An event that shuts down the city from sunrise to well after sunset, a Badger football Saturday is an awe-inspiring sight to first-time visitors. A night game at Camp Randall, however, ratchets up the adrenaline of the crowd, the team and the atmosphere, a big reason why Wisconsin has won 21 of its last 24 night games.
With that kind of record and ambiance under the lights, it's not a surprise that the Badgers pack in as many highly-ranked recruits they can in hopes of showing them what UW football is all about.
"A night game here is one of our biggest recruiting tools," said a member of the Wisconsin football program recently. "We do a lot of things on campus with them during the day - giving a tour of the campus, the facilities and having them meet with advisors. But we make sure they are in their seats to watch the environment come to life."
Of course, it doesn't always work putting all the eggs in one basket. Last season, the Badgers hosted back-to-back night games against Ohio State and Penn State, the two top teams of the Big Ten Conference at the time. In the Badgers last-minute defeat against OSU, Wisconsin hosted uncommitted prospects Davon Custis, Ra'shede Hageman, Pat Muldoon and Conor O'Neill, the latter two committing to UW in the weeks that followed.
"It was definitely a great atmosphere there," O'Neill told Badger Nation after the visit. "The Jump Around was something. Even the recruits were getting into the game on Jump Around. I could only ask for a couple more things and that would have been more points all on Wisconsin's side. I wish that the band could have been there, but things happen and it was still a wonderful atmosphere."
One week later, the Badgers were annihilated by Penn State in front of recruits Vlad Emilien, Kennan Graham, Broderick Jenkins and Darnell Taylor, all of whom decided that UW wasn't where they wanted to be.
"It (stinks) that we didn't give those guys a better showing of Wisconsin football," said the source. "If we had played better, who knows what those kids may or may not have decided?"
Opening the season under the lights against an opponent not quite on the same level as the Buckeyes or the Nittany Lions, Wisconsin is packing the house this Saturday with at least seven uncommitted official visitors, three uncommitted unofficial visitors and one committed official visitor. Needless to say, a lot is riding on the Badgers making a good first impression.
Badger Nation looks at who will be stopping by Camp Randall Saturday evening.
DT Carl Davis
6-5, 300 pounds
Sterling Heights, Michigan (Adlai Stevenson)
Scout.com 3-Star Prospect – Ranked #41 DT nationally
Growing up watching Big Ten football and Badger athletes P.J. Hill and Matt Shaughnessy, Davis is well versed in the history and tradition of the conference. Having never visited Madison before, Davis will be in attendance as the Badgers are one of his three finalists, joining Iowa (believed to be his front runner) and Kansas from a list of 14 offers.
"It all comes down to who is recruiting me hard, and basically Wisconsin, they are recruiting me really hard," Davis told Badger Nation. "I get letters from them every day. I talk to Coach Alexander all the time. I mean, they are putting a lot of time into me. That is what I am looking for as a prospect as far as being recruited."
Davis, who says he can bench 300-pounds, squat 495 and has a 28-inch vertical jump, wants to decide mid-season on his college of choice. Currently, UW does not have any known verbal committed at the defensive tackle position.
6-4, 210 pounds
Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin (Whitefish Bay)
Scout.com 3-Star Prospect – Ranked #4 P nationally
Although the Badgers have a punter with two more years of eligibility after this season, it's impossible not to overlook one of the top specialists in the country who has grown up right in your own backyard. Punting runs in the blood of the family, as Will's older brother, Chris, is the starting punter at Indiana.
Growing up in Whitefish Bay, Hagerup has been to UW's campus many times, lauding the fact the Badgers have got great tradition, a big-time football program, and a well-rounded school with solid academics.
Hagerup finished his junior season with an average of 41 yards per punt. He was a perfect four of four on field goals with a long of 44 yards.
Hagerup has narrowed his long list of suitors down to four - Wisconsin, Ohio State, Florida and Michigan - and will visit those schools on consecutive weekends, starting with the Badgers this weekend.
6-8, 340 pounds
Frederick, Maryland (Linganore)
Scout.com 3-Star Prospect – Ranked #47 OT nationally
With only one offensive lineman committed to 2010 class, the Badgers are in need of more big bodies to help open up holes for the Badgers dominant run game. After UW made a dent in Maryland earlier in the recruiting cycle (getting a verbal commitment from Frank Tamakloe), the Badgers are again trying to make a dent with Havenstein.
Narrowing down his massive scholarship list to a final five of Maryland, Penn State, Virginia, Wake Forest and Wisconsin, Havenstein has already visited Wisconsin during the summer without his parents and came away impressed, especially when UW's current offensive linemen told Havenstein he is the mold of a UW blocker.
"I was really impressed with all the facilities, the coaches and the stadium itself," Havenstein told Badger Nation after the visit. "I didn't know too much about the city, and I like that the campus is surrounded by two lakes. I have a cousin that goes there that just goes to school there. She told me that when she first went to Madison, she just fell in love with it. They have good tradition there and I liked it a lot."
Havenstein will take all five of his visits and most likely make his decision in December.
OLB Toloa'I Ho Ching
6-1, 225 pounds
Sandy, Utah (Alta)
Scout.com 3-Star Prospect – Ranked #39 OLB nationally
With UW already having two verbals from OLBs for the class of 2010, it would appear UW would be set at that position. However, when a player of Ho Ching's capabilities is still on the market and has an interest in your program, you take notice.
"I'm really excited to visit to Wisconsin," Ho Ching said, who is being recruited by Dave Doeren. "I can't wait to see the campus and be apart of the atmosphere. (Doeren) tells me UW is a great school. I just can't wait to see it."
Ho Ching looks to be a tough steal away from the mountain west, but would be a big addition to the linebacker unit.
MLB Vinnie Mauro
6-2, 215 pounds
Fort Lauderdale, Florida (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Scout.com 3-Star Prospect – Ranked #24 MLB nationally
After grabbing two players from the best high school team in the nation last year, the Badgers are heading back to STA in hopes of more.
Compiling 54 total tackles, including 8.5 for loss, during the 10-game regular season, Mauro has earned offers from Florida International, Marshall, Navy, Rutgers, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin. Mauro said in June that his top two schools are Navy and Vanderbilt, as it's a dream for him to be a navy seal or navy aviator.
Mauro is good friends with former teammate and current Badger linebacker Conor O'Neill, which plays a part in his decision. For now, it seems that Navy is the team to beat.
TE Alex Smith
6-4, 195 pounds
West Chester, Ohio (Lakota West)
Scout.com 4-Star Prospect – Ranked #10 TE nationally
Smith was believed to be off the market way back in February when he committed to hometown Cincinnati. After a tight end coaching change, however, Smith decided to take a closer look around, which brought him to Wisconsin.
"Wisconsin is my favorite visit I have been on so far," Smith told Badger Nation after the visit. "Easily would rate it a 9 (out of 10). I love Madison. It's different from anywhere I have ever been."
It appears Wisconsin is the front runner for Smith, who said he will make his decision within the next month.
RB James White
5-10, 200 pounds
Fort Lauderdale, Florida (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Scout.com 3-Star Prospect – Ranked #68 RB nationally
Traveling up with Mauro is White, who is supposedly the Badgers top-ranked running back on their recruiting board. After turning 125 carries into 933 yards rushing and 12 receptions into 125 yards, White and his 21 total touchdowns in 2008 has been a hot commodity, earning him 14 scholarship offers during the process.
White is in the process of creating his top five, which includes Iowa, North Carolina State and Wisconsin. White already visited Iowa and Wisconsin during the summer on a trip and has scheduled official visits to both schools – Wisconsin this weekend and Iowa in two weeks.
"Wisconsin is a big college town," White told Badger Nation. "It's really impressive and is really nice. I like both schools because they're both from the Big Ten, they love to run the ball featuring their running backs and that's just something I like. I like that there running backs get to be versatile."
White is planning on waiting until after his football season finished before making a decision, as he wants to see what other opportunities may arise for him.
6-1, 175 pounds
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin (Menomonee Falls)
Scout.com 2-Star Prospect – Ranked #11 K nationally
Much like the situation with Hagerup, having such a talented kicker so close to campus is also too good to pass up for the Badgers.
Coming off a productive season where he finished perfect with extra points going 25 for 25 and averaged 60 yards total on kick offs and 36.9 yards on punts, French has three scholarship offers (Northern Illinois, Wisconsin and Wyoming) and a couple options on the table when it comes to the Badgers.
According to French, there are two ways he can use the Badger scholarship should he except. Option one is French could gray shirt, meaning he could go to a junior college for one semester, go to Madison following that semester, redshirt his first season and then start as a freshman for four years, as current UW kicker Philip Welch would have exhausted his eligibility.
"Wisconsin would be a dream school for me," said French, who has no timetable set for his decision. "My mom went there and my brother is a junior there. I grew up watching them."
PG Josh Gasser
6-4, 185 pounds
Port Washington, Wisconsin (Port Washington)
Scout.com 3-Star Prospect – Currently unranked nationally
Averaging 22 points per game and 12 rebounds per game playing the point guard position, Gasser, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, has picked up scholarship offers from Arizona State, Creighton, Maryland, Northwestern, Northern Iowa, UW-Green Bay and UW-Milwaukee. His latest offer came from the Badgers, although there's a twist to it.
With the coaching staff still waiting to see how the Vander Blue saga plays out, Gasser was told by the coaching staff that he would have to walk on his first season, but would be on scholarship during his final four seasons.
Gasser is coming up to Madison Saturday to visit with the Wisconsin basketball coaching staff before heading over to Camp Randall. He told Badger Nation that he is going to wait a little while longer to see what happens with Blue, but still wants to make his final decision before his senior basketball season.
6-1, 201 pounds
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Marquette)
Scout.com 1-Star Prospect – Currently unranked nationally
An impressive linebacker for the Hilltoppers, Trotter is sitting on pins and needles to see if he is going to get a Wisconsin scholarship offer. With offers currently from Indiana, Illinois State, North Dakota and Northern Iowa, Trotter impressed the Wisconsin coaches during summer camp, but doesn't rank as high as other linebackers on UW's recruiting board.
Even so, Trotter plays the linebacker position aggressively and moves well between the hashes. He can use his strength to make plays at the line of scrimmage, or use his agility to drop back in pass coverage. Trotter is still waiting to see what other offers roll in before making his final decision.
6-0, 200 pounds
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Marquette)
Scout.com 3-Star Prospect – Ranked #85 CB nationally
The only known committed prospect coming to Wisconsin this weekend, Michael Trotter is the twin brother of Marcus and a standout athlete. Impressing coaches at UW's camp with his agility during 7-on-7 drills, Trotter committed to UW after he finished all his summer camps, which confirmed to him that playing in Madison was the best situation for him.
"I think I am a good tackler," Trotter said after his commitment. "I think I have that instinct on the line of scrimmage to make a play. The big thing for me is that I have to get better as an athlete. I've been working on a lot of things like hitting, covering receivers."
check back with Badger Nation next week for recaps on the athlete's visits, as well as a couple possible surprises