In part one, I outline five things I learned while covering Wisconsin football recruiting in 2011.
Beau Allen got the ball rolling for Wisconsin's new wave of four-star recruits.
1. Wisconsin has reached a new level in recruiting
Go Back to 2010, the Badgers finish 10-3 a year before their 2011 Rose Bowl appearance, and finish the season by knocking of Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Arguably, Wisconsin’s top recruit was Minnetonka (Minn.) Defensive Tackle Beau Allen, who chose the Badgers over offers from Michigan, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and Stanford among others.
Outside of Allen, Wisconsin was used to competing against primarily inferior programs, in which the main school of the area (ie. Miami, Ohio State, Penn State, etc.) overlooked those certain prospects. Wisconsin often settled for plan B and plan C recruits, with their plan A recruits often heading to bigger programs.
In 2011, Wisconsin grabbed five prospects I would consider at the level of Beau Allen, or a plan A type recruit.
Chicago (Ill.) Curie Defensive End James Adeyanju was one of the top defensive players in the state of Illinois, a state Wisconsin typically struggles in and the Badgers were able to snag his services from nearly 20 other programs. Wisconsin took Pennsylvania native Michael Caputo away from Penn State and Ohio State. The Badgers beat out Florida State, Nebraska, Oregon, and Tennessee for Jesse Hayes. Wisconsin’s lone four-star prospects we’re in-state recruits Melvin Gordon, who originally committed to Iowa, before switching to the Badgers late in the process, and Jake Keefer.
In 2012, Wisconsin currently has commitments from six, four-star prospects, after only grabbing two a season ago. The Badgers’ recruiting wins reached a level many fans thought not possible for a “non sexy” program.
Wisconsin’s first commitment came from the Nation’s No. 2 ranked offensive guard in the country, Dan Voltz. Voltz had offers from the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Stanford, and Tennessee among others. He was later joined by J.J. Denman, a one-time Penn State commit, who Wisconsin ripped away well before the news of the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke.
Early in the 2012 recruiting cycle, Wisconsin did the unthinkable by pulling away Cleveland native Kyle Dodson away from the Ohio State Buckeyes. Dodson also had the opportunity to play at Alabama, Auburn, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Penn State and USC among many more.
The Badgers finally grabbed an elite quarterback in the form of Bart Houston, who Wisconsin got out of California, a state not normally recruited by the Badgers.
Arguably Wisconsin’s biggest recruiting victory came in the form of three-star, hard hitting Safety D.J. Singleton. Singleton didn’t even consider the Badgers as a viable option when he was first offered by Assistant Coach Thomas Hammock. After Hammock was able to get him on campus, Wisconsin lead ever since as Singleton chose the Badgers over Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Rutgers among others.
Beginning in 2013, Wisconsin has 12 of their 14 known offers out to Top247 prospects. Needless to say, the bar has been raised in Madison.
2. West Coast recruiting has some potential
Under Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin had dipped into California often and snagged some quality prospects from time to time. Bret Bielema had gotten away from recruiting the Golden State until this year, snagging two prospects from the West Coast.
Can Wisconsin continue to land prospects from the West Coast like Bart Houston?
With Wisconsin making it’s second consecutive Rose Bowl appearance on Monday, I think you can expect to see a few more offers go out in the class of 2013 to West Coast prospects.
When you land one of the top prospects, especially a quarterback, in a given state, other prospects from that state take notice. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to see the Badgers make California a bit of a priority in the next few classes.
3. Thomas Hammock could be Wisconsin’s best recruiter
In his first season at Wisconsin, Assistant Coach Thomas Hammock has proven to be an extremely valuable assistant. In addition to coaching a Heisman Trophy finalist, Hammock has made some major strides in Wisconsin’s East Coast recruiting.
First with his commitments, Hammock was able to land Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep Safety D.J. Singleton. Singleton by no means was favoring the Badgers at the time of their offer to the 6-foot-3 Safety. Hammock landed a prospect that Wisconsin isn’t used to getting at the position, a hard hitting, play-making safety, that can change the game on the defensive end.
Hammock also pulled arguably one of the biggest recruiting surprises in the nation in 2011. Hammock convinced four-star Offensive Tackle J.J. Denman to de-commit from Penn State and commit to Wisconsin. Denman had decided on the Nittany Lions last Summer shortly after visiting Wisconsin for their Spring game. Denman had even gone on record saying he was solid with Penn State, a week before his surprise official visit to Madison.
Not only did Hammock land two big commitments for Wisconsin in his first season in Madison, but he made good runs at many highly rated prospects out East. Leonte Carroo, Donavan Riley, Davon Jacobs, Greg Pyke, Yuri Wright, and Jevon Tyree all had very positive things to say about Hammock.
4. UW not quitting
Doe was a one-time Oregon State commitment.
I can tell a verbal commitment to another school or even to Wisconsin means very little to the Badger coaching staff. Whether or not a prospect gives his pledge to another school or even Wisconsin, the coaching staff doesn’t appear to change their approach.
In 2011, Wisconsin received commitments from three prospects, who at one time were committed to other schools (J.J. Denman, Kenzel Doe, and Melvin Gordon). With the 2012 class, Wisconsin has continued to recruit numerous prospects just as hard as they were before their commitment, if not harder. Maurice Fleming, Ruben Lile, Larry Hope, and Donavan Riley, just to name a few, continue to be pursued by the Wisconsin staff.
The Badger coaching staff has also done an excellent job of securing all but one of their current commitments. Every committed prospect I've talked to continues to hear plenty from his recruiting coordinator. This is easily the biggest reason why Wisconsin has been able to keep it's class intact since the news broke that the Badgers would be losing Assistants Bob Bostad and Paul Chryst.
5. Illinois becoming an important state for Wiscosnin
I’m not sure Wisconsin will ever be able to rely on landing a few quality prospects from Illinois year in and year out. Still with the talent that state produces and with Wisconsin being the top program in the Midwest the past two seasons, the Badgers have found themselves having more success in Illinois than usual.
Wisconsin has landed just two prospects in 2011, but Dan Voltz and James Adeyanju were two of the more highly regarded prospects in that state. The Badgers have made and are making good runs at four-star prospects Jaleel Johnson, Jordan Diamond, Tommy Schutt, and Wes Lunt.
In 2013, Wisconsin appears to be in good shape for the top two prospects in Illinois. Both Ethan Pocic and Ty Isaac have the Badgers in their top groups early in the process.
With Notre Dame being the only program able to recruit Illinois on a consistent basis, Wisconsin could and I think will benefit greatly if they continue to establish good pipelines in that state.
Isaac is the Nation's No. 28 ranked prospect in the class of 2013.