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. Today, we go into across the Midwest with National Recruiting Analyst Allen Trieu.
BN: Wisconsin has done a fantastic job thus far in getting top talent in the Midwest – getting some of the top kids in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and in-state. The Midwest this year appears really strong, so how is that going to benefit the Badgers?
Trieu: It's benefited them already with classes full of Midwest kids and they are in on a lot of other guys from around the state and region. They've done well in Illinois and Ohio in the past, but I think it helps to have talent at home. Other kids see that with guys like Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler who have been drafted. Those are Midwestern kids that Wisconsin has put in the pros. I think that also continues to help them recruit the region, as well.
BN: Of the 11 kids in this class, the Badgers average 3.09 stars – two four stars, eight three stars and one two star. In your eyes, who are the best two or three kids in the class now and why?
Trieu: Obviously Darius Latham and Rob Wheelwright. Latham is an incredible athlete that does so many disruptive things on the defensive line. I think the timing was a little surprising, but he did just visit and liked Wisconsin. Wisconsin did a great job and hit a home run on his visit. He's just scratching the surface of his potential. He was considered a basketball prospect and wanted to college basketball, so much so that he was holding out hope to get a basketball scholarship. He's a 6-5, 280-pound kid who can more than hold his own in one of the most talent-rich areas for basketball in the country. He's explosive, athletic and be one of those kids that could be a real monster.
I like Wheelwright's ability to make plays after the catch. He has some length to him. He's got some prowess to him. I think he's going to be a big play guy for them.
I really like Garret Dooley. I think he is a fast, hard-hitting linebacker who plays the game 110 miles per hour. He's the kind of linebacker that Wisconsin has had in the past and the kind that has done well playing at Wisconsin.
I like Chikwe Obasih because I think he has a lot of potential. He's a speed rush guy right now, but I think he is going to get bigger and stronger. I think he'll develop more as a complete player, but I think he'll be able to help early as a pass rusher.
I really like Matt Miller, too. I think he is right there with those guys as far as being some of the top guys in the class.
BN: Of the 11 commitments, which one surprised you the most of this kid committing to Wisconsin and you had him penciled in going somewhere else?
Trieu: I would probably say Wheelwright. He had a lot of options. He had a feeling like an Ohio State offer was coming and he was really interested in them. He also had a Michigan offer and had interest in them. I was surprised he committed as early as he did. Austin Ramesh was another kid because I had heard that he was going to go to Michigan State on a full offer. Him picking Wisconsin surprised me a little bit.
BN: People are understandably concerned about Wheelwright and if he is going to stay committed to Wisconsin should Ohio State enter the picture, especially after what happened with Kyle Dodson last year. Do you think Wheelwright will sign with UW on signing day or do you think his recruitment isn't quite done yet?
Trieu: I would guess that he will sign with Wisconsin. First off, teams like Ohio State have turned the page in terms of receiver recruiting. I also think Rob is the kind of kid that is going to stick with his word. His brother, Ernie, went from Ohio all the way to Minnesota to play college football, so his family has some experience being a little bit farther north and a little farther away from home. I think all of that made him comfortable going to place like Madison and it's going to keep him there.
Trieu: I think it's a good group. It continues to go along with what they've always done. They have always emphasized kids coming to their camp and they've always liked kids to come in person, see the campus, meet the coaches and commit. In the case of Miller, Raridon and Peavy, those are guys that got offered based on what they did at camp, so the coaches got a first-hand look to evaluate them. I think it's always good when a coach offers a kid on the spot like that.
Obviously Biegel is an in-state guy with family ties and his brother going there. I really like him on film. Raridon is an Iowa kid with an Iowa offer, so that's another great get for them considering who they had to beat for a kid like that.
BN: How do you compare Obasih to Alec James? They play the same position in the same city and are similar people, but they are different in a lot of ways.
Trieu: They are very close and they have very similar body types. Their playing styles are a little bit similar. I think Chikwe might be a little bit further ahead technically. He can beat you with a swim move, a spin move and a couple of different moves that gives him some polish. Alec is a little more of a raw athlete. I think he is a little bit faster and maybe a little bit more explosive. As far as size, skill, style of play and where they are from, they are very close. In terms of ranking in the future, I consider them both to be very neck and neck.
BN: The one kid that got a Wisconsin offer from camp and didn't commit is Illinois athlete Matt Harris. I am curious with what you know about Harris, where do you think he fits in for a college team and where you see his recruitment ending?
Trieu: I got a chance to see him at couple camps. I saw him at the Illinois camp where he ran a 4.34 40. He's a kid with good speed and I have seen him on film, as well. I've seen him workout at both receiver and corner, and I think he could play either in college. Because he has played more receiver in high school, he was further ahead there than he was at corner. If you are needing him immediately, he'll be able to play earlier at receiver while he might need a couple years to work at the corner position.
I think Wisconsin is looking at him more as a corner. He's not necessarily real tall, but he has long arms and length to him which helps him at the position. He has excellent ball skills on both sides of the ball. He can definitely catch the ball. I think he'll be tough to pull away from the in-state school. Illinois was his first big offer, he's been down to the campus a few times and I think they are sitting like the team to beat. It seems like he is keeping things open and Northwestern and Wisconsin are in the mix, so I think it'll come down to those three schools.
BN: The 2013 class is so unique for Wisconsin because it's practically done, but they don't have any defensive backs in its class. They have offered Keelon Brookins, Marcus Ball, Godwin Igwebuike and Jalen Banks from the Midwest. Who do you think UW is most likely to get?
Trieu: I think they definitely have a shot with all of them and they are going for it with all of them. They have the family connection with Ball, he's pretty familiar with Madison so there's a great shot there. I think Brookins is really torn. He wants to keep his word and stick with Minnesota, but I think he really liked to Wisconsin. He earned that offer and it would be a great opportunity for him, so it will be interesting to see what happens.
I thought Banks was the leader and the team most likely to land him early in the process, but then he gets this Oregon offer which threw a wrench into everything. I think the distance is a big-time factor for him. If he can get over the distance, I think he'll go to Oregon. If he wants to stay closer to home, I think Wisconsin will end up being the place or possibly a dark horse like Vanderbilt. He's visited there a couple times and seems to like it, but I think Wisconsin is in a strong position with him.
Godwin's options have also expanded this summer. The more that has happen, the harder I think it's been for Wisconsin. He picked up a Michigan State offer and that's a team he really likes and it going to look at closer. I would watch out for them and West Virginia. I think Wisconsin is still in the game for him, but it's going to be difficult.
BN: Looking in state in the 2014 recruiting class with guys like Craig Evans, Jaden Gault, Brandon Hines, George Panos and Conor Sheehy, how good does Wisconsin's in-state class next season look right now?
Trieu: Since I have been covering the entire Midwest for Scout, I think this is the strongest of a core group I have seen in the state. The state always has good talent and you can always count on a few people popping up a little bit later, like a Jazz Peavy. As a group we know about, it's a great group. I think Panos, Gault, Evans and Sheehy are guys that are potential Scout 300, four star, BCS level guys. You have a couple other guys like Billy Hirschfield and Brandon Hines who are always getting a lot of attention, but those first four guys are up there with anybody in the country. As we find out about some more guys, we'll really be able to asset how strong the state is.
BN: Wisconsin is pushing really hard in the state of Michigan in 2013 and 2014, especially at Detroit Cass Tech High. The only thing is the Badgers have got just one commit from the state of Michigan under Bret Bielema – redshirt junior OL Zac Matthias who played on a bad high school team. Is Wisconsin wasting its time in Michigan or are they making some good inroads there?
Trieu: I think they are making some good inroads, but it's difficult to recruit in somebody else's backyard when you have two schools doing well like Michigan and Michigan State. Then you got some other programs – Ohio State and Notre Dame – that dip into Michigan a little bit. Going against those teams, you are going to lose some battles. The same thing for teams that come into Wisconsin and try to recruit. It's hard to pull teams away from their home state, especially top guys. You have to go after them and they've been able to get some of those kids on campus. Wisconsin was the first big offer for Chance Stewart and has the Badgers in his top three, so I think they have a good chance with him.
I think they are going to get some guys out of Michigan in the future, but it won't be the same volume because you are going to lose some battles outside your home state.
BN: Wisconsin's 2013 class will be a success if who commits to the program?
Trieu: I think David Williams is the guy the coaches and the fans would love to have. He's the highest guy that I think Wisconsin has a great chance with. Wisconsin has made a living in the past of running the football with great running backs, and I think Williams is a talented guy that will fall in line with that tradition.