Lucas at Large: Thrust into backup role, Brennan carries confidence

FB_110831_Brennan_Joe.jpegSeconds after Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco connected on a touchdown pass to Lee Evans, the UW's all-time leading receiver, Joe Brennan was texting Flacco's younger brother, John.

Even though the score came in a meaningless NFL preseason game, Brennan couldn't resist the temptation to tweak his friend -- John Flacco, a sophomore wide receiver at Stanford University.

"Nothing but playmakers coming from the Udub,'' texted Brennan, the UW's backup quarterback going into Thursday night's season opener against UNLV at Camp Randall.

John Flacco didn't know how to respond.

"He didn't answer,'' said Brennan. "It was like, 'What the heck is that suppose to mean?'''

Later that night Brennan and John Flacco had this exchange on the phone.

Flacco: "What are you talking about?''

Brennan: "Lee Evans, dude.''

The light went on for John Flacco -- just as it has for Brennan during training camp. Brennan, in fact, credited Joe Flacco for some timely words of advice and encouragement over the summer.

Recalled Brennan of their conversation, "He just told me, 'Believe in yourself, believe in your abilities. You know what you can do. Just go out and attack every day.'''

Jersey guys tend to stick together. Brennan and the Flaccos are from Audubon, N.J.; a suburb of Camden. Brennan went to Camden Catholic, the Flaccos went to Audubon High School.

A few years ago, Joe Flacco befriended Brennan.

"When I went home after spring ball, I got a chance to talk with him,'' said Brennan, a redshirt freshman. "He was curious to see how things were going.''

"Not well'' would have been the answer since Brennan struggled in the UW's spring game. But instead of dwelling on the negative stats, he tried to use the experience as a springboard.

"With the way things went for me in the spring, I felt really motivated,'' Brennan said. "I felt there were a lot of things that I could work on and improve on.

"Although my performance was very up and down and inconsistent, I knew that I could sharpen that up and learn from my mistakes. I felt kind of confident.

"The spring was definitely good for me and I felt like I could take some momentum into the fall. I just had to believe in myself and my abilities.''

Brennan got an opportunity for more reps in practice when quarterback Jon Budmayr began experiencing soreness in his throwing arm and numbness in his fingers.

UW coach Bret Bielema said Budmayr was seeing a nerve specialist in Cincinnati and that a decision on whether he would need surgery might be made by the end of the week.

If Budmayr is sidelined for the season, it would bring even more urgency to developing Russell Wilson's backups: Brennan and walk-on Joel Stave, a true freshman out of Whitnall High School.

"Jon is a great leader and teammate,'' Brennan said. "This week, he has been helping me with game preparation and how to go about studying the film for an opponent.''

When asked where Brennan has made the most improvement, Bielema said, "Communication.  You'd better have confidence in what you're doing ... and what you're saying (in the huddle).

"You could tell there's been a little bit of a change in him. He made the comment to me (last Friday), 'Coach, I'm ready to be the No. 2 quarterback. And if called upon, I'll be ready.'''

In this context, Brennan admitted, "I have a better grasp of things. I feel good, I feel confident.''

Joe Flacco would be pleased to hear that.
ON WISCONSIN