These backs have helped establish Wisconsin as a great place for running backs to go and succeed.
The Badgers and new assistant coach Greg Jackson are back in the New Jersey looking for the next big-time running back to lead the Badgers. It looks like the Badgers have definitely found the man they want to target, Savon Huggins.
The 6-foot, 200 pound running back from St. Peter's Prep School (Jersey City) has as many options as any player in the Class of 2011. He has over 60 offers from around the country, including defending national champion Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami (FL), Nebraska, Notre Dame, Rutgers and USC.
In order for Huggins to narrow his list to a top 10 in early July, he has been busy with campus visits this summer, including a recent visit to Wisconsin. Wisconsin was in the midst of hosting its second high school camp, but rolled out the red-carpet treatment for the five-star running back and his parents.
"I actually watched the one day camp a little bit, and they had a three day camp, and I watched some of that," Huggins told Badger Nation exclusively. "I took some pictures with the kids. They wanted to take pictures with me. That was fun. I watched 1-on-1's with the o-line. I watched the DBs and running backs. I watched everybody there. They were really getting after it and competing. I liked that. I toured the whole campus and saw the facilities, the weight room and the field. Pretty much we just went around the whole city. So it was pretty good."
While in Madison, Huggins got more comfortable with the team by talking with all of the coaches, including Head Coach Bret Bielema and Athletic Director Barry Alvarez.
"I talked with Coach Settle a lot too, because he is my running back coach, and he is going to be the coach that coaches me for all of my years," Huggins said. "He is very honest, very blunt, and very cool, but it doesn't mean that he can't yell at you and get in your face, too. He tells you how it is, he's honest and I like that."
Settle's experience in the NFL also made an impression on the Jersey native.
"He has been in the league," Huggins said. "He's been in the same position we are. He knows exactly what it takes and what to do. That is why coming from him, people can relate to him, and say ‘OK, I understand that he went through this,' so what he is saying is true. Everybody sits down and listens and takes notes and stuff."
The players also made an impact on Huggins.
"I talked to Clay, and I talked to all the backs," Huggins said. "They said it was really good, and they come in and compete every day. Don't pick the school based on the coaching staff, but based on the people. Clay chose Wisconsin based on the people and the relationships he had. Clay is very successful and other backs are successful, too, so it's nice that he's been around."
Before the visit to Madison, Huggins thought he knew what the University of Wisconsin was all about.
"I know they run the ball," Huggins explained. "When you think of running back schools, they have a long line of history of running backs in the league and linemen that they put out. They are pretty much the powerhouse in the Midwest when it comes to backs. People know who they are. So I knew going (to Madison), what was expected about that.
"I did not know at all there is so much to do in that city. So there is so much you can do. I thought it was just going to be in the middle of nowhere. I was very, very surprised, and my parents were too. I really liked that about the city. There are so many things you can do on campus, because it is right there in the city, so you will probably never, ever get bored."
Since the Badgers have had many players from the Northeast, including New Jersey, Huggins has heard about the Badgers back home.
"I've talked to former players that played in the 90's that won the Rose Bowl and stuff like that," Huggins said. "They are from Jersey and just telling me that you are going to find your friends there. You guys will be in a crib together. Making friends and being comfortable won't be a problem at all."
Both he and his parents drove away from Wisconsin very impressed and comfortable with what they saw in Madison. However, Huggins did have one favorite aspect about the trip.
"The relationships," Huggins explained. "They really are dedicated. There are no egos on the team. Everybody came up to me and said ‘what's up' to me. I really liked that. They want to win. They really want to win. I saw them in the weight room and they are getting after it. They help each other and try to get better, just how they get along with each other. I really liked just the atmosphere that they bring."
Huggins gave his visit a perfect score.
"One to 10, a 10," Huggins said. "I just liked the atmosphere. I didn't think it was going to be like it was. It was surprising, the people and the city itself. I really liked the city."
After the Wisconsin visit, Huggins visited Notre Dame (6/29) and plans to make stops at Pittsburgh (7/1) and Florida (August). He plans to major in kinesiology, sports management or speech communications in college.
During his junior year, Huggins rushed for over 1,500 yards and scored 22 touchdowns. Huggins plans to take all five official visits next season and eventually make a decision either at the Under Armour All-American Game or on National Signing Day.
Wisconsin currently has five verbal commitments all from the state of Wisconsin, but has yet to sign a running back in the Class of 2011.