play that allows for the QB to roll out of the pocket or try and create a play for themselves. Boy, are Badger fans in for a surprise this fall. On Monday, it was confirmed that former N.C. State quarterback and minor league baseball player Russell Wilson would be leaving the Colorado Rockies' Single A affiliate to play football for Wisconsin next season.
Wilson, who graduated in three years at N.C. State, was selected in the fourth round of the MLB draft last season, but was struggling early in his baseball career. Since he graduated college so quickly and only played three years of football, Wilson has a year left of eligibility. Thanks to the current state of the Badgers' football program, a stud offensive coordinator in Paul Chryst and uncertainty at the quarterback position, Wilson decided to take his talents to Madison. Instead of announcing this during a one hour special on ESPN, Wilson humbly decided to make his first appearance as a Badger on College Football Live. And Badger fans, you're not going to believe this, but Wilson can do more than just throw the football...he can run with it, too. This is one of the main reasons that Badger fans can get excited for football this season. Even with the departure of several key guys like Lance Kendricks, J.J. Watt and John Clay, the Badgers return eight starters on defense, two 1,000ish yard rushers in Montee Ball and James White and now will be adding one of the best QBs in ACC history. I don't have to run through all of the numbers to convince you that Russell Wilson makes this Badgers team noticeably better and a lot more unpredictable on the offensive side of the ball. Along with his ability to create plays with his feet, Wilson was a very effective passer with the Wolfpack. He's unconventional when it comes to the Wisconsin norm to say the very least...that's what so many people will like about him when they tune in each Saturday to watch him go to work. In my mind, with the recent happenings in Columbus (Tressel resigning, several players suspended, Pryor leaving town) and the addition of the versatile Wilson, the Badgers are contenders in whatever stupid name was given to their division. There are still many challenges on the schedule that Bucky must confront, but once it's confirmed that Russell Wilson has won the quarterback "battle", expectation should be higher than what many thought they would be in 2011. And thank goodness...the end to last season still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
With my NBA draft talk in the past, the NFL in a 100+ day lockout and the only active Wisconsin professional team being the Brewers, there isn't all that much to talk about besides the future. What Brewer fans hope for in the future is a playoff birth and maybe more, but should the Brewers run into teams like the Phillies, Red Sox or Yankees late in the postseason, some things are going to have to change with this team. There are guys on this team that get it and some that still seem to struggle with the pressure that comes along with being a first place ball club. Thankfully, the players I'm talking about (Braun, Fielder, Weeks, Marcum, Wolf) have been able to pick up the slack that other players cannot (McGehee, Betancourt, Greinke). The latter mentioned can't sit back and expect to not contribute while still watching this team succeed. At the moment, the Crew is good...but not great. Sure, the American Leauge is a totally different animal, Milwaukee is basically the smallest market in baseball and they have landed the two best teams in the AL...on the road. But the Brewers have the pieces to be a great team this season and maybe this season only should Fielder visit Mr. Free Agency this winter. It isn't the year for Casey McGehee to be completely useless behind Prince or for Zack Greinke to have a 5.00 ERA. There is little margin for error for a team like the Brewers, even with the talent they have assembled this season.
The previous paragraph was prompted by the first game of the Yankees series Tuesday night. Greinke lasted two innings. McGehee failed to hit when in a position to contribute and brainfarted on defense. The Brewers looked starstruck as Kyle so rightly stated. This isn't acceptable. Professional athletes can't act like they've never been in New York and then go on to play like they just stepped on a professionally kept baseball field for the first time. Hopefully it's just something that the Brewers needed to get out of their system, but wait...wouldn't that have already happened in Boston, another city rich with baseball tradition and a stadium revered around the league? Apparently not. Now I'm not going to throw away all hope and overreact about the Brewers struggling against one of the best divisions ever assembled. I just don't want Brewer fans thinking that because we can beat up on teams like the Twins and Pirates, we should start acting like this is the best team to strut across Milwaukee. The Brewers have a long way to go yet, but they have the right core in place to keep this team's head on straight. Let's just be thankful that interleague play isn't year-round and that the Brewers have received some nice breaks so far this season. Pujols' time on the DL has helped the Crew at least stay in contention for the division lead and once he gets back, it would be nice for the Brewers to hold a somewhat comfortable lead over the Cards. The Bucs have been surprisingly good for their standards, but in the end they don't have the horses or the experience to contend in the end...kind of like the Brewers in '06. Everyone says the Cincinnati Reds will be there in the end and I don't argue against this, but they haven't shown that they are division-winning quality like they were last season when they came out of nowhere to make the playoffs. Milwaukee has been lucky but good for the most part. Right NOW could not be a more important time to show how good they really are.