First impressions

Wisconsin put its 2004 recruiting class on display for the first time Wednesday, including a highlight reel that was the first time most of the players had been seen in action by those gathered in the Kohl Center media room….

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The Badgers' broadcasted the press conference live on their website and will have the highlight film available Wednesday evening or Thursday morning along with a transcript of comments from coach Barry Alvarez.


Initial thoughts from the highlight video:


Jason Chapman, DE, Bedford, Ohio—Surprisingly physical, with a burst. He is only listed at 240 and it must all be in his legs and torso because he looks bigger than that. He beat every would-be blocker in the film in a flash and with a few different moves, but never had to bother with combinations. He was flat-out dominant against whoever he was playing. Showed good pursuit and hustle and pulled down one quarterback with one arm while being blocked.


Jammar Crane, LB, Garland, Texas—A little slight and plays a little tall, but quite quick off the edge. Half the highlights show him at rush end and he attacks and pursues well. Very good hitter, both near the line of scrimmage and in the open field. One highlight in coverage showed him playing in space. You can tell he could be bigger but he was one of the few players Alvarez singled out as someone who could help right away.


Andy Crooks, LB, Wausau, Wis.—Solid, sturdy, playmaker. Flows to the ball well. Shows toughness on highlights playing running back or at linebacker. A very physical player, shows good athleticism. Alvarez said he could play any linebacker spot but will begin at drop.


Gino Cruse, DT, Phoenix, Ariz.—Well you can certainly say the kid is large, though he recently told Badger Nation he had cut his weight from his press release listed 310 down to 278. Gino said he wants to get fit and trim and then build muscle mass. He certainly takes up space well and is pretty quick for a guy who has mostly run 5.0 40-yard dashes or higher. Shed blockers well. Definitely a development project but a 300-pound tackle with suddenness—could be special.


Jameson Davis, CB, Hamden, Conn.—Among the most impressive highlights of the bunch. Whether playing quarterback (he ran the option and had some exceptional runs, tough and fast) or cornerback he takes almost every play on the reel to the house. Of course, that is what highlights are for, but three of these plays were interceptions. His size and speed numbers look like an undervalue if anything when watching him on film and his playmaking instincts are something to behold. Should be fun to watch in spring practice.


Antonio Freeman, CB, Wauwatosa, Wis.—Of course, the first thing that stands out is the speed, but it shows up best when he is playing running back and turning the corner. On one play, three defenders had the angle, but it did not matter. It is no secret that he is fast—he might be the fastest recruit in the country—but he looked surprisingly fluid and quick through the hole for a kid with such a track pedigree. Very nice change of direction, used a good stutter-step to set someone up. As a corner he was mostly in the flat and the highlights were not that eye-opening but he did make plays.


Nick Hayden, DT, Hartland, Wis.—The most highly-touted recruit after his play at the U.S. Army All-American game, Hayden's highlights leave mixed feelings. But who can argue with production? He was an extraordinary high school football player but he needs to work on getting lower and he could be more explosive. He plugs a hole and always wins battles at the point of attack but he plays with little leverage. That won't cut it in college, but he'll have time to learn and develop. The only other time I saw him play—in the state title game this year, I felt the same way. He gets the job done and wins the battles and makes a lot of plays. The technique usually comes when John Palermo starts coaching linemen.


Jack Ikegwuonu, CB, Madison, Wis.—Jack's most impressive play was a leaping, stretching catch in traffic over the middle of the field. Good extension, nice grab. Quick, rangy athlete, lots of explosiveness. Very good all-around athlete.


Allen Langford, CB, Detroit, Mich.—Well this is a little different for a corner. Most of the highlights are of hits near the line of scrimmage—and good solid tackles at that. The kid shows a knack for tackling and was another that Alvarez singled out as one who has a very good chance to play right away.


Sean Lewis, QB, Oak Lawn, Ill.—Sure moves well or a kid 6-foot-7. Nice arm, good delivery, throws a number of different passes. Scrambles well. Delivers a nice ball and was shown throwing on the run, throwing a fade. Good delivery. Would like to see a pass with a little more traffic, though.


Taylor Mehlhaff, K, Aberdeen, S.D.—Wow! Wow! Wow! By far the biggest reaction in the room was for the kicker! Actually, about the only reaction in a very, very quiet room. OK, when they said he kicked most of them for touchbacks they were selling the kid short. One of the kickoffs they showed landed 5-10 yards past the end of the end zone on the fly!  Wow! And these were not line drives just to see how far he could kick it. They were towering—absolutely towering. Quite impressive, to say the least.


Jarvis Minton, WR, Arlington, Texas—Surprisingly fast for a guy who said he likes to block so much. You don't expect that sort to be a game breaker but he ran away from everyone on film.


Josh Neal, LB, Nashville, Tenn.—the unknown commodity that was barely a blip on the radar before it surfaced recently that he would walk on. Kid can play. He was an all area player in high school and he comes from a good pedigree with a father who was an NFL receiver. Played inside and outside as a linebacker and was a very physical, aggressive player, good form too. Alvarez said he reminds him of Donnel Thompson.


Mike Newkirk, DE, Ladysmith, Wis.—the strength is obvious. He tosses linemen aside and tears quarterbacks to the ground. Is this really the same extraordinarily polite, humble guy I've spoken with? Apparently. A complete terror as a running back, he totally outmatched his opponents on the film. Compared to Tom Burke by Alvarez and Palermo.


Dave Peck, TE/LS, Media, Pa.—Good hands. Looks like a solid pass catcher. Surprisingly impressive defensive highlight from playing linebacker. No, they did not show a highlight of him long snapping.


Chris Pressley, FB/TB, Woodbury, N.J.—Looks every bit the part of a bruising running back. On one play it looked like he was pulling half a dozen guys down field. Very impressive strength. Displayed a lot of quickness as a linebacker—tracking a back down and whipping him to the ground.


Bill Rentmeester, FB, Beaver Dam, Wis.—Dominating blocker and a nifty runner. If he does not redshirt he will likely back up Bernstein right away. Very honed fundamentals for a high school senior.


Marcus Randle El, QB/ATH, Harvey, Ill.—He is listed as a quarterback-athlete on the press release but is all quarterback on the highlights. Threw a nice deep ball, though a little short. Made a spin move in the pocket to avoid two pass rusher that was all instinct and very much reminiscent of Antwaan. Exceptional athlete. Quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton said he could be used as a situational player, someone that could especially be employed near the goal line.


Bryan Savage, QB, Haverford, Pa.—Very solidly built at 6-4, 210, he moves like a linebacker when he tucks and runs—aggressive, no holds barred and tough. Very strong arm and threw a lot of different balls. Alvarez compared him to Mike Samuel and really sang the praises of his arm.


Nick Sutton, LB, Detroit, Mich.—Certainly an athlete but it looks like he may need to get more physical.


Kraig Urbik, OT, Hudson, Wis.—Another of the most impressive showings. He obliterated everyone he blocked, not stopping on most of them until they were heaped onto the ground..


Jamil Walker, TB, Palatine, Ill.—Extremely fast, nifty runner who simply out-maneuvered people left and right. A little slight in the hips and did not take on tacklers, but he did not have to at that level and he'll have time to get bigger.  


Joe Walker, LB, Green Bay, Wis.—Played a number of positions on highlights and showed versatility, athleticism and skill. Alvarez made it sound like he could play end, linebacker or safety for them. Most impressive play was a catch downfield in traffic. Good hustle tracking down a play from his defensive end position.

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