Two on the same topic – Russell Wilson not going to succeed at Wisconsin?

A couple of interesting perspectives on Russell Wilson hit the blogosphere today that we thought would be of some interest to our readers.

First is this piece from Lost Letterman. It is actually very well written. I don’t necessarily with the point of view or the perspective of the article…but, I understand someone having this opinion and appreciate the work the author put into developing the view.

One of the best players in the country is ready, willing and able to lead your team. He has not embarrassed himself off the field like South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia, for example, and O’Brien didn’t have any room for him.

“While I am certainly respectful of Russell’s dedication to baseball these last several years, within those discussions I also communicated to him the importance of his time commitment to NC State Football,” the coach said in part in a press release.

It’s odd that, just one year earlier, he had told North Carolina’s The News & Observer that Wilson was more than prepared to handle his two-sport duties.

The coach said that Wilson is “mentally strong about a lot of things,” so it would surprise him if he wasn’t able to handle the transition.

And of course Wilson then went out and led the Wolfpack to nine victories and was runner-up for ACC Offensive Player of the Year.

Maybe O’Brien should listen to himself more often.

At the end of the day, the decision ended up being between (a) two full seasons of Mike Glennon vs (b) POTENTIALLY one more season of Russell Wilson (who did not commit to playing football this fall until just a couple of weeks ago). Had the author written this article in APRIL when it was announced that Russell was leaving the program then it would carry more weight. But, waiting until early July to use the luxury of 20/20 hindsight AFTER the entire situation had played out seems to be a little disingenuous.

The second piece comes from our network partner, The Big Lead. It focuses much more on statistics and numbers while drawing more direct comparison between Russell and Wisconsin’s starter last season, Scott Tolzien. As much as we all love Russell, the article does make the inarguable point that Wilson’s performance under center last season was not as impressive as his previous two seasons at the helm of the Wolfpack.

Russell Wilson chose Wisconsin over Auburn and many have viewed this as a sea-change for the Badgers vaulting them into BIG title contention next season and potentially more. However, it’s not a given Wilson will improve the Badgers greatly and they were already presumptive favorites to appear in the title game.

Wilson is a tremendous athlete. That does not make him a tremendous quarterback. He regressed significantly last season, dropping out of the Top 60 in both passer rating and yards per attempt. Good defenses (UCF, Va. Tech, UNC, Maryland) and even a not so good one (East Carolina) controlled him and forced him into performances ranging from below average to abysmal. External factors may have diminished his numbers, but those numbers showed an average ACC quarterback.

Wisconsin will be a radical adjustment for him. There’s the new teammates, a new system and new opponents to digest without spring practice. He will also be asked to be far more conservative and efficient. At N.C. State Wilson was the offense. He often threw 40-50 times per game and took chances to make plays. Wisconsin throws about half as often. Scott Tolzien threw more than 25 times just once (26 vs. Iowa).

Looking at efficiency numbers, Wilson completed 68 percent of his passes twice. Tolzien completed 68 percent of his passes 11 times and 75 percent or better eight times. Wilson averaged 6.8 yards per attempt (tied for 68th nationally). Tolzien averaged 9.2 yards (5th nationally). Wilson threw 14 interceptions (among the nation’s worst). Tolzien threw just six (among the nation’s best).

Tolzien was limited, but he was the ideal quarterback for Wisconsin. He was asked to make throws he can make. He made them virtually every time. Even assuming a seamless transition, Wilson won’t be that efficient. A casual observer would argue that Wilson can make up for some of that with his big play potential. Those statistically inclined might point out it was Tolzien who threw a better deep ball.

Wilson probably will be an upgrade over someone without experience, but he may not be altering any foundations. He won’t need to, because Wisconsin was a presumptive favorite without him. The Big Ten is a mess, especially the Leaders division.

Ohio State should be banned from postseason play. That leaves Indiana, Illinois, Purdue and Penn State to challenge them in that division. Wisconsin misses Iowa, Michigan and Northwestern on the schedule. Their two big road games, Ohio State (scandal fallout) and Michigan State (being Michigan State), could easily not be so big.

Barring disaster, it’s hard to see a scenario where the Badgers don’t play in the BIG title game. Unless Taylor Martinez stays healthy the entire season, it’s hard to see another team beating them.

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17 Responses to Two on the same topic – Russell Wilson not going to succeed at Wisconsin?

  1. tvp1 07/07/2011 at 6:20 PM #

    The Big Lead article is LOL bad.

    Russell threw 526 passes last year in 13 games: 40.5 per game.
    Compare to 2009 (31.5 passes/game) and 2008 (23 passes/game).

    Any wonder that his YPA went down? It’s similar to when a basketball player takes 1/3 more shots one year than he did the year before – his FG% will almost always decline. And the decline in QB rating is largely explained by that decline in YPA.

    The alleged “regression” also does not take into account strength of schedule. In 2010 we played 10 bowl teams in 13 games. In 2009, 7 in 12 games, including two D-1AA schools. Take out the games against D-1AA teams from 2010 and 2009 and I suspect the numbers will be much closer.

    Not to mention that RW had the most rushing attempts of any player on the team last year, whereas he had Baker in 2009.

    All things considered, I’m hard pressed to concede that RW was worse last year than he was in 2009. He certainly did not “regress significantly.”

    The comparison of interceptions b/w RW and Tolzien is the worst fail.
    RW: 14 INT in 526 attempts = 2.7% INT
    Tolzien: 6 INT in 266 attempts = 2.3% INT

  2. Wolfy__79 07/07/2011 at 8:14 PM #

    we’re getting pretty bored since we must compare RW to tolzien. i’m torn on how i think russell will perform for the badgers and most of me by now doesn’t really give a 🙂

    what i do know is russell is a heck of an athlete.. i’d also like to add that his performance last year took a severe hit by missing valuable practice time with his teammates, imo. after watching RW play through his career i think he’s pretty accurate.. what these numbers don’t take into account are how many freaking dropped passes we’ve had in the last couple of years.. anyone remember those. his talents as a passer and athlete in general are great to me at the college level.. what i’m not so sure of is his ability to run an offense? he’ll be in a completely different system with new teammates as mentioned above.. that will make some sort of difference. last year it seemed that he was forcing it more than he’d done in the past.. i guess trying to make a play.

    the whole new school thing reminds me of professional athlete behavior.. and it kind of disgusts me.. i would have much rather he went pro to the nfl or cfl.. i mean, if tj yates and tyrod taylor can get drafted.. russell wilson can’t? at the end of the day it is RW we’re talking about and i hope he knocks it out of the park!

  3. choppack1 07/07/2011 at 9:30 PM #

    “Any wonder that his YPA went down? It’s similar to when a basketball player takes 1/3 more shots one year than he did the year before – his FG% will almost always decline. And the decline in QB rating is largely explained by that decline in YPA.”

    That’s simply not true.

    We threw the ball a ton last year…Only 5 teams threw it more. Of course, out of those 5 teams, we only threw a higher percentage …IDAHO.

    As a matter of fact – out of the 20 teams he threw the ball the most – only Idaho threw for a worse %.

    Now, a lot of times, he threw the ball away. But his decision making appeared to be getting worse and worse. In his sophomore year, he made some bad decisions…but this year, quite frankly, his decision making in red zone situations was not up to what I believe his potential as a QB is.

    I expect Glennon to throw at a higher % and hopefully, he’ll have a better TD/INT ratio than RW had last year. However, I doubt he’ll be able to put the kind of pressure RW did. QBs like him in the college game are typically much more difficult to defend. (In pros, this shiftiness is over-rated, in college its underrated.)

    I don’t know how he’ll do at Wisconsin. Throughout his career, he started very slowly. As the article noted, he’s struggled against good, athletic defenses. Don’t underestimate his intelligence. I think w/his newfound career outlook, he’ll thrive. I think a year and a half in the minors has shown him the sport loves, vs. the “safer” sport to play…and I think Wisconsin will benefit from a more cautious Wilson.

  4. moreforw 07/08/2011 at 5:48 AM #

    Russell Wilson will be better than N.C. State this year. I will pull for him just like he still plays here. It will not surprise me if he wins it all.

  5. wolfonthehill 07/08/2011 at 6:26 AM #

    Agree with chop here – I was sorely disappointed in Russell’s performances last year AT LEAST as often as I was thrilled with him. The time in the minors appeared to truly hurt… and I don’t blame TOB one bit for not wanting to let him get his legs under him over the course of 6 games again…

  6. moreforw 07/08/2011 at 6:33 AM #

    Much better O-line this year! First game sept 1st vs. UNLV

  7. Wulfpack 07/08/2011 at 7:22 AM #

    I also think RW “regressed” last year. He seemed to throw it in traffic an awful lot. Sometimes that wins you the game, and sometimes it loses it for you. He was a tremendous QB here but I’m extremely excited about the overall direction of the program, even without him. It was a little too much the RW show on offense. I’m looking forward to what I hope is more of a team effort. This will lead to more victories if everything pans out. I trust TOB and his staff. I really do.

  8. ncsu_kappa 07/08/2011 at 7:53 AM #

    Chop, I don’t know who the other three teams were but did any of them have receivers get drafted? I think RW’s receiving core has been garbage just about his entire time under center. Last year was probably the deepest its been and its hard not to call that group also ran.

    I think the biggest factor impacting ypa, was the presence or lack thereof a running game. We didn’t have a running game or a great receiver and the results showed. Its kind of funny how the finger always gets pointed at our all acc qb… the one thing about our offense that was great. I never remember anyone pointing out the wide open wr’s he missed, the check downs, or misreads he made. I hear/read RW is forcing the ball which I expect was necessary given the supporting cast he had.

  9. rmoore 07/08/2011 at 8:24 AM #

    yeah. if i were a badger fan, i’d be real excited, b/c i’d remember these factors:

    1) wilson didn’t have any 1000 yard rushers; now he has two.
    2) he ran for his life often; now he won’t need to.
    3) he threw the ball a lot; now he’ll throw 15 times. maybe. and that’ll be a luxury.
    4) deep ball? state’s receivers played up and down, but if they had caught his deep passes (that hit them in bleeping numbers very often), they’d all be in the nfl being locked out right now.
    5) he won’t run like he did at state; there’ll be too many defenders in the box to stop the running backs…

    my take is simple. he’ll hand the ball off (no one stops the wisc running game), make a few throws when asked behind a gooood o line. the scrambling will be less often, with so many defenders up to stop the run…the results could be real good, or just normal wisconson: 10-2, 11-1.
    i’m thrilled for him and excited to see how he does…

    go mike glennon!

  10. JasonP 07/08/2011 at 9:24 AM #

    Agree with rmoore.

    Russell paired with 1K yd backs, better O line, better coaching (yes, I said it), just a better team and system all around has to be exciting for both himself and UW players and fans. If defenses stack the box for the run, then play action and roll outs will murder them. UW’s TE could have an AA season.

  11. tvp1 07/08/2011 at 9:52 AM #

    choppack: You are off in two respects.

    First, you are looking at completion %. I am looking at yards per attempt.

    But the bigger problem is that it is not an apples to oranges comparison. My point is that Russel Wilson’s YPA and passer rating predictably regressed after he was asked to throw it 10 more times per game. That is, the same QB in the same offensive system with more or less the same WR against a tougher but not wildly different schedule predictably was not as efficient when asked to throw far more often. My point is that these numbers do not mean that RW regressed.

    If you try to compare RW to other teams that pass it very often, say Oklahoma, you have to take into account all of these other variables (different offensive systems, surrounding personnel, strength of schedule, etc.) Most of the other teams that throw it that often are running “Air Raid” offenses (think Texas Tech) which are built on lots of very short routes, catch-and-run, frequent audibles, formation shifts, etc. Those offenses are designed to have, and do have, much higher completion percentages and more YAC, and accordingly have higher YPA. Instead, we were asking Russell to throw it downfield very frequently to targets that were either really tall/big or had great straight-line speed.

    It’s not a valid comparison to look at RW’s efficiency stats versus Taylor Potts’s (or Scott Tolzien’s) and conclude, like the Big Lead did, that RW “is not a tremendous quarterback.”

  12. projectwentynine 07/08/2011 at 10:28 AM #

    “I was sorely disappointed in Russell’s performances last year AT LEAST as often as I was thrilled with him.”

    One of the elements of his game that I found frustrating last year was his frequent conservatism in running the ball. He often seemed to show more hesitancy to run than he had in the past and seemingly failed to utilize his running ability to its full extent in cases where he clearly could have capitalized on it more. Whether this was at the coaches’ direction or an attempt (conscious or otherwise) to decrease the probability of receiving a potentially baseball career ending/affecting injury I have no idea, but that factor alone potentially altered the outcome of some close games and therefore the season. It will be interesting to see how aggressively he runs this season with baseball now out of the picture.

  13. sundropdrinker13 07/08/2011 at 11:45 AM #

    The reason we didn’t have a 1000 yard rusher last year is for the fact that RW did have so many passing AND rushing attempts. If Moose had been given the ball 250 times(which I don’t consider a lot for the best RB on the team), with his 4.5 ypc average, he would have gotten a little past 1100 yards. But like someone above said, it was the RW show last year. We had some good receivers last year. However, there was one that always made me cringe when the ball was thrown to him, and that is Graham. He is back this year, and that has me worried. He has never shown that he can consistently catch the ball, even on punt returns, as he muffs them WAY too much.

  14. Wolfy__79 07/08/2011 at 5:48 PM #

    our offense was geared around RW for the better part of his time here.. it will be a little different now that glennon is starting.. i’d like to see more emphasis on running the ball.

  15. 61Packer 07/08/2011 at 7:16 PM #

    Wisconsin’s schedule favors at least a Rose Bowl trip if they beat Penn St at home on Nov 26. Road schedule is not difficult now that Ohio St is tanking- Buckeyes plus Michigan St, Minnesota and Illinois, plus OOC road game vs Northern Ill. in Chicago. They don’t have to face Michigan, Northwestern or Iowa. OOC home games are Oregon St, UNLV and South Dakota. This almost makes our OOC schedule look easy.

    Even though the Big Ten style has been more uptempo lately, it’s still somewhat different than many ACC schools’ style. Wilson’s strength was his running, not his arm, which I still say is mediocre. He can run, but the BTC is more about the O-Line style with pocket QBs and big RBs. This seems to be TOB’s style. I wonder if he’s going to be considered big enough to run a lot? If he has to mainly pass, he may have trouble seeing over tall defenders.

    He might end up playing pro football, but I doubt it’ll be in the NFL. I wish him well, but I also wish he hadn’t run out onto the field with the seniors on Senior Day last season. But when he did, it was time to hand it over to Glennon. TOB did the right thing.

  16. TruthBKnown Returns 07/08/2011 at 8:35 PM #

    ^^ 61Packer, I believe Russell running out on Senior Day was TOB’s idea, either a “just in case you don’t come back” kind of thing, or maybe an ominous sign of what he had in mind for Russell since he knew Russell would not be returning in time for Spring practice.

  17. john of sparta 07/08/2011 at 8:40 PM #

    RW, good luck, man.
    both the OL and DL
    are HUGE in the BT.

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