‘Tremendous athlete' pledges UW

The Badgers received verbal commitment No. 8 this weekend from wide receiver Isaac Anderson of the Blake School in Hopkins, Minn.

If Isaac Anderson's résumé looked good to college recruiters before his combine performance last winter, it sparkled from that point on.

Anderson, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound class of 2006 wide receiver prospect at the Blake School in Hopkins, Minn., gave a verbal commitment to the University of Wisconsin over the weekend, choosing the Badgers over other scholarship offers from Iowa State and Connecticut, according to Blake coach Erik Swenson.

Anderson enjoyed a breakout season last fall, catching 45 passes for 945 yards (a 21.0 yards-per-reception average) and 10 touchdowns. He also scored two touchdowns on kick returns, as he wracked up 620 yards on 24 attempts. As a corner, Anderson had three interceptions.

He had other impressive credentials as an elite track athlete and a varsity-caliber basketball player. But recruiters had warmed to Anderson only enough to show preliminary interest, Swenson said.

That all changed in February, when Anderson attended a football combine in Woodbury, Minn., and blistered the track to the tune of a 4.39-second 40-yard dash.

"I think he opened a lot of eyes at the Woodbury combine," Swenson said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. "He ran a 4.39. And usually I'm sure they say, ‘Well coaches, you know, their 40 times aren't real accurate,' but it's hard to argue with those combine ones because they use the Accutrack (electronic timing system) or whatever."

Wisconsin soon intensified its recruiting efforts with Anderson. Other schools showed significant interest, including Kansas, Northwestern, Iowa State, Connecticut, Minnesota, Central Florida and Montana State.

"I know he went down to the Wisconsin single day camp and performed very well there," Swenson said. "They were the first to offer and then Iowa State came along and then UConn and I wouldn't be surprised if more schools would make more offers, but I think Wisconsin just really, really jumped on him early and obviously were able to sell him on the atmosphere and everything. Obviously it's quite a football town."

Anderson's father, Melvin Anderson, is currently the wide receivers and defensive backs coach at Blake. From 1983-86 he lettered with the University of Minnesota football team as a wide receiver. The elder Anderson led the Gophers in receiving in '85 (26 catches for 554 yards and three touchdowns) and '86 (27-384-4). Anderson's mother competed in track at Minnesota.

"So he certainly has the gene pool going there," Swenson said. "He's kind of born to run."

Anderson put his fleet feet to work this spring, setting a Minnesota Class A record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.94 seconds. His personal best in the event is a 10.84. In addition to football and track, he was a guard on the varsity basketball team as a sophomore. He put the latter sport on hold this year to focus on track but plans to play hoops again as a senior, according to Swenson.

"He is a tremendous natural athlete," Swenson said. "He's one of the kids that you go, ‘Hey, punt the ball for us Isaac.' And bam… 40-yard punts. And can he kickoff? He's had to do that in a pinch before. And actually throws a really good ball too… 50, 60 yards in the air.

"So just one of those kids who's just gifted."

Though Anderson has the ability to become a Division I cornerback, Swenson said his best position is receiver, where he expects Wisconsin will use him in college.

"He's a good corner," Swenson said. "Comes up and is… a very good open-field tackler, got a real nose for the ball. But I think receiver is definitely his strong point.

"He is as fluid and natural of body control as anyone I've seen. He operates really well in space. He adjusts well to the ball on the fly. He's got very good hands."

Once he catches the ball, Anderson can take advantage of his elite speed and quickness.

"He'd catch maybe a quick slant or an out and turn it up and go 40, 50 yards with it," Swenson said. "He's extremely elusive in the open field."

Anderson adds to an impressive stable of potential wide receivers in Wisconsin's recruiting class of 2006. Of the eight prep seniors who have made verbal commitments to the Badgers, five are primarily wide receivers. That includes Anderson, Cleveland Glenville wide receiver Daven Jones, John Jay (Cross River, N.Y.) wide receiver Dan Sheeran, Agoura (Calif.) wide receiver/place kicker JT Wright, and Cretin Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minn.) wide receiver/cornerback Kimuel Royston.

The rest of the Badgers' class to-date includes Sturgeon Bay (Wis.) left tackle Jake Bscherer; Monona Grove (Cottage Grove, Wis.) right tackle Gabe Carimi; and Camdenton (Mo.) tight end Mickey Turner.

The Badgers had an obvious need for receivers this recruiting season. UW's top three wideouts this fall are seniors. Once they depart, the Badgers' top remaining receiver could be walk-on Jeff Holzbauer, who will be a senior in 2006. There would be just five scholarship returnees at the position: Jarvis Minton, Marcus Randle El, Paul Hubbard, Joe Walker and T.J. Theus, none of whom have considerable experience heading into 2005.

It is very unlikely that UW is done recruiting the position. Not with highly regarded in-state talents Lance Kendricks and Keven Hagans still available, and with student-athletes such as Cedric Jeffries of Egg Harbor, N.J., and Anthony Bowman of Detroit naming the Badgers among their favorites.

Anderson's other suitors also viewed him primarily as a wide receiver. He will have spent four years on Blake's varsity at the position. As a freshman, he caught nine passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. He was a spot starter the following year, with 14 receptions for 324 yards and four total touchdowns. He started at receiver and corner last year.

"I suppose it depends on their need and everything because he certainly could be a good corner as well," Swenson said. "But I think receiver definitely and probably kick returner as well."

With two parents who were athletes at Minnesota, the Gophers surprisingly, "jumped on board late," Swenson said.

"They did show interest," he said. "They kind of came out, they investigated a little bit. But I think when he didn't jump on it right away and express huge interest, I think that scared them off a little bit. Because they don't want to be burned. If they offer some kid, they want to be sure that he is going to accept. I don't think Isaac was willing to, you know, he wanted to investigate other opportunities a little bit.

"So they investigated. They don't maybe throw the ball as much as Wisconsin does either. So there's certain needs that they look for that maybe Wisconsin has slightly different needs."

Academically, Anderson has a 2.6 grade-point average at Blake.

"But one of the things I would say about that is Blake is a extremely academically rigorous school," Swenson said. "I think he'll be fine wherever he goes to college because he will have had college-like settings in high school. The other thing is too, I think he'll do well testing, just because again I think they really prepare their kids at Blake for that college testing and setting and atmosphere."

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