WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. The University of Wisconsin's football program had better hope none of its remaining quarterbacks sustain any serious injuries next season. Of the Badgers' six signal callers, only three will be healthy enough to compete when the team enters fall camp in August.
Badgers coach Bret Bielema announced Wednesday that two of his quarterbacks Jon Budmayr and Bart Houston will miss next season entirely while recovering from injuries. A third quarterback, redshirt senior Curt Phillips, is attempting to come back from right knee surgery and hasn't played since 2009.
Budmayr hasn't appeared in a game for Wisconsin since Nov. 27, 2010. Last fall, while competing in camp with eventual starting quarterback Russell Wilson, Budmayr experienced nerve damage in his throwing elbow and sat out the season. According to Bielema, Budmayr now faces potential hip surgeries.
"The chances of him being involved next year are slim to none," Bielema said. "Unless something miraculous happens, he wouldn't be involved with us in the fall."
Bielema indicated that Budmayr, a redshirt junior, still planned on trying to play the 2013 season.
In three career games, Budmayr has completed 8 of 10 passes for 134 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Houston, an incoming freshman, also will miss the 2012 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He is a highly touted recruit out of De La Salle High School in California, ranked as the No. 7 quarterback in his class by Scout.com.
"He'll be with us in the fall, but he won't be participating," Bielema said. "I got an email from his dad two days ago. They just had a follow-up with his doctors. Everything is ahead of schedule. Very positive about where it is. But for him, the projection was to be able to throw by spring ball."
That leaves incoming Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien, Joel Stave and Joe Brennan as the only healthy quarterbacks on the roster. Stave closed spring practice as the No. 1 quarterback, but O'Brien is expected to take over as the team's starter once he arrives on campus.
In addition to quarterback injuries, Bielema announced that Hugs Etienne, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound cornerback from Plantation, Fla, will miss the entire 2012 season as well. Etienne was one of three incoming freshmen to join the team a semester early and participate in spring practice.
Bielema said Etienne will have shoulder surgery on June 8.
"He came in the spring and was doing a nice job," Bielema said. "He had a pre-existing shoulder condition that he needs to get taken care of. We thought he'd be a redshirt guy, so he'll pop into that."
O'Brien arrives: The wait for Wisconsin football fans is almost over -- the former Maryland QB is finally coming to Madison for good.
O'Brien, the Badgers' presumed starting quarterback next season, is expected on campus as early as Thursday. O'Brien graduated from Maryland earlier this spring and will have two years of eligibility remaining at Wisconsin. He is eligible to play immediately under the graduate transfer rule.
Wisconsin's summer football workouts begin Monday, and O'Brien will be there to meet all of his new teammates.
"Wisconsin bound bright and early tmro morning!" O'Brien tweeted on Wednesday night.
O'Brien officially announced his intention to transfer to Wisconsin on March 28, becoming the second graduate transfer quarterback in as many years. Last season, Russell Wilson led the Badgers to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance.
In 2010, under coach Ralph Friedgen's pro-style offense, O'Brien was the ACC Rookie of the Year. He threw for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns with eight interceptions in 10 starts. O'Brien did not perform as well in 2011 under a new coach and offensive system but is expected to thrive in Wisconsin's pro-style offense.
"Obviously, I expect him to come in and want to win and practice like he wants to win," Badgers running back Montee Ball said. "I'm just as excited as you guys to see what he can do."
Bielema said O'Brien would benefit from having two full months with the team before fall camp begins. Last season, Wilson had just one month to acclimate himself to teammates and a new playbook.
Bielema indicated the similarities between the graduate transfer situations of O'Brien and Wilson were obvious, but he said O'Brien's transfer took place in a different way.
"We weren't really looking for it, but he kind of reached out to us," Bielema said. "(It) followed a lot of the same scenarios as far as I wanted to get him on campus, find out what he was like, get him around our players. Our guys gravitated to him pretty fast. I think the fact it was a two-year deal also made it a little easier to digest."
Ball bulking up: Ball said he weighed 215 pounds, up from his playing weight last season, which hovered between 204 and 208 pounds.
"I feel stronger than I did last year," Ball said. "A lot stronger than I was last year. Coaches said in the spring it felt like I was taking the game over in practice and stuff like that. I want to do that in the spring, during our lifts, during 7-on-7 and take that forward to fall camp."
Last offseason, Ball slimmed down by 26 pounds in order to gain quickness to burst through holes at the line of scrimmage and push past the secondary. He produced one of the best seasons in college football history, tying the FBS single-season record with 39 total touchdowns and becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist. But Ball admitted during spring practice that he felt worn down from losing so much weight.
"Strength and burst is what I really want to focus on," he said.
Badgers on All-American team: Four Wisconsin players made an appearance on Phil Steele's college football preseason All-American team, released earlier this week.
Ball and offensive tackle Ricky Wagner earned first-team honors, while center Travis Frederick and linebacker Chris Borland made the third team.
Ball and LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu who made Steele's first-team defense and special teams units are the only returning Heisman Trophy finalists from a year ago.
Field renovations continue: A three-phase construction project at Camp Randall Stadium will take years before its completion. But the most immediate improvement in the 86 million project is the addition of new FieldTurf, in place for the first time in nearly a decade. The completion date is set for June 15.
Bielema has kept a running log of the field improvements on his Twitter account.
"It's kind of like a giant sewing project," Bielema said. "I haven't really even shown the parts, the interior. We just moved into a new weight room, a new locker room. It's absolutely amazing some of the stuff that's going on."
On Thursday morning, Bielema tweeted the latest picture update with a painted field that is missing the yard marker indicators. His tweet contained this caption: "Tried to get "On Wisconsin" in the endzones this time but couldn't (get) everyone to agree.... But it still looks good."
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