No matter what Joe Brennan does in his time at Wisconsin, he probably will not be the most recognizable Badger to hail from New Jersey. A big running back that wore No. 33 and the name "Dayne" on the back of his jersey has that title safely locked down for the foreseeable future.
Still, the redshirt freshman moves from spring practice to summer workouts with the opportunity to impress his teammates and coaches and challenge redshirt sophomore Jon Budmayr for the starting quarterback job sooner rather than later.
Following the departure of two-year starter Scott Tolzien, the quarterback competition looked to be wide open even before a lack-luster spring session failed to present an obvious candidate.
Ever since redshirt junior quarterback Curt Phillips learned he would miss the entire season—his second in a row—due to another knee injury, the race seems to be down to two horses. True freshman Joel Stave looked good at times, but having full control over offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's offense just months out of high school is asking a lot of the Whitehall native.
That is where Brennan said he feels he has made the most progress this year. He led the scout team offense last season and faced the likes of J.J. Watt, senior safety Aaron Henry and the rest of the Badgers' defense on a regular basis.
"It's great because I got the chance to look at a team's No. 1 defense and try to recognize different coverages and pressures and things like that," the Audobon, N.J. native said.
UW head coach Bret Bielema often talks about the difference between the first and second years in camp for young players and the inherent benefits that come with a year under the belt. Brennan has the natural tools—he's bigger than Budmayr at 6'3''—and he thinks his experience last year and this spring will go a long way towards his cause.
"I've already been through the process, I already know what to expect as far as the scheduling and stuff," Brennan said. "I'm really looking to develop, physically and mentally take advantage of the time we have to grow with other teammates."
The first step in that growth came Saturday, as the Badgers concluded spring practice with their annual intrasquad Spring Game. The offense struggled all around, and Brennan had a particularly rough go of it, completing just 4-of-23 passes and tossing two interceptions. Still, Bielema said afterwards that the Spring Game shows very little about how positional battles will develop once fall practice starts and Brennan said he knows he will have to work.
"Whenever you play quarterback there's always going to be tough competition," he said.
With Phillips out of the picture for the year, Budmayr and Brennan will likely see the vast majority of snaps this fall and take on the burden of leadership through the summer workouts.
As the younger and less experienced of the two—Budmayr saw game action in three games a year ago and threw a 76-yard touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Jared Abbrederis in the fourth quarter of an 82-20 blowout of Indiana—Brennan will likely have an uphill road to the starting job. That said, almost nobody thought Tolzien would win the starting nod before the 2009 season and Brennan thinks he has a chance to create similar surprise.
"I know this is the right fit for me. I'm just trying to show my talents," he said. "I see myself doing good things here."
Let's hope they choose wisely. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!