Back to the Coast

The University of Wisconsin made headlines last May when it pulled the big surprise of landing four-star quarterback Bart Houston from California. Known for recruiting quarterbacks nationally, the Badgers are back on the West Coast and looking at another Pacific pocket passer.

MADISON - With Wisconsin looking to take one quarterback per recruiting cycle, the Badgers will go coast to coast to find a signal caller that fits their style of offense, evidence by the fact that the Badgers have signed a quarterback from California, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Illinois and Tennessee in the last five recruiting cycles.

Although he isn't their primary focus at the moment, the University of Wisconsin can't do too much better statistically than Lake Forest (Calif.) El Toro quarterback Conner Manning.

Manning – 6-2, 195 pounds – is still searching for his first offer, but he likely won't have to wait long with all the accolades he continues to pile up, most recently earning quarterback MVP honors at Sunday's Southern California Nike Football Training Camp.

"It was a great honor," Manning told Badger Nation. "All the quarterbacks out there competing, we are all pretty good, competitive quarterbacks. It was a lot of fun out there."

That honor goes next to his conference most valuable player award, Orange County Offensive Player of the Year award and Fox Sports Next All-California second-team selection after completing 327 of 527 passes (62 percent) for 4,129 yards, 41 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 14 games.

To put those numbers in perspective, Manning's numbers crushed former Santa Ana HS and current USC senior quarterback Matt Barkley's single season county passing record of 3,560 yards that he set in 2007.

"I definitely didn't know about it during the season because I was pretty much focused on my opponents," said Manning. "In my second to last game, one of my teammates told me I needed only a couple yards to break Matt Barkley's county record. It's pretty cool … because Matt is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and is a great influence. I just did my part to help my team get better and focused on the next game."

Not surprisingly, El Toro runs a no-huddle spread offense predicated on speed and getting opponents on their heels. What may be surprising is the Chargers also have a pretty solid balance with the running game. With Manning at the helm, El Toro passed for 307.6 yards per game and rushed for 141.5 yards per game, helping lead his team to a 12-2 record.

He doesn't fit what Wisconsin runs on the surface, but Manning said he played primarily under center his first two years of high school. Comfortable running a pro-style offense and used to a balanced attack, Manning said he was intrigued when Wisconsin first made contact with him.

"I definitely knew when they first start talking to me that they had gone to the Rose Bowl the last two years," said Manning. "I always like how they play, which is running the ball and smashing you in the face. The running game lets them use play-action and take shots down the field, which I'm a big fan of."

Linebacker coach Andy Buh has been the main contact person for Manning, as the two have been keeping in tough regularly through Facebook, mail and over the phone.

"I have a good relationship so far with the coaches," said Manning. "Hopefully something will happen soon."

In addition to Wisconsin, which he hopes to visit sometime this summer, Manning said he's getting the most interest from Colorado ("I like their quarterback coach a lot," said Manning) and Hawaii ("I've always been a big fan of Norm Chow and he's now at Hawaii," he added).

Manning will start spring ball in two weeks with the ideal goals of wanting to add 10-to-15 pounds prior to the start of his season and work on his game in terms of his agility, speed and accuracy outside the pocket.

"Hopefully (my recruitment) starts heating up and I get some offers soon," said Manning. "In the meantime, it's allowed me really to get focused on my game."

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