The Consummate Late Bloomer

With signing day getting closer every day, Wisconsin continues to look for hidden gems to fill out the remaining spots in its recruiting class. Lithia's Conor O'Neal could be that hidden gem UW is looking for.

MADISON - Last weekend was an unofficial meet and greet for the Badgers' 2009 recruiting class, as upwards of 11 commits descended on Madison for their official visits.

In the mass crowd, however, was one uncommitted player on his official visit who the Badgers hope will one day be a member of the 2009 class. At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, getting defensive tackle Conor O'Neal to join the program would be a big sign.

A first-team all-conference selection from Newsome High School in Lithia, Florida, O'Neal's size and athleticism helped his net 35 tackles (26 solo) last season, including six sacks in 12 games, helping lead the Wolves to a 9-3 record, an impressive feet for a team that returned only five starters.

"Conor has solid work ethic and that comes from putting in a lot of hours to get in shape," Newsome head coach Kenneth Hiscock said. "By putting in all those hours, he got bigger in size and that made a lot of schools and coaches take notice."

One of those coaches was defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who has spent plenty of time in south Florida this year. Wisconsin is one of five Division One schools that have offered O'Neal, joining Boston College, Buffalo, Michigan State and North Carolina State.

"Conor is a good athlete and a smart kid with solid work ethic," Hiscock said. "This year has been a big boost for him athletically."

Not only did O'Neal put up solid numbers on Newsome's defense, he was a solid presence on the offensive line, playing both defensive tackle and center throughout the season without getting a breather. On the line, O'Neal helped running back Connor Powers rush for 1,164 yards and 13 touchdowns and his team average 170.3 yards on the ground.

"He's being recruited as a defensive tackle and he's going to be a solid tackle at the college level," Hiscock said. "No matter what position he played for us, he was a leader out on the field."

O'Neal also has official visits scheduled for N.C. State on January 9 and Boston College one week later on the 16th.

The Badgers currently have 17 verbal commitments, including one defensive tackle (Jordan Kohout) and one defensive end (David Gilbert), and could sign as many as five or six more players with scholarship being open through graduation or previous transfers.

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