Last year, the UW signing-day surprise came in the form of Augusta (WI) lineman Chris Garner, a recruit that flew so far under the radar that Wisconsin was his only Division I scholarship offer. Hopefully this year, Wisconsin's unsung-recruit will actually attend school, as Garner signed his letter of intent but never enrolled in Madison.
This year's hidden gem comes in the form of Menominee (Mich.) athlete Jacob Pederson. At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Pederson played tight end, running back, wide receiver, safety and linebacker and had scholarship offers from ‘powerhouses' Eastern Michigan, Michigan Tech, Minnesota-Duluth and Northern Michigan.
Pederson is projected to play at tight end for the Badgers, where he caught 66 passes for 1,443 yards and 19 touchdowns during his career.
When Pederson committed on January 26, becoming the 20th member of the 2009 class, Wisconsin ‘officially' had utilized its available allotment of 85 scholarships and making signing day devoid of surprises.
But as always the case, signing day, which officially begins Wednesday, February 4 at 6 a.m., usually brings at least one surprise. That surprise could come from one of the three big-name players still on Wisconsin's recruiting radar - Chris Freeman, Bradley McDougald and/or Kraig Appleton.
First with the highly unlikely.
Since McDougald de-committed from Ohio State in mid-November, McDougald has not spoken to reporters about his situation and hasn't been quoted on record since mid-October. McDougald, a three-star prospect and the 48th-ranked safety by Scout.com, visited Wisconsin on the weekend of November 14.
However, sources have informed BN that McDougald has given his commitment to Kansas and is being listed as a silent verbal to the Jayhawks.
Now with the maybe.
Freeman, a three-star prospect and the 34th-ranked offensive tackle by Scout.com, visited Colorado, Wisconsin and Missouri on consecutive weekends and has spoken highly of all of them, especially of Missouri, who he visited last.
"It was a lot nicer than I ever expected," Freeman told Scout of his visit to Missouri. "Everything is so brand new, I loved the town, and it's the perfect size for me. I'm really glad I decided to take the visit, it really opened up my eyes a lot. Missouri definitely moved up on my list after this visit, it was great."
"I have been real good friends with Duckworth and Wozniak since the seventh grade and they've been telling me all the great things about Wisconsin and the coaches, especially Coach Rudolph," Freeman told Badger Nation on Jan.1. "I have a great relationship with those guys and we've goon through a lot of the process together."
At 6-foot-7, 325 pounds, Freeman would big addition to the Wisconsin offensive line. Although my prediction is he'll pick either Missouri or Tennessee, Freeman has a lot of friendly connections at Madison.
Now with the 50-50
The man Badger Nation has been buzzing about since late August has been East St. Louis wide receiver Kraig Appleton. Ranked as a four-star wide receiver and the 19th-best wideout in the country by Scout.com, Appleton, like McDougald, has chosen to keep silent about his recruiting.
Appleton, who gave a soft verbal to Illinois, continued to take official visits, including a stop in Madison on October 3rd for Wisconsin's game against Ohio State, at which time sources told Badger Nation that Appleton would either attend UW, Illinois or Texas Tech.
Roughly three months later at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, it was believed that Appleton would announce that he was committing to Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the star wide receiver never made it to Texas, thus delaying his announcement even further.
The plot began to thicken over the past two-plus weeks, as Appleton canceled his official visit to Illinois on January 23, but took a spur-the-moment visit to Champaign the following week. While Appleton was in Champaign, Badger assistant coaches DelVaughn Alexander (wide receivers), Paul Chryst (offensive coordinator) and Dave Doeren (recruiting coach) made an in-home visit to Appleton's mother, who many believe will have a big say in where he attends school.
It's still unknown which way Appleton will go. Either way, the anticipation of his decision is one of the biggest nail biters Wisconsin fans have had to deal with in quite some time.