Former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson is headed to Wisconsin to play for the Badgers his senior year.
What impact will this move have on the Heisman race?
Well, for starters, the Badgers should be much better than everyone thought they’d be after losing the highly-efficient Scott Tolzien to graduation.
My next inclination, however, is to surmise that the ultimate beneficiaries of this move vis à vis the Heisman will be tailbacks James White and Montee Ball.
Before Wilson’s transfer, Ball and White faced the prospects of spending the year plowing into 8-man fronts as Wisconsin’s new quarterback–most likely sophomore Joe Budmayr–got his feet wet. Surely, defenses would challenge Budmayr (or whoever ultimately won the job) to beat them. Until Budmayr morphed into the type of Wisconsin quarterback we’ve all come to know–tough, efficient, and bland–things were bound to be a bit rough for the Badger offense.
Now it looks like one of the Wisconsin backs has a chance for a special season. With John Clay gone, there are 1,012 yards and 14 touchdowns up for reapportionment. It’s quite possible that Ball and White split the difference, or that a new third back emerges, but there’s also a chance one or the other comes to the forefront and, before all is said and done, ends up in the pantheon of elite Badger runners. And if a Big Ten title follows, surely the Heisman would be in the conversation as well.
What of Wilson’s chances? He is likely to have a smooth transition. Keep in mind that Wilson is not stepping into a situation where he has to learn a difficult offense. Wisconsin has one of the simpler passing schemes in the country. He also brings an added element of mobility and, without a doubt, a stronger arm than the spectators at Camp Randall are used to seeing. But I don’t envision him producing Heisman-type numbers as a Badger quarterback unless Brett Bielama tells offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to go crazy with his new toy (fat chance).
I do think we’ll see a much more efficient Wilson, one who won’t be asked to do as much as at oft-beleaguered NC State. In the end, that means a better Wisconsin in 2011 and, quite possibly, another legitimate Heisman candidate to add to the mix.