When defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, offensive coordinator Matt Canada and head coach Bret Bielema looked back over the film of St. Thomas (Fla.) Aquinas senior John O'Korn, the Badgers saw an entirely different quarterback … and a new priority target.
Saying the Badgers have been picking up their interest over the past two weeks, Wisconsin finally came through with a scholarship offer Thursday night, and proclaimed to O'Korn that he is the Badgers top option.
"They told me that I am their guy," O'Korn told Badger Nation. "They want me to focus on winning a state championship, which is my number one priority. They were all for that because that was important for me."
The 6-4, 205-pound O'Korn had only 377 passing yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions last season as Aquinas' backup quarterback. This season as a starter, O'Korn – a three-star quarterback ranked No.61 in the country by Scout.com - has passed for approximately 1,400 passing yards, 400 rushing yards and responsible for 23 touchdowns in leading his team into tonight's game with a 7-2 record.
"I've really grown up a lot this season," said O'Korn. "I've been playing really well, especially in big games this season. I've really had to grow as a leader, which is where I have improved the most. I learned game planning and learned from our two losses this year that's it's not a one-man show. We're definitely a team, winning and losing as a team. When we get away from that, bad things happen.
"We're at our best playing together. With all our athletes this year, it's really helped me grow up, helping me realize it's not all about me, our offense or our defense."
O'Korn could have been in line for a Wisconsin offer earlier, but did not attend Wisconsin's high school summer camps. With the UW coaching staff have actively recruited O'Korn's school under Bielema, the quarterback said the Badgers' staff was always within an ear shot.
"Coach Partridge and Coach Bielema love my film," O'Korn said. "Coach Canada was able to come down and meet with me in the spring, so he was comfortable with offering me. It just worked out now compared to early on.
"Our school kind of has a pipeline to Wisconsin. A lot of guys from here go there. Coach Partridge recruits South Florida very well for Wisconsin."
Wisconsin has been the only new offer since O'Korn committed to Houston following an unofficial visit at the end of June, picking the Cougars over North Carolina, South Florida and UCF. He added that Florida International and Penn State have also picked up interest as of late.
But the work of other schools might be for not, as O'Korn's relationship with the Houston coaching staff. His relationship with the Cougars is unique, because O'Korn has been recruited specifically by head coach Tony Levine, who was an assistant with the program since 2008 before getting promoted following last season.
"That really stood out to me early on when they offered because I knew that they wanted me," said O'Korn. "When the head coach was taking his time to recruit me instead of sending another assistant coach, that really stood out to me. No other school really had been doing that.
"Right now, I am committed to Houston. I made a commitment to Houston a couple months ago and right now I am sticking to it. They have been great to me. I love their whole coaching staff and their program."
O'Korn is taking an unofficial visit to Houston this weekend with his parents, getting a chance to experience game day on campus. The only other visit O'Korn said was on his radar was trying to make a stop at Wisconsin.
"Wisconsin is a trip I would definitely like to take," said O'Korn. "They want me to take my time and focus on making my senior year memorable and make it the best I can be. I only get to have one senior year in my life, and I have to make the most of it."