And he didn't have to go far to make his first recruiting stop. Alec James was one most talented players in the state last season. Named the state's defensive player of the year by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association, James committed to Wisconsin in August before the start of a senior season in which he had 97 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, but opened up the process during the coaching transition.
After reviewing his film and seeing his abilities, Aranda knew that James was the perfect candidate to be a dominate pass rusher in the 3-4 defense.
"He is really suited for it," Aranda said of James. "He is a typical stand-up guy. One benefit he has is this is the only college defense he knows. I think it's a challenge for other guys to have so much practice and game experience in the 4-3 and now to make the switch. It's a clean slate for the new guys. He wants to be good, he studies a lot and you can tell that he can contribute."
James knew it, too, which was why he reaffirmed his commitment to Wisconsin in January and has been building up his body with his sights set on the rotation next season.
Returning for a fourth season, Badger Nation does a meet and greet with the newer members of the Wisconsin football team, shedding a light on some of the unknown kids that figure to be important parts of the Badgers' future.
Asking 15 questions, we call this segment the Freshman Fifteen.
What's been the hardest part for you adjusting to college life?
James: As far as college life goes, I would say all the time management you have to do. Not only with football but with school as well, anytime we think we have free time we really don't. There's always something to do. It's just the fact that we're always doing something, but it helps you not slack off.
What's been the hardest part adjusting to college football?
James: It's a lot different than Brookfield East. I ended up going back for the Central-East game and it's weird seeing such a smaller stadium. It was a weird experience. It's a lot faster, obviously, and the guys are bigger and stronger. Each day I feel like I am getting better, so that's the main thing.
Since you arrived here, how have you changed your body to prepare for the college game?
James: The biggest thing that has changed is my strength. I still feel like I have a lot of speed off the edge, but I feel like I am getting a lot stronger. I am up to 240 pounds now. I am putting on good weight. These strength coaches really know what they are doing. I have a lot of trust in them.
What do you think your strengths are right now where you can help this team and what your biggest areas of weaknesses?
James: I feel my biggest strength is pass rushing. I usually can get a couple sacks in practice. The biggest thing I am working on is my play against the run. At East and high school in general, I could make some mistakes and still make plays. Here it's so different because guys are bigger and stronger.
How is Madison different than your home town of Brookfield? What's the biggest difference?
James: There's more stuff to do. In Brookfield, there's not that much stuff to do. There's so many options here to do in your free time, but most of the time I am too tired to do anything so I just hang out at the dorm.
Do you have any idea what you want to study in college?
James: I am thinking about eventually going into international business because I've always wanted to do business in foreign countries like Dubai and Paris. Right now I am taking a math class, an international studies class, a sociology class and a leadership class that has to do with military science. It's a good variety.
What's your favorite place on the Madison campus?
James: The Terrace is pretty cool. State Street is cool. Pretty much everywhere. I like to go out walking and everywhere I've been is pretty cool.
What's your least favorite place on campus?
James: I honestly don't have a least favorite place. I haven't found one yet, and that's a good thing.
What do you enjoy doing most in your free time when you get the chance to kick back and relax?
James: Sleep. They keep us pretty busy around here, so I like to relax my body, hang out and catch up on my sleep.
Who did you live with this fall? How are those relationships?
James: I like with Corey Clement. Me and him are like brothers. He's a real good roommate. We're going to live together once we move out of the dorms. We both keep stuff clean and organized, so that's really good.
What's the most interesting thing you've learn about Corey?
James: He's really the one who snores. He told the reporters I snore, but really he's the one. Sometimes when he talks to you, he just looks out in space and talks to you. He'll have a full conversation looking at nothing. It's still cool. He's funny.
Who was your big brother and what was the biggest thing you learned from him?
James: My big brother was Brendan Kelly and the big thing I took away from him was just work hard every day. Every day you skip something is the day someone else is getting better.
Where does your biggest support come from? Family? Friends? Teammates?
James: My family. My mom, my dad, my grandma and grandpa and my sisters. My whole family is my biggest support. They've been coming to the games even though I have been on the sidelines. They're happy for me and they're my biggest support staff.
What's your parents reaction to you playing college football here, being on your own for the first time and starting your journey at this school?
James: They love it. They're happy for me and that they don't have to pay for college, so they're happy all around.
What's the best part of being a Wisconsin football player and putting on that red and white jersey, especially when you ran out on the field for the first time?
James: I've never had an experience like that running out of the tunnel. So many people were screaming, the smoke was going and the band was playing. In high school we just ran on to the field. It's so different. There's nothing really like it. It's crazy.