Having grown up in the state and around the Badgers program, Chryst knows the heartbeat of the most successful UW teams have been the players who are intertwined within the state’s fabric.
From the onset of the 2017 recruiting cycle, Chryst and his staff targeted five Wisconsin high school players – offensive linemen Tyler Beach, Logan Bruss and Alex Fenton, tight end Jake Ferguson and defensive end Aaron Vopal – that they needed to have carry on the life blood on the program.
And when Beach announced his commitment Sunday afternoon, Chryst had officially secured all five players and closed the gates, deny programs like Iowa, Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska and many others.
The 2016 cycle was hit and miss for the Badgers. While Wisconsin scored four-star offensive tackle Cole Van Lanen, the Badgers saw three prospect they had offered go elsewhere, including the nation’s No.1 offensive guard Ben Bredeson (Michigan). Only four of UW’s 25 commits were from the state.
A year later, Wisconsin has landed its top five in-state prospects by April 3, thanks to the exuberant amount of energy this coaching staff expended recruiting the state early. Beach, Bruss, Fenton and Vopal were offered in January, while Ferguson got his offer last spring.
Not only did Wisconsin pluck its top five recruits from the state, Chryst got a group who perfectly fit his scheme, a big, strong unit that wears teams down by bringing a nasty streak. That’s part of the sale’s pitch, but the other part is making the players feel like Madison is their home.
That was the case with Beach, who held offers from Arkansas, Michigan, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and many more. The places he visited were great, but they weren’t Wisconsin, a reason why he canceled visits to Northwestern and Michigan State to end his recruitment.
“It just felt like home, and I can’t explain it,” Beach said, “but I knew I had to be here.”
Like Beach, Fenton turned down Michigan and others to bring a nasty streak to Wisconsin; a raw prospect who is a mauler. Used as a blocker at tight end, he’s a nimble player who bends well, keeps his feet and drives players. That’s evident in his defensive film, too, as he plays with good balance and is light on his feet for a kid who looks like a wider bodied kid.
Bruss is another huge piece to the offensive line, a 6-4, 255-pound offensive guard who turned down offers from Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern in order to play at Camp Randall Stadium.
“I knew when I walked in the stadium and felt the atmosphere,” Bruss said. “This was home for me".
Vopal was the second commit for this class and has one of the highest ceilings of the group. A 6-7 defensive end, he’s definitely raw but can easily develop once he gets into a college program and weight room. The same can be said about Ferguson, who plays multiple position for Memorial and will certainly grow once he can solely focus on the tight end spot.
After in-state recruiting took a dip under former head coach Gary Andersen, it’s easy to see Chryst has corrected the program. If the on-field success continues, this year’s class should help lay down a solid base for upcoming years.