Badgers continue Connecticut pipeline

Dan Cascone, Wisconsin's latest commitment, came highly recommended

Wisconsin is spreading its Connecticut recruiting roots outward from Hamden. But first the Badgers' latest target needed to be convinced Madison was the place for him.

Dan Cascone of Newtown was a little skeptical when Wisconsin first began contacting him with recruiting letters near the end of his sophomore year.

"I was very undecided when they came to me," he said. "I was high on UConn. I just wasn't sure about going to school so far away."

The Badgers, though, kept in touch and invited Cascone to a football camp June 16-19 of this year. The visit, Cascone's first to Madison, held a dual role: Cascone could check out the Badgers, while they took a closer look at the 6-foot-3 ½, 300-pound defensive tackle.

"Coach John Palermo, their defensive line coach, said, ‘we really like you, but we want to see you hit,'" Cascone said. "[He] wanted to make sure I wasn't soft. He said, ‘you come to camp and you hit some people and we'll give you an offer.'"

Cascone came and held his own, including in one-on-one drills against Wisconsin's first commit for the 2005 recruiting class, highly touted offensive lineman Andy Kemp of Menasha, Wis.

"I never went against a kid like that in my life," Kemp said, adding that Cascone's ability level was well beyond comparison to any lineman he had played against in high school or in camps. "Not that big and that fast… I thought it was a great time just to finally have a good challenge."

After working against Cascone, Kemp was included in a discussion between Palermo and offensive line coach Jim Hueber regarding the Badgers' latest find.

"We talked about how good he was and that I felt that he should be on our staff next year," Kemp said.

"He's just an all-around power player that loves football," Kemp added. "I talked to him the day before him and I went at it and we kind of explained to each other how much we want this, how hard we worked. He's just like a spitting image of me but he's on defense and I'm on offense right now. We both try our hardest and we want big things to happen."

The Badgers' coaches obviously saw what they were looking for. Soon after Cascone returned to Connecticut, he received an official scholarship offer from UW in the mail, his first and only scholarship offer. He quickly committed.
"Once I saw what Wisconsin had, I just couldn't turn it down," Cascone said of his recent visit. "It was just amazing. The facility and the program is just everything that I want to be in. It is hard to turn down a Big Ten offer."

Cascone had flown below the national recruiting radar and may have only received one scholarship offer, but he had been receiving attention from a number of big-name programs, including recruiting contact from Nebraska, Iowa, Penn State, Boston College, Syracuse, Maryland and Colorado, among others. He had taken unofficial visits to UConn and Boston College in the past and Penn State and Iowa made trips to Newtown during the spring evaluation period this year.

"UConn wanted a chance to match [Wisconsin's] offer but that was pretty much it," Cascone said. "Penn State and Iowa were really interested but no offers."

Wisconsin has recruited a number of players from Connecticut's Hamden High School, including current Badgers Anttaj Hawthorne and Jameson Davis. Cascone, who will be a four-year starter at defensive tackle and a two-year starter at offensive tackle this fall, was discovered on a recommendation from another high school's coach, whom the Wisconsin coaching staff spoke with while recruiting Davis.

"I guess one of the coaches that those kids came from, I went up against a team that they played with," Cascone said. "And I guess he just highly recommended me. 'Cause [a Wisconsin coach asked], ‘is there any more talent now in Connecticut?' He recommended me."

It is a recommendation that Kemp echoes.

"He's a college player for next year easily," Kemp said. "At first I was like, ‘a kid from Connecticut (coming to camp), that's kind of nuts.' I'm glad he came out. I'm really pumped about next year, him being on our staff."

Cascone had 52 solo tackles last season, including 15 for loss and six sacks. He also batted down a pair of passes on his way to earning all-division honors for the second consecutive season. He benches 315 pounds, squats 550 and cleans 275.

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