After Wisconsin’s 2009 signing class dipped to No.51 in the country, the Badgers’ 2010 signing class – the fifth under Bret Bielema – got people excited. Wisconsin’s 26-member class ranked 32 in the country by Scout.com, fourth in the Big Ten and hit a number of recruiting areas around the country (Midwest, South, East Coast).
Looking back, however, the class – save for a few players – was a major disappointment. Over half (14 players) didn’t finish at Wisconsin because of injuries, off-the-field trouble, conflict about the coaching staff or getting buried on the depth chart. There were also a number of players that Bielema and his staff mismanaged, moving them to multiple positions and ended up stunting their development.
The class produced only two NFL draft picks (a number that will likely go up to three, maybe four) and none in the first three rounds. Of course star rankings don’t always relate to team success. Wisconsin had a tremendous run with these guys on the roster by winning Big Ten titles and going to Rose Bowls, but perhaps Bielema would have hoisted at least one trophy in Pasadena had this class yielded better results.
Rank this class today, and it’s safe to say that this class would only slightly move the needle.
Here’s a situation where the highest-ranked player in the class lived up to the billing. Ranked No.241 overall in 2010, Allen was a four-year letterwinner and never missed a game in his college career, finishing with 94 tackles (15 TFLs) and eight sacks. A three-time Academic All-Big Ten and a two-time consensus Big Ten honorable mention, Allen was a seventh round pick of the Eagles in 2014.
Bielema originally offered Costigan a greyshirt offer until then-offensive line coach Bob Bostad fought to get him a full scholarship. It turned out pretty well for the Badgers. Instead of losing Costigan to another school (Minnesota was the late rumor), Costigan was moved from defense to offense to help UW with its lack of depth shined with 39 games played and 35 starts. Costigan played through tremendous personal pain the last two seasons to be a tremendous right guard.
Wisconsin never had to worry about the right tackle position, not after beating out home-state Maryland for Havenstein. Matching the school record with 54 career games played, Havenstein started 42 games in his career, including 41 straight at right tackle over his final three seasons. He anchored an offensive line that led way for two of the three best single-season rushing performances in school history at 283.8 yards per game in 2013 and a school-record 320.1 yards per game in 2014. He was named a first-team All-American by the AFCA his senior season.
A December score from a power high school program in Florida, White out performed his three-star ranking. White finished his career ranked fourth all-time at Wisconsin with 4,015 rushing yards, third all-time at UW in rushing touchdowns (45) and total touchdowns (48) and set a then-UW record for career average per rushing attempt at 6.24 yards per carry. White ran for 1,052 yards as a freshman (earning B1G freshman of the year honors) and 1,444 as a senior in 2013. A fourth-round pick last year, White now has a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots.
A flip from Kansas State, Herring was athletic enough to play tight end, defensive tackle or defensive end in college, but did the latter two for the Badgers. A knee injury took out a big chunk of his senior season, but UW’s defensive scout team player of the year as a true freshman played in 44 games over his final four years and had 56 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, solid numbers when you consider the injury, the nose tackle position and playing behind Allen in 2013.
An in-state player who earned his scholarship at camp, Lewallen battled through several serious knee injuries early in his career to get on the field the final two seasons. He started seven games at center in 2013 and worked at left guard for all 14 games in 2014, helping fortify a unit that was one of the best in the Big Ten.
Bielema wanted him to play fullback, but Trotter knew he could be a productive linebacker and stuck to his guns. It took three years, but Trotter proved he was right. Although not the quickest player, Trotter’s instincts helped him rack up tackles. He filled in twice for Chris Borland in 2013 and had two 9-tackle performance in a pair of road wins. Being the full-time guy in 2014, Trotter started 13 games, had 93 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and his first career interception. More importantly, he turned into an emotional leader for the defense to rally around.
Excited to come to Wisconsin to be a productive tight end in the Badgers’ offense, Cadogan never got the chance. He was switched to fullback prior to 2012, moved to linebacker for his final two seasons and hardly played (27 games).
French was supposed to be the kicker to take over for Philip Welch but never quite delivered. Going 18-for-29 (62.1 percent) as a redshirt freshman through redshirt junior, French eventually lost his kicking job in favor of Jack Russell in 2013. Despite having a year of eligibility remaining, Andersen and French came to the mutual decision to move on.
Although buried on the depth chart throughout his career, Gilbert still found a way to find the field in 25 games and register 20 tackles. Despite having a year of eligibility, Gilbert graduated early, left UW and went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania for his final season. He finished with 42 tackles (17 solo) in 2014.
Jean was recruited as a safety but the Bielema coaching staff made the mistake of moving him to cornerback, which backfired. Thrown in a broken foot in 2012 fall camp that caused him to miss half of season, Jean barely played under Bielema and was a liability. His career was resurrected somewhat by safety coach Bill Busch, who moved him back to his original position and saw Jean finish 2014 with 59 tackles (30 solo) and two interception. Oh, what could have been?
Trotter was the more coveted of the twin brothers coming out of high school and had a good career, playing in over 40 games as both a safety and an inside linebacker. His best game came in 2012 when he recorded a career-high nine tackles at Nebraska.
The first commit of the class after flipping from Minnesota, Zagzebski’s career saw him stuck on the depth chart for his first four seasons and his senior season being marred with a concussion that required an ambulance ride in the season opener and a torn ACL in the Big Ten championship game. He did start 11 games as a senior and made 43 career tackles, but never really got going.
Since he was recruited by Paul Chryst, there was high expectations for Brennan coming in. He never lived up to them. Having flawed mechanics and not strong enough mental makeup, Brennan went from being Russell Wilson’s backup in 2011 to fourth on the depth chart in 2012. He eventually transferred to Towson and didn’t make an impact there either.
Coming from the same high school as Borland, there was high hopes for Byers, especially since Borland said his younger teammate was probably a better player. Wisconsin fans never got a chance to see that since Byers suffered three concussions – all in practices – in a 15 month span that forced him to walk away from football.
Bielema said Garner looked like a ‘Greek God’ at one point early in his career. He never came close to reaching that level in Madison. Garner playing in 20 career games with the Badgers, seeing time as a defensive end, wide receiver and on kick coverage units in 2010 and moving solely to receiver in 2011. He totaled 10 tackles in 2010 and caught two passes for 45 yards in 2011. Off-the-field issues led him to transfer to Pittsburgh where he had a more productive career.
A talented receiver coming out of high school, Hammond never could get over a nagging foot injury that eventually caused him to walk away from football. His wide-open drop in the Rose Bowl against Stanford led to a crushing hit by Jordan Richards, and crushing hopes by UW fans of ending the Badgers’ recent futility in Pasadena.
Another causality of coaching changes and position switches, Harrison was never allowed to develop at one position in his career. He switched from linebacker to defensive line under Badgers' previous coaching staff in spring of 2012 before moving to outside linebacker in new 3-4 alignment for 2013. Harrison played in only five career games, including just once as a senior.
The first Waunakee player to get a scholarship from Wisconsin in decades, Irwin blew his opportunity after only two seasons, getting into an on-campus fight while he was suspended from the team, leading to his arrest and being charged with two counts of disorderly conduct and two counts of battery. He transferred to Cal Poly to finish his career.
In the same recruiting class as White, Lewis never could get himself into the mix with all the talented tailbacks ahead of him. After having just three carries in 2013, Lewis finished his career at Illinois State, finishing 2014 with 22 catches for 77 yards.
A talented basketball prospect and a raw athletic receiver, Mason came to Wisconsin hoping to play both hoops and football for the Badgers. Neither materialized, as multiple knee injuries caused Mason to walk away from football without ever seeing the field.
A flip from Stanford after the Cardinal stopped recruiting him following a torn ACL, McNamara could never get healthy enough to the point where he could contribute with the Badgers. Never seeing game action at either defensive line or after he was switched to offensive line his third season, McNamara completed his undergraduate degree and transferred to Akron.
Bielema offered Ontko a scholarship after the Ohio prospect impressed the coach with a blazing 4.4 40-yard dash, but Ontko didn’t last. He played in a couple nonconference games in September 2011, but transferred to Cal Poly to get more playing time in summer of 2012.
Tamakloe was a nice score out of a big East Coast high school, but the safety prospect’s knee injury coming into Wisconsin hurt his development. Behind the eight ball from the start, Tamakloe lasted only two seasons – mostly playing on the scout team – before transferring back east to William & Mary, appearing in all 24 games with six starts.
Arguably the worst move of Bielema’s tenure, UW flipped Williams from Purdue days before signing day and the problems began. Not only did Williams fail to deliver on the field, multiple off-the-field problems, including reportedly being involved in an altercation that led to the Montee Ball attack, caused more headaches than they were worth. Andersen tried him as defensive back before ultimately quietly moving him off the program. The Badgers were better off leaving him in West Lafayette.
Wright was entering his third year with the Badgers when he decided to move on. He did not see game action in his first two seasons and was rotating with the second team defense in the 2012 fall camp, but transferred when he didn’t appear on the initial depth chart. He eventually transferred to Bethune-Cookman, where he played in seven games (two starts) as a junior in 2013.