NSD: Bielema's Second Class Yields Success

The class wasn't as celebrated when it was first announced, but history proved otherwise. Five years after Bret Bielema's second signing class, the head coach was able to recruit a solid group of athletes, most of whom got the full value of their eligibility at Wisconsin.

MADISON -Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema often says that his first recruiting class was the result of scrambling – trying to fill 23 scholarships in less than a month after he was named the head coach. As a result, 13 of UW's 23 member class didn't fulfill its eligibility at Wisconsin, either transferring or leaving the program all together.

Those numbers started to improve in class number two. Wisconsin officially had 17 members in its 2007 recruiting class (Daven Jones was counted in both the '06 and '07 class because of academic problems); a recruiting class that was ranked No.41 by Scout.com and sixth in the Big Ten. That number was four spots lower than the season before, but the class resulted in more players giving more contributions. Eleven players in the class fulfilled their four years of eligibility, transferred after graduating or retired after graduating, meaning 64.7 percent of the class got full use out of the Wisconsin experience.

Rank this class today, the Badgers easily would have a class in the top 30.

The Best

Patrick Butrym, *** 73 DT, Waukesha – Finishing with at least 23 tackles in all three seasons, Butrym was a very serviceable defensive tackle for Wisconsin. Butrym finished his senior season with 23 tackles and one quarterback sack, including having the huge honor of being named a senior captain.

John Clay, **** 14 RB, Racine Park – Beating out Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio State and Tennessee, Clay lived up to his billing as one of the top running backs in the country during his tenure. Clay was a Doak Walker Finalists in 2010 – his final season at UW before declaring for the NFL Draft – and finished his career seventh in school history with 3,413 career rushing yards, third in school history with 5.43 yards per rush (min. 300 attempts) and his 41 career rushing touchdowns ranks fifth in school history, as does his 18 career 100-yard rushing games. Clay was certainly consistent for the Badgers, as he rushed for 100-plus yards and scored at least one TD in 10 straight games.

Aaron Henry, *** CB 40, Immokalee, Fl - More so than for his play on the field, which ended with 67 tackles (third-best on the team) and four interceptions last season, Henry will be remembered by fans and Bielema because of his character. He was one of the first players Bielema recruited, and is a player Bielema's had differences with over the years, but UW's coach talked often about how Henry stuck with his commitment despite a late scholarship offer from Florida, overcame an ACL injury at the end of his true freshman season, had to redshirt, lost his position upon coming back, switched from cornerback to safety and put in the due diligence to be a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches.

Louis Nzegwu, *** 53 RB, Platteville – After entering UW as a running back, Nzegwu got some great teachers along the way in NFL players O'Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt, along with defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, to transform himself into a serviceable defensive end. After registering 46 tackles as a junior, Nzegwu finished his senior season with 38 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and a team-best 4.5 sacks. He also ended his career scoring his first collegiate touchdown, scooping up a fumble for a 33-yard touchdown in the Rose Bowl.

Josh Oglesby, ***** 1 OT, Saint Francis – The biggest recruit UW coach Bret Bielema has ever landed, it took a couple years for Oglesby to show how good he could be. Through six knee surgeries, Oglesby played through the pain this season to earn a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection and the winner of team's Wayne Souza Coaches Appreciation Award. Pretty good bet that Iowa, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC would have loved to have had him for the last five years.

Nick Toon, *** 89 WR, Middleton – Many originally thought Wisconsin was offering Nick because of his dad, Al. Five years later, those people can think differently. Ending his career third in school history with 2,447 career receiving yards and 171 career receptions and fifth at UW with 18 career receiving touchdowns, Toon caught 64 passes for 926 yards and 10 touchdowns his senior year (all numbers that rank in the top six in school history in the respective categories). Toon was named a second-team All-Big Ten selection this past season and won team's Wayne Souza Coaches Appreciation Award.

Philip Welch, ** 21 K, Fort Collins, Co - Welch was offered grey-shirt opportunities at Colorado State and Wisconsin and was offered to walk-on by Michigan, but he chose to wait until after signing day to make his decision in hopes a full scholarship would open up. Welch didn't have to wait long, as Wisconsin offered him a full scholarship on signing day and he committed two days later. It was a smart move by UW.

The Big Ten leader in career extra points made with 209, Welch was a four-year starter who provided stability to the kicking game. Welch holds the school record for extra points attempted and extra point percentage (min. 50 attempts), and ranks second in career field goals made with 59, career points with 386 (most by a kicker) and field goal percentage at .776 (min. 30 attempts).

The Rest

Zach Brown, ** NR RB, Royal Palm Beach, Fla. – Arkansas, Kansas State, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and West Virginia all couldn't convince Brown to not follow in the running back tradition at Wisconsin. Early on, Brown looked to be a good recruit, especially after he ran for 250 yards against the Gophers as a true freshman. Unfortunately for him, that was Brown's highpoint. The running back struggled with his confidence and slowly slid down the depth chart. To Brown's credit, he graduated in four years and transferred to Pittsburgh this past season so he could have more playing time.

David Gilreath, *** NR WR, Plymouth, MN. – Getting him away from Iowa and Minnesota, Gilreath rewarded Wisconsin by leaving school as the Big Ten record-holder for career kickoff returns with 131 and career kickoff return yards with 2,959 yards. Gilreath registered the play of 2010, returning the opening kickoff 97 yards (tied for fourth-longest in school history) for a TD in the win over No. 1 Ohio State on Oct. 16. It was the highlight of Gilreath's career, surpassing his 68-yard punt-return TD against Northwestern. He also became the 24th player in UW history with 1,000 career receiving yards, and finished his career ranked 21st with 1,077 yards.

Mario Goins, *** 70 CB, Copperas Cove, TX– Stealing Goins away from Arizona, Kansas and Missouri, the Badgers were hoping Goins would provide stability in the secondary. Goins started six games for the Badgers in 2008, recording 20 tackles and one pass breakup, but academic issues forced Goins to be send home from the Champs Sports Bowl. He sat out spring practice because of academic struggles and was eventually released.

Jasper Grimes, ** NR DT, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. – Grimes spent two years struggling to break through into UW's defensive line rotation before decided to transfer to Eastern Michigan.

Kyle Jefferson, *** 84 WR, Cleveland, Ohio – Iowa and Michigan State fell short in recruiting Jefferson, whose 412 receiving yards was fifth-best all-time by a UW freshman, but multiple concussions marred his career. Despite only 10 career starts and a combined eight catches over his final two seasons, Jefferson continued to be one of the most resilient players on the offense.

Quincy Landingham, *** 37 S, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. – Landingham played in six games his freshman season, mostly on special teams, after he graduated a semester early and joined the Badgers in the spring of '07. Landingham sustained a fall camp knee injury and did not return until the third week of season. By the following December, Landingham decided to transfer after less than a year on campus and went to Miami (Ohio).

Otis Merrill, **100 CB, Cleveland, Ohio - Redshirted in 2007 after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, Merrill's only appearance in 2008 came late in the Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State. He eventually decided to transfer to Illinois State.

Kevin Rouse, **** 11 MLB, Joliet, Ill. – After originally committing to Iowa, Wisconsin was able to switch Rouse's commitment less than two months before signing day. Problem was that injuries derailed Rouse and he never was the four-star player he was in high school. After making 15 tackles his junior year, Rouse graduated in four years and decided to hang it up.

Blake Sorensen, *** 20 WLB, Eden Prairie, MN – One of the few recruits in the 2007 recruiting class that did not redshirt, Sorensen was a big help to Wisconsin last season because of his versatility. With injuries to Mike Taylor and Chris Borland, Sorensen made 10 starts and led the team with 66 tackles.

James Stallons, **NR QB, Macomb, Mich. – Stallons spent two seasons at Wisconsin before deciding that his career wasn't going in the right direction at Wisconsin. Prior to the 2009 spring practices, Stallons decided to leave the program and eventually transferred to Grand Valley State in Allendale, Michigan.

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