Ohio Power Fueling Wisconsin

When it comes to recruiting, nobody controls their own state better than the Buckeyes. For nine talented Badgers with deep Ohio roots that, this Saturday will be their first chance to remind the Buckeyes what they're missing in Columbus.

MADISON - Upon gazing at the home states of players on the 2007 Wisconsin football roster, 42 players from the state of Wisconsin have stayed within the borders to play college football.

Neighboring states Illinois (11 players) and Florida (10) aren't hard to miss either and with a sprinkling of Michigan (5), Texas (5) and New Jersey (3), the Badgers are well represented from coast to coast.

But if you sit and analyze the roster, you'll notice that nine of the Badgers come from Ohio, a state that raises their children to be Buckeyes from birth.

Fortunately for the Badgers, a couple solid players never hopped on the Buckeye bandwagon.

"Never been an Ohio State fan," said junior and Bedford Heights native Jason Chapman said. "I never followed the players or impressed by them. When they came to recruit me, I told them that I wasn't really pumped about Ohio State. ... I just wanted to be different."

Even Shane Carter, whose older brother, Chris, was the Buckeyes' first All-American at wide receiver (scoring 27 touchdowns in three years before starring in the NFL), never really connected with the program.

"I watched them when I was younger," Carter said. "I really wasn't a football fan until I was older. I was a bandwagon guy to be honest with you."

Nine players – Carter, Chapman, Kyle Jefferson, Daven Jones, Brandon Kelly, Otis Merrill, Prince Moody, Bill Nagy and Lance Smith – all have Ohio roots and, for most of them, will be making their first trip home to play in Ohio when the Badgers face the No.1 Buckeyes this Saturday.

Additionally, three players – Jefferson, Jones and Merrill – were all recruited from Glenville H.S., located on the east side of Cleveland.

"Davon Jones was the first guy we originally signed out of there, but this year to have Kyle and Otis, and Otis, you could realize (Glenville has) a lot of talent," head coach Bret Bielema said. "I talked to one of (Glenville's) coaches just to let them know how much (those players have) put a little fresh breath of air in the program.

"Obviously, they got a lot of good football players there, something we'll hopefully be able to continue."

Of the three Glenville kids (whose alumni include Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and receiver Ted Ginn Jr.), no one has contributed more than Jefferson. The freshman, who wasn't offered a scholarship from OSU, has caught 21 balls for 374 yards for two scores after being pressed into duty due to injuries.

"I am happy to go home and play a good team," Jefferson said. "It's going to be fun with a lot of friends and family at the game. I just have to stay calm, collected and perform."

For Carter, the biggest thing about playing the Buckeyes is the chance for more family members to be at the game, as his hometown is just 81 miles away.

"A lot of my family who can't make it up here will be able to make it to the game," Carter said. "The same time your family can be there and back in your home state is special."

What makes this trip to Ohio Stadium special is the Badgers haven't been to Columbus since their 24-13 win in 2004. With the Big Ten scheduling, that victory marked the last time UW has played the Buckeyes, who have been off the schedule the last two years.

Only two players were on the roster in 2004 – fifth-year senior Kelly and junior Chapman. Kelly was a reserve defensive lineman who played sparingly in 2004, while Chapman used his redshirt year. The other seven Ohio players were on the roster.

The return back to their home state and playing the number one team in the nation is something, Bielema believes, the group will thrive on.

"I'm sure they're going to have a lot of family and friends and playing against people that they played against in high school," Bielema said. "It's an environment. That's why you play college football. You should want to play your best."

With Ohio State being the traditional face of the conference every season, the Badgers have been quietly narrowing that margin. At the start of the season the Badgers have won more games than any other school since 2004. The Badgers have beaten the Buckeyes four of the last six meetings and, more impressive, have won three straight at Ohio Stadium.

With the Buckeyes ranked number one and having the tradition and the name to go with it, most critics, once again, are thinking about the Ohio State-Michigan matchup two weeks away and eating out of the palm of the Buckeyes.

Many can be fooled, but for the Ohio natives, they aren't buying into it. After all, they choose to come to Wisconsin over THE Ohio State.

"Everybody thinks big of them," said Jefferson. "We have to go prove them wrong."

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