Badgers building a fence around state recruits
Sixteen of the 21 incoming players welcomed in by coach Bret Bielema and his staff Wednesday on National Signing Day come from outside the state, including four from Ohio, three from Florida, and two each from Texas, Michigan and Illinois.
But ask any UW coach what makes him proud of this year’s decent recruiting turnout— UW has the 50th-ranked class of 2009—and he’s bound to talk about the success in keeping the best in-state Wisconsin players close to home.
“We’re doing things right within the state,” Bielema said. “We’re building relationships over time with our (high school) coaches … our assistant coaches are getting accustomed to the familiar faces in the state.”
When defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who recruited the Florida players, was asked about where in-state recruiting priorities lie, he didn’t even flinch.
“First and foremost, before Florida,” Partridge said. “If there’s a defensive player that I can assist with, in a Wisconsin recruit, that’s ahead of Florida, without question. That is our No. 1 recruiting focus.”
Partridge and offensive line coach Bob Bostad, who recruited Wisconsin high schools, will be pleased with this year’s lot.
All five of Wisconsin’s 2009 in-state recruits will do battle in the trenches, either in the offensive line (Travis Frederick, Walworth Big Foot; Ryan Groy, Middleton) or defensive line (Tyler Dippel, Hartford; Shelby Harris, Homestead; and Jordan Kohout, Waupun).
“Wisconsin did a great job of building a fence around the state and corrallin a number of big linemen,” said Allen Trieu, Midwest recruiting analyst for Scout.com, in a phone interview Tuesday night.
Kohout, Harris and Groy are the top-three ranked players in Wisconsin, and all will have a chance to play or even start this fall for the Badgers.
“The other thing is, they identified the top kids early on, and got them early on,” Trieu said.
Another top player whom Wisconsin locked up quickly was the only 2009 quarterback, Jon Budmayr from Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, Ill. Budmayr, who committed to UW his sophomore year, is the No. 17-ranked pro-style quarterback in the country, and he pairs with Curt Phillips to give UW highly touted quarterback prospects in back-to-back years.
Budmayr missed his entire senior season with a broken collarbone, but is now healthy and one of four UW recruits to enroll early, taking classes and preparing for life as a Big Ten football player.
“My biggest goal this spring is to learn,” Budmayr said. “At this level, the competition is one of the things I’ll look forward to, but I need to learn quite a bit first.”
Wisconsin also scored on a couple of solid wide receivers. Trieu calls Cincinnati’s Jeff Duckworth “really underrated,” and four-star recruit Kraig Appleton of East St. Louis, Ill., pleased UW coaches greatly by selecting the Badgers over Illinois on Wednesday.
“We’ve had great success in (that area) with players moving on to the next level,” said defensive coordinator Dave Doeren, who was largely responsible for winning over Appleton.
“Obviously, he wants a degree here, and that’s his ultimate goal. Seeing (former Badgers and current NFL receivers) Chris Chambers, Lee Evans, and Brandon Williams doing what they’re doing, that helps.”
However, while “skill” players like Budmayr and Appleton will create more buzz, Wisconsin can be most satisfied with greeting its new players on the lines—the Badgers’ bread and butter.
“The first thing they did was they won their home turf, and that was great,” Trieu said of the Badgers’ recruiting. ““Then they did a good job of filling out the class with needs elsewhere. They have a nice, well-rounded class.”