Found March 28, 2012 on Fox Sports Wisconsin:
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MADISON, Wis. In the business world, few people are hailed as saviors of a company before ever setting foot in the office for their first day on the job.No matter how talented an individual, most folks understand it usually takes time and patience to comprehend all the complex nuances required to succeed in any profession.Does a young lawyer win a million-dollar case after one week with a firm? Does a writer earn a Pulitzer Prize on a first story attempt? It would be unfair and unreasonable to expect such brilliance instantly.But in the world of major college football, fans tend to throw common sense out the window because of the passion they feel for their favorite teams. They expect immediate success, and any other result is deemed unacceptable.Danny O'Brien is no lawyer or writer. He is a college quarterback, and he just walked into a situation at the University of Wisconsin that demands he excel quickly.Though it might not be fair, O'Brien's decision to become Wisconsin's next quarterback puts him on that lofty pedestal in the eyes of not just Badgers fans but college football enthusiasts everywhere. Prayers for a signal caller capable of leading Wisconsin to prominence once again have been answered, and the job comes with significant expectations. That is the situation O'Brien officially inherited on Wednesday when he announced his intention to transfer from Maryland to Wisconsin. O'Brien is set to graduate from Maryland this spring and by NCAA rules won't have to sit out a year once he enrolls in a graduate school program at Wisconsin. He'll have two years of eligibility remaining two years to make sure he keeps the Badgers relevant and atop the Big Ten.Certainly, O'Brien is no novice to success at the college level. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year in 2010 and started 17 games over two seasons at Maryland. But the offensive scheme at Wisconsin won't be the same, and with six new assistants on coach Bret Bielema's staff, growing pains are certainly a possibility.And perhaps the biggest problem for O'Brien has nothing to do with next year's team. It has everything to do with last year's team, when Russell Wilson laid the groundwork for instant gratification at Wisconsin. By now, most know Wilson transferred from North Carolina State to Wisconsin for one season and broke several of the school's single-season passing records. He demonstrated a moxie rarely seen under such scrutiny and led the Badgers to a second straight Rose Bowl appearance.Unlike Wilson, who was seasoned beyond his years, O'Brien is not a sure thing despite following a similar graduate transfer path. Wilson left North Carolina State because he focused half his attention on a professional baseball career, not because his skills as a quarterback diminished.O'Brien struggled mightily in his second season at Maryland under a new head coach and playing in a spread offense. He had more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (seven) in nine games during a season in which Maryland finished 2-10.Those statistics certainly won't be good enough for Wisconsin to win a third straight Big Ten title in 2012 even with Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball returning for his senior season at running back though it's expected O'Brien will thrive in the Badgers' pro-style offense. That is the same system O'Brien ran as a freshman at Maryland in 2010 before the Terrapins hired a new coaching staff and scrapped the offense.Still, is it reasonable to consider next season a failure without a Big Ten championship in Madison simply because that's what Wilson accomplished in his one season?Fans need to realize the dire quarterback situation Wisconsin faced before O'Brien's arrival, appreciate his willingness to embrace the white-hot spotlight and give him his two years before rendering a final verdict. The four quarterbacks currently on Wisconsin's roster have thrown for a combined total of 38 passes with one touchdown and three interceptions. The situation was so desperate that Bielema intimated he'd move players at other positions to quarterback in a pinch, even if they hadn't played quarterback since high school. Clearly, Wisconsin needed O'Brien perhaps more than O'Brien needed Wisconsin to fill the void left behind by Wilson.For O'Brien's part, he admitted Wilson's success at Wisconsin was a contributing factor in his decision to join the program."You can definitely see where comparisons could be drawn," O'Brien said on Wednesday. "I don't see it as pressure at all. It's a new year, a new team, and I'm a different player."Maybe so, but sky-high expectations remain the same, however unfair that might be for O'Brien.Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
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