NSD: The Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Doing his best to keep large portions of the 2013 recruiting class intact, athletic director Barry Alvarez deserves some credit for his work on the recruiting trail for Wisconsin.

MADISON - While Wisconsin's 2013 recruiting class can be traced to what former coach Bret Bielema started and what new head coach Gary Andersen finished, there is no denying how invaluable athletic director Barry Alvarez was in a two week window that left recruits in limbo.

Since stepping down following the 2006 season, Alvarez still involves himself in the recruiting process, meeting with potential student-athletes on official visits in his office or shaking their hands on the sidelines.

He never expected to bring them into his home and serve him breakfast.

"That was certainly something I thought I was not going to do anymore," said Alvarez, with a smile.

One day after he officially took the coaching role, Alvarez hosted 11 players committed to Wisconsin: Wisconsin Rapids offensive tackle Hayden Biegel, Minneapolis cornerback Keelon Brookins, Rochester (IL) linebacker Garret Dooley, Aurora (IL) tight end Troy Fumagalli, Waukesha (WI) athlete Matt Hubley, Brookfield (WI) defensive ends Alec James and Chikwe Obasih, Barrington (IL) offensive tackle Jack Keeler, Toledo (OH) offensive lineman Matt Miller, Eagle River (WI) Austin Ramesh and Pewaukee (WI) T.J. Watt.

He invited them to the team banquet, to a team practice and then to his house Sunday morning for a group get together and one-on-one time, hoping to alleviate some of the fears from a program stunned by its now former head coach.

"It was a tough weekend," said Alvarez. "The players were somewhat emotional. They were sitting there not quite knowing what was going to happen next. Your head coach is gone. Who is going to lead us to the Rose Bowl? Everybody was very open minded and listened, and they realized that are program will survive.

"I assured them that the program would stay in good hands. I promised them that."

The group evidentially took Alvarez at his word, considering none of the official visitors that weekend de-committed from the program.

"I was impressed with them. I was impressed with their awareness. I was impressed with the fact that, for the most part, we talked about the school and they had excellent relationships with whoever was recruiting them. They were very loyal. That's the thing that I saw and was impressed with.

"They came for the right reasons," said Alvarez. "They came because it was the right school for them. They believed in the program, and not in the decision of a head coach, assistant coach or anyone else. That's the type of kids you want in your program."

One of the many people Alvarez walked away impressed with following a one-on-one meeting was James, arguably the most versatile defensive athlete in-state and in Wisconsin's 2013 recruiting class.

"I've seen tape on Alec and he's very talented," said Alvarez. "He could have gone probably any place. I thought he was very honest. He said, 'I'm coming, coach, but I said all along that I am going to take a look around.' I told Gary all along that as soon as (Alec) gets to know you, the defensive line, he's going to come here. Alec has been coming to camps here since the sixth grade. I was impressed but I knew this was the place he was going to end up and the place he should be."

One of the other players Alvarez gravitated toward was Dooley, who was the first verbal commit of the Badgers' 2013 recruiting class. Having played linebacker from 1966-68 at Nebraska and coached the position at Iowa and Notre Dame, Alvarez likes the fact that Dooley has the right size and mentality for the position.

"I like the fact that he's a winner," said Alvarez. "(Rochester) has won a ton and he's the leader of that squad. That's the kind of guy you are looking for: big, rangy linebacker. He loved this place. He's a good fit for us."

Badger Nation Top Stories