As the University of Wisconsin football program made its pitch this week to land North Carolina State transfer Russell Wilson, Ohio State was waving goodbye to the troubled Terrelle Pryor era.
Those two significant developments involving quarterbacks — which unfolded at basically the same time — could have a drastic impact on the Big Ten Conference landscape in the fall.
Wilson arrived in Madison on Tuesday and finished up his visit prior to 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
“It was a home run — a grand slam in baseball terms,” a UW source said about the visit.
Meanwhile, Pryor announced Tuesday night in a one-sentence statement released through his attorney, he would not return for his senior season this year with the Buckeyes. Pryor is the subject of an NCAA investigation over a variety of potential infractions.
If the Buckeyes held a big edge over the Badgers in the Leaders Division, it was mostly at the quarterback position. Even though Pryor was originally suspended for the first five games, the offense was considerably more potent with him on the roster.
Now, not only is Pryor gone, the Badgers appear to have an excellent chance at landing Wilson, who would be eligible to play in the fall because he has already earned his degree.
UW coaches are not allowed to comment on Wilson because he is an unsigned recruit.
But the source said Wilson spent considerable time with offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, learning about the team’s offense, as well as with the players.
Wilson, 5-foot-11, 202 pounds, has 8,545 career passing yards, with 76 passing touchdowns and 26 interceptions, as a three-year starter at North Carolina State. He has one year of eligibility remaining.
He previously visited Auburn and it appears his choices are down to the Badgers or Tigers.
“He definitely liked Madison better than Auburn,” the source said of the two communities.
The Badgers have much to offer, including two talented running backs in junior Montee Ball and sophomore James White, another good offensive line that returns three starters, as well as a top target in senior wide receiver Nick Toon.
The addition of Wilson would likely make the Badgers the favorite out of the Leaders Division to reach the first Big Ten championship game and possibly return to the Rose Bowl.
Although Auburn won the national title last season, it is considered to be in a rebuilding mode and is not expected to contend for the West title in the Southeastern Conference.
The Tigers lost more than 30 lettermen from last year’s team. They will have four new starters in the offensive line and few proven receivers.
Wilson is currently playing minor league baseball with the Asheville (N.C.) Tourists in the Colorado Rockies farm system. He reportedly was paid a $250,000 bonus as a fourth-round draft pick last year. He likely would have to pay back a significant portion of that bonus if he leaves early.
The Tourists’ regular season ends on Sept. 5. The Badgers open preseason camp on Aug. 4 and kick off the regular season at home against UNLV on Sept. 1.
Third-year sophomore Jon Budmayr emerged from UW’s spring practices as the No. 1 quarterback. He appeared in mop-up duty in three games last season and will be backed up by redshirt freshman Joe Brennan and freshman walk-on Joel Stave.
Pryor’s departure leaves a void at quarterback for the Buckeyes. Senior Joe Bauserman was No. 1 in the spring while Pryor recovered from a foot injury. But fans are already clamoring for freshman Braxton Miller, who enrolled early and looked good in the spring game.
Wilson’s hometown is Richmond, Va., but he has a Midwest connection. He has a brother who lives in the Chicago area, according to the source.
“He’s got to weigh some things,” the source said of Wilson’s decision, which is expected to come soon.