Well, here’s one one-year quarterback Auburn didn’t get. Russell Wilson, formerly of North Carolina State, committed Monday to Wisconsin, which was big news, since the last Immediate Impact Free Agent in college football landed at Auburn, where he stayed a few months and left with a BCS title and a Heisman Trophy.
This isn’t to say Russell Wilson will make the same splash as Cam Newton. (I say again: Cam Newton was the second-best collegiate player I’ve ever seen, trailing only Herschel Walker.) But Russell Wilson has already done far more as a collegian than Newton had upon his Auburn arrival, and he could have been the difference between the post-Cam Tigers falling from 14-0 to, say, 7-5.
But Wilson, who visited Auburn, opted to go elsewhere, and there’s now a chance the Badgers will enter the season as Big Ten favorites. Michigan has a new coach, and so does Ohio State, and Nebraska is still in relocation mode. And having watched Wilson complete 28 of 41 passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns against Georgia Tech last fall, I can tell you he’s pretty darn good.
Wilson became a free agent because he’d already graduated from N.C. State but the Wolfpack wasn’t crazy about him spending the summer playing minor-league baseball for the Colorado Rockies. So the school released him from his scholarship, leaving him open to enrolling and playing immediately at another school. There was some thought that Wilson wouldn’t report to football practice until after the minor-league season ended in September, but hitting .228 in Class A ball has apparently led Wilson to quit baseball here and now.
There’s a footnote to this: The SEC voted recently to close the grad-student loophole, a kneejerk response to Jeremiah Masoli’s forced landing at Ole Miss last fall. (Masoli had been kicked off the team at Oregon.) That window will close on Oct. 1, 2011. But it would have been open had Wilson chosen Auburn, which he didn’t.
Ah, well. Can’t land them all, I guess.
By Mark Bradley