Russell Wilson played one lone season for the Badgers and it makes him the best in Wisconsin football history.
Wisconsin football has never been known for their quarterback talent, despite the success they have had as a school. Lately, the fanbase has been subjected to mediocre QB play in the past decade, but a little blip in 2011 gave the school its best player ever.
Russell Wilson is known as one of the NFL’s best dual-threat quarterbacks. Every QB must have their start somewhere and he was at NC State for three seasons before transferring to the Wisconsin football program. In his lone season in Madison, he quickly became the best quarterbacks in the school’s history and became an NFL caliber draft prospect.
The context of this is a little muggy as he had played three successful seasons for the NC State Wolfpack. This ended when Tom O’Brien, the NC State coach at the time, did not want Wilson to be attending Spring Training for the MLB.
Long story short, Wilson reported for the Colorado Rockies and had been granted a release from his scholarship and had one year of eligibility left.
Ranker.com does a good job of summarizing Badgers QB’s throughout the history of the long-standing Badgers football team. Wilson heads the list but the people that proceed are odd.
Current quarterback Jack Coan stands at 12. Coan is a decent college quarterback and had good stats last season. It is no secret that Wisconsin houses a run-first offense, centered around running backs such as Melvin Gordon, Ron Dayne, James White, and Coan’s RB Jonathan Taylor.
For some reference, in his career Coan has 23 Touchdowns and 8 interceptions with 3,019 yards in a career 22 games total, 14 starts as mentioned.
In their history, Wisconsin’s 4th, 5th, 7th, 10th, and 11th best quarterbacks never took a snap in the NFL. Their 3rd, 6th, 8th, and 9th best QB’s have played 112 total games with only one Jim Sorgi starting a full season.
The next guy we will look at is Scott Tolzien, who is ranked second, played in 29 games. He had a solid career as Wisconsin’s starter for two years and had 32 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. This is the best quarterback Wisconsin has had before Wilson.
Before Wilson came to Wisconsin, he had three solid seasons for NC State, throwing 76 touchdowns and only 26 interceptions, but really wasn’t a star yet. His completion percentage was under 60% every year and his yards per attempt hovered around only 7.0.
Wilson came to Wisconsin and vaulted himself into national spotlights with 33 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions in only one season. He added 3,175 yards, an astonishing 72.8% completion rate, with a 191.8 Passer Rating.
Okay, so without taking a deep dive in statistics, let’s just look at Tolzien’s career compared to Wilson’s. Tolzien threw one less touchdown and 13 more interceptions than Wilson, who played 12 fewer games. His completion percentage was also the same and his yards per attempt jumped to 11.
Brooks Bollinger was another good quarterback for Wisconsin football. In four full seasons as the starter, he had 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions but never had a completion percentage over 58%. He did this in 46 games, 32 more than Wilson.
Darrell Bevell had 59 touchdowns in four years but a whopping 39 interceptions and he also did this in 45 games.
John Stocco started three years and in his last two had 38 touchdowns and 15 interceptions which arguably the second-best season.
Wilson’s success had a profound effect on their record as they went 11-3, a Big Ten Championship, and had a near win against Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
Wilson’s success after college is an indicator of how much more talented he was than any other quarterback that has played Camp Randall so far. He is a seven-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl Champion, has thrown over 200 touchdowns, and a low Interception rate of 1.8%.
Many quarterbacks have come through Wisconsin, but none were as talented as Russell Wilson. Wilson was good, great even, and was the best quarterback statistically that Wisconsin has ever had, even if it was just one short 14-game season.
As the Badgers prepare for this possible modified season and look towards the future, one may wonder if they will continue their run-first offense or go in the direction of pass-first offenses. Hopefully with the loss of Jonathan Taylor to the NFL Draft will encourage coach Paul Chryst to implement passing as a bigger factor in their offense.