To tap in to some of that knowledge, Badger Nation's new subscriber series will go around the country to ask the questions that impact Wisconsin recruiting. This week, we go into Florida with Fox Sports Next Florida recruiting analyst Laura McKeeman.
BN: When you think high school football in the state of Florida, the powerhouse of St. Thomas Aquinas HS usually comes up and the Badgers have had some success recruiting at the school (running back James White, safety Dezmen Southward, linebacker Conor O'Neill). Who in the Class of 2013 has impressed you and you think could be Division 1 recruits?
McKeeman: St. Thomas Aquinas is always loaded and we know this because like you said, we see these kids win year in and year out. I don't think they won the state title last year because so many of the high schools in Florida are getting better and better by following the Aquinas model. That doesn't mean Aquinas is falling off and I think one of biggest examples of this is Joey Bosa. Bosa is a big defensive end that we have ranked as a five star on Scout. He's one of the best players in the south, he's 6-5 and 260 pounds and there isn't too much you can't like about him.
He's a big defensive lineman and is very consistent, good penetration and a guy in college that could be one of those good, quick interior linemen or even a strong defensive end. He's so athletic that he could play in a lot of different places. It'll be interesting to see what happens with him. He does have a Wisconsin offer, is very interested in them and liked the idea of some of the bigger guys that have come out of that program. He really likes the Wisconsin coaches. They've done a good job of making it known what he could do for them and their program.
He recognizes that some of these other schools in the south, he might not be their No.1 defensive end. If you go to Alabama, you'll be competing with the top prospects. I think Wisconsin is using that recruiting tactic that he'd be the guy, but of course Florida and Florida State are in the mix, as well. He's something to watch for sure.
Another guy Wisconsin could get in the mix for is Fred Coppet, a 5-9, 175-pound running back from Aquinas. He's a smaller back, but he does a lot of interesting things. One of the things I like about him is he doesn't' have a lot of offers, but he's someone that continues to standout and someone people continue to notice. I think a lot of people question his size, but I don't think that matters. He's pushing himself to be one of the best running backs in the state of Florida in this class. A lot of people that see him compare him to former Clemson running back C.J. Spiller who came out of the state of Florida. Coppet is really fast, is going to be well coached and he's just one of the reasons Aquinas has been able to get a run game going. He's really made some impressive strides.
BN: Joey Bosa is supposedly going to make a visit to Wisconsin sometime this spring. Is that a courtesy visit or do you think the Badgers have a real shot with him?
McKeeman: Well, I am not sure this kid will go that far away from home and I think that plays in here. That being said, I think he's a guy that is willing to keep his options open. He has an open mind with his recruitment. Kids that I have talked to from the state of Florida, and you think back to guys like Jacoby Brissett and Curt Maggitt from Dwyer … well, maybe Wisconsin fans don't want to think about them, but my point is they came back to Florida loving Wisconsin and gave the Badgers constant PR throughout the state. I think that's something we'll see from Joey Bosa.
I mean, some kids want to completely leave home and leave the ACC or the SEC, which has been so prominent in the state of Florida and the southeast. I think some of them want to forge their own brand. There is so much talent in the southeast, especially on the defensive line, that schools like Wisconsin could be favored to land one of these kids from the south. Some kids don't want to go to a school where they'll be competing all the time and have to redshirt when they could go to Wisconsin and play right away. I think everyone knows how talent Wisconsin has been, will be and has a good coaching staff. I think that's the sentiment from kids I talk to that they really like Coach Bret Bielema and pretty much all the other coaches. Plus after going to a game with the atmosphere and the Jump Around, a lot of kids want to see it in person.
BN: Of the Badgers' seven offers to kids in the state of Florida, two are to committed prospects to other schools in running back Alex Collins (Miami) and safety Sojourn Shelton (Florida State). First with Collins, who is going to visit for the UW spring game, what is the relationship with Miami and do the Badgers have a chance with him?
McKeeman: I think he is open and just going by the things he is saying that he wants to take some visits and check out other schools. A lot of this has to do with kids simply not wanting to close all the doors with other schools, which is what we are seeing more and more of these days with the way kids handle their recruitment. It gives other schools a chance, especially with Miami and the situation they are in with potential NCAA sanctions. It's one of those things where you don't know if it's going to get worse or how much worse and a lot of kids in Miami's very good 2012 recruiting class said they knew they were taking a risk going into it.
Now does a kid like Alex Collins want to continue to take a risk? Maybe not, especially is more information continues to come out. That's why he's probably continuing to take visits and maybe he looks back and says, ‘I've been to Wisconsin. I know what's going on up there.' I would not cut this kid out because he seems fair game at this point. It's a shame we don't value commitments more, but that's the way things are in the recruiting world.
I would imagine he's going to like from Wisconsin. I heard from his coach that he is very excited about this visit, so the Badgers have a good chance to impress him.
BN: What kind of running back is he in your opinion?
McKeeman: He's making a good case for himself as one of the top five in the state. He's a guy who is an all-around back. He's explosive, he's quick for sure, he has a lot of power and you don't see his type of power in a lot of high school backs. I saw his last season where he was virtually unstoppable. There are a lot of good defenders in the state of Florida and he just runs over people. He's one of those guys that can catch the ball out of the backfield, which is a good aspect to see in a running back's game. It'll be interesting to see if he can grab that top running back spot in the state because there are a lot of good runners in the state. I really like Collins' game.
BN: Defensive back Sojourn Shelton is committed to Florida State, but he is another player that wants to take visits, including to Wisconsin. What do you like about him and his possibility coming to Wisconsin?
McKeeman: Wisconsin is still among his top schools. He really does like Wisconsin, and one of the things, I think, he likes the most is they have knocked him because of his size. He always gets ripped on his size and it's not that he's a tiny guy. He's just a little undersized at 5-9 and 170 pounds, but Wisconsin wants to coach him up, put size on him and they like the fact that he covers like a blanket. They aren't worried about that. They get him in the weight room and give him some of those brats, he'll bulk up.
It'll be real interested to see what happens because there are a lot of talented secondary prospects in the state of Florida in 2013. You wonder if Florida State wouldn't get into the mix for some of these other prospects and that causes Shelton to second guess his decision. Of course, him growing up wanting to play for Florida State factors into the decision and why you saw an early commitment from him. He's just taking all these visits, covering his bases and I think Wisconsin is a school he can't get out of his head.
BN: If Shelton is the plan A guy in Florida, Xavier Hines out of Miami might be the plan B guy at cornerback. He's a little bigger than Shelton and he says UW is one of his top schools, but Wisconsin hasn't offered yet. What do you know about him in terms of how he plays?
McKeeman: All these South Florida kids love these Florida schools growing up and he loves Miami, so I would watch for the Hurricanes. I think a lot of schools are waiting for his senior season and see what happens. He says he likes Wisconsin, Rutgers, Florida International and Miami and I would imagine other schools will get into the mix. If UW doesn't land Shelton, I would imagine they would offer Hines. Hines can play corner and safety, has a good knowledge of how to play both positions and have knowledge of what's going on in the secondary. I would imagine he'll play corner at the next level and he would be a good fit for Wisconsin. UW is giving him some love he really likes, but Miami was the school he grew up watching.
BN: What's up with MacKenzie Alexander and his recruitment?
McKeeman: That's the question everyone has been asking. He's been taking a lot of visits and he's keeping it pretty close to the vest. Some people are saying he could play tailback in college, but I see him at cornerback. He's physical gifted, he gets it, he's tough and he's a great tackler. He also thrives in man coverage. In a year where Florida is loaded at cornerback, he's making himself in the running for the best in the state. He has every big offer in the south and he's mention Wisconsin as a possible visit. I think he'll visit other parts of the country. He has a twin brother who is a BCS recruit and that may or may not factor in, but I think he'll be looking around for quite some time.
BN: In addition to Collins, A.J. Turman is another Florida running back the Badgers have offered. How are the two players different from each other?
McKeeman: He's kind of a bowling ball type guy. He doesn't run the fastest 40 – probably around a 4.6 – but he's 6-foot and 200 pounds. Last year he has 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. From what I know, he's somebody that hasn't been ranked yet because there are so many talented backs in Florida right now. When he does get ranked, he'll be a three star, so he's somebody to get behind. He doesn't have that many offers right now, but some schools have gotten in early. Florida State has offered, which is interesting because they really don't need running backs. They like him enough though, so that's pretty big.
BN: Why do you think Wisconsin offered him despite having offered a lot of other backs that appear more talented than Turman?
McKeeman: I think he's the kind of guy that you would take a flier on and see what he can do. You don't want to say backup plan because he has legit offers, but a lot of it is pointing to him going to Auburn because that's the school that he's favoring for the longest time. He's visited Auburn a lot, so I wonder if he isn't further down on Wisconsin's board because they think he is going to go elsewhere but they stillw ant to stay in the mix. I think a lot of schools are starting to get on board with him.
BN: Last but certainly not least, Wisconsin offered Stacy Thomas in Miami.
McKeeman: I actually talked to him a little while ago and the way he described his game is an outside linebacker-defensive end type guy. He's really athletic and he thinks that's something that will be able to help him a lot. He has a good skill set and plays that role that a lot of people like to see from a defensive end. I think he's a good guy to get in the mix for. I haven't seen him play, but he says he has contained speed, which is advantageous for that position. He told he isn't sold on staying in the state of Florida, which is a good thing for Wisconsin. I think he'll go out of state, but as of right now he's really open.