As Alvarez unveiled what turned out to be his 16th and final recruiting class, the veteran head coach wasn't deterred by the fact that the national recruiting experts thought his class was ho hum at best.
Scout.com has the class ranked No.35 nationally and sixth in the Big Ten. That 2005 class was actually an improvement nationally, as Alvarez' previous three classes were No.37, No.36 and No.53 under the same ranking system. As always, Alvarez said the true gauge of the group would be the production of the class when they left the program.
Although the group finished playing for Alvarez' specialty-selected successor, Bret Bielema, the group turned out to be one of Alvarez's most productive classes in terms of results, as nine players turned into multiple-season starters and four – tight end Travis Beckum, tight end Garrett Graham, running back P.J. Hill and defensive end O'Brien Schofield – earned first-team All-Big Ten honors during their careers.
"That class was not only special in terms of players with athletic ability, but athletes that were hard working, blue-collared and determined to get better," Alvarez said previously in an interview with Badger Nation. "Those guys fit the puzzle that we needed at the time and you can see the special results of those who graduated from here."
In the 2005, class, 15 of the 23 players UW signed ended up starting at least seven games for the Badgers. Here's a look at each member of the class. (The number of stars assigned to each player by Scout.com and position ranking out of high school is included).
Travis Beckum, ***** No.1 DE, Milwaukee – The move to tight end because of his size and the needed depth at tight end was one of the best moves the Badgers made. Ending his career third on Wisconsin's career list in receptions (159) and receiving yardage (2,149 yards), Beckum decided to come back for his senior season, but missed a good majority of the season with a broken leg. He was drafted in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft by the New York Giants.
Jonathan Casillas, ** NR S, New Brunswick, N.J. – A first-team all-state linebacker and the county's defensive player of the year in 2004, Casillas lived up to his billing as a tenacious defender and a vocal team leader. He was a three-year starter at outside linebacker and his blocked punt against Minnesota was one of the best plays of the decade.
Garrett Graham, ** No.53 TE, Brick N.J. – Graham came to Wisconsin with experience at tight end, defensive end, punter and kicker. As he now makes the leap to the NFL, Graham will simply be known as one of the best tight ends in Wisconsin history, tied for fifth in school history with 16 career receiving touchdowns, tied for sixth with 121 career receptions and11th with 1,492 career receiving yards.
P.J. Hill, ** NR RB, East Elmhurst, NY – Hill carried on the tradition of successful running backs at Wisconsin, finishing his career third in rushing yards (3,942) and tied for third in rushing touchdowns (42). He surprised everybody by jumping ship after his junior season to pursue an NFL career, a decision that backfired with a DUI arrest.
Andy Kemp, *** No.73 OL, Menasha – The 2004 Gatorade Wisconsin Football Player of the Year, Andy Kemp was a force at left guard throughout his career, working side-by-side with Joe Thomas and Gabe Carimi to create a brick wall on the left side of the Badger offensive line, starting 36 games at left guard for the Badgers. DeAndre Levy, *** No.78 LB, Milwaukee – Combined with Casillas over the last three seasons, Levy provided the other half of a powerful one-two linebacker punch that made the duo one of the best in the Big Ten. Starting at sam linebacker, Levy's numbers, along with his leadership, increased every year, which was evidenced by his peers selecting him as a team captain.
Jae McFadden, ** NR TE, Riviera Beach, Fla. – In a linebacker unit full of promising youth, one savvy veteran seemed to make all the plays. Over his four-year career, Jae McFadden seemed to have his nose in on every play. He started the final 26 games of his career at middle linebacker and led the team in tackles his final two years.
O'Brien Schofield, *** No.55 LB, Great Lakes, Ill. – Starting at defensive end from the 2008 Outback Bowl to the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl, Schofield was a senior captain and the leader of the defense, earning All-Big Ten honors after producing 24.5 tackles for loss his senior year, second best in school history.
Matt Shaughnessy, ** NR DE, Norwich, Conn. – The only four-year starter in the class, Shaughnessy was UW's defensive player of the week seven different times, demonstrating the consistent value he brought to the Wisconsin defense.
Eric Vanden Heuvel, *** No.91 OL, Hudson – After playing high school football next to Urbik, Vanden Heuval combined with his Hudson schoolmate to form a connection that made the right side of UW's offensive line as strong as any. Much like Urbik, Vanden Heuvel was durable, making 34 starts in his career.
Jerry Butler, ** NR RB, Philadelphia – Transferred to Delaware, a Football Championship Subdivision program, after only two seasons.
Shane Carter, ** NR WR, Troy, Ohio – Started 20 games at free safety during his career, including all 13 during the 2007 season. It was bad news from there, as Carter lost his starting job midway through his junior season and was suspended indefinitely prior to the start of the 2009 season.
Dan Cascone, ** NR DT, Newtown, Conn. – After playing in only one game during his first four years in the program, Cascone transformed his body and ended up being a productive member of Charlie Partridge's eight-man d-line rotation.
Dion Foster, *** NO.82 RB, Oak Lawn, Ill. – Left the program early in his career and transferred to South Dakota of the FCS.
Elijah Hodge, **** No.16 LB, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. – Started 11 games as a third-year sophomore in 2007, but chronic knee issues allowed others to pass him on the depth chart. When the coaches wanted to move him to fullback, Hodge declined and transferred to Northern Iowa, an FCS program, for his final season.
Terrance Jamison, *** No.50 DE, Riverdale, Ill. – Like Hodge, knee issues forced him to retire after two seasons, but he stayed with the program and served the last three seasons as a student assistant on Bielema's staff.
Prince Moody, ** NR LB, Columbus, Ohio – A 2008 and ‘09 Academic All-Big Ten selection, Moody was a big contributor on special teams for Wisconsin.
Nate Nurse, *** OL, Teaneck, N.J. – Nurse was eager to play football for UW but after signing a letter of intent and passing through the NCAA Clearinghouse for freshman eligibility, Nurse's application for admission to the university was denied. He signed at Rutgers.
Aubrey Pleasant, *** No.56 DB, Flint, Mich. – Started 14 games during his career at strong safety, including all 13 in 2007, but was suspended indefinitely, along with Carter, prior to the 2009 season.
Jarmal Ruffin, ** NR WR, Philadelphia, Pa. – Left the program after two seasons and transferred to Tennessee State, an FCS program.
Dustin Sherer, *** No.36 QB, Cicero, Ind. – Ranked as one of the top quarterbacks in the Midwest in his recruiting class, Sherer started the final seven games of the 2008 season after replacing Allan Evridge. After being beaten out by Scott Tolzien for the starting job, Sherer handled the demotion with class and helped UW rebound with a 10-win season.
Jeff Stehle, ** NR DE, Constantia, N.Y. – Stehle patiently waited, continued to work hard to improve his strength and agility and finally got the chance to start. After playing in 25 of 26 games entering the season, Stehle didn't miss a start, recording 19 tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks and two quarterback hurries in UW's eight-man defensive line rotation.
Elijah Theus, ** NR WR, Sugarland, Texas – Theus always faced a bunch of solid wide receivers ahead of him in the pecking order, but his hard work paid off when he earned his first letter in 2008, after seeing action in five games and caught his first career touchdown pass in the Champs Sports Bowl.