With National Signing Day in the past, caught up with Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt of Rivals.com to talk about the Wisconsin football team’s 2012 recruiting class of 12 scholarship players and seven preferred walk-ons.
Helmholdt touched on the highs and lows of the 2012 class, including the highly-anticipated new quarterback, Bart Houston, as well Wisconsin’s coaching carousel and how it affected recruiting for Wisconsin.
Herald Sports: On your website, UW isn’t ranked in the top 50 nation-wide, but it’s eighth in the Big Ten. What’s your overall assessment of this class?
Josh Helmholdt: Obviously, what’s notable about it off the top is that it’s a very small class. Twelve signees in this period – that’s a small class any year for anywhere. That being said, there’s some definite big time players in this class. I specifically think that Vince Biegel, linebacker out of Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln, is the best linebacker in the entire Midwest this year. What he brings to the table size-wise, athleticism-wise and then having that pure linebacker mentality – I think he’s going to be a tear in the Big Ten for a number of years. I also really, really like Dan Voltz, the offensive guard out of the Chicago area. Again, two of the best players at their position in the country.
HS: Do you think either of those two or someone else might be able to start next season or at least come off the bench, not just on special teams?
JH: It’s always tough for offensive linemen to come in and play immediately. The question I get asked a lot is will Bart Houston, the quarterback out of California, be able to come in with Russell Wilson leaving? And I think Bart has a chance. I definitely wouldn’t say no, out of the question, there’s no chance he could play as a freshman. I think he’s well-rounded enough that, yeah, he could come in and play if they needed him to. Ideally, you want him to learn behind some other guys for a year or two but Bart’s a big kid, he comes from a winning program, plays against good talent out there in California. He’s got some potential to come in and play immediately.
HS: Bart Houston’s name became kind of mainstream for Badger fans a while ago – is he worth that kind of hype?
JH: I wouldn’t put him in the “elite” quarterbacks – the top three, four, five quarterbacks in the country. But he’s a guy I could definitely see starting there for a number of years because I think he’s a great distributor of the ball. I think he’s a very heady quarterback. He seems to manage the game well from the quarterback position and I think Wisconsin’s had a lot of success with those types of quarterbacks in years past. Getting the ball in the hands of the playmakers, not making too many mistakes, and I think you’ll see him develop into that kind of quarterback at Wisconsin.
HS: Is there a diamond in the rough anywhere in this recruiting class?
JH: In a class of ’12 it’s kind of hard to pick a sleeper. We’ve got some guys in there that we feel [are] pretty accurately ranked. The one that I think could be an absolute huge boom – or could end up busting out, it could go either way – is D.J. Singleton out of New Jersey. Personally, I think the kid’s outstanding. He physically looks like a big time college player right now. He’s big and long – well built, well put together. The one question: Is he too stiff to play safety? That’s what he’s going to have to address at the next level. He may be a guy that bumps down to linebacker. But I think D.J. Singleton, if he finds it, he’s got the physical tools to be a standout.
HS: Where does this class rank with Wisconsin’s other recruiting classes over the last three or four years?
JH: It’s definitely lower and that’s because of the numbers. A recruiting class has to be looked at from both a quality and a quantity standpoint. It’s a combination of both. Certainly if you’re getting big name guys and instant-impact type players that’s important and they’ve got some of those in this class. But you also have to be able to address your needs and I don’t think they did that in 2012.
HS: UW missed out on three pretty big names in Kyle Dodson, J.J. Denman and Jordan Diamond (all offensive linemen). How much did UW miss out on with these guys?
JH: Well they were able to pick up Jake Meador on signing day and I think that’s a very solid addition. It doesn’t replace Dodson and Denman, who both [initially committed to Wisconsin], but at the same time, with Meador coming in and [Dan] Voltz coming in, and you also got Walker Williams, the big kid out of Washington, I think they have a solid offensive line class. These are three I think they should feel really good about. Obviously, I think a lot of fans will look at what they missed on but when you look at this group in total I think it’s a strong offensive line.
HS: When you consider the losses they had on the coaching staff – they lost six assistants since the Rose Bowl – is this class about what you’d expect when something like that happens, or did they absorb those blows well enough, all things considered?
JH: I think it really hurt them; it really hurt their momentum down the stretch. They started off getting Vince Biegel, getting Dan Voltz, getting Kyle Dodson early on – back by mid-summer – and that was a huge start to this class. Vonte Jackson [is] another guy we have rated four stars. They really kicked off 2012 with a great start and then they just lost momentum down the stretch and one of the reasons is because they lost those six assistants. So I don’t think they were able to absorb them as well as they wanted to, certainly, and I think it definitely played a role in the class size and missing out on some big names later on.
HS: The coaches they’ve picked up since then – are any of them known as a particularly savvy recruiters?
JH: The guys that came over from Northern Illinois, I’ve heard their names around quite a bit on the recruiting trail. They could end up developing into some of the better recruiters in the Big Ten – we’ll just have to see how they recruit at that level. Specifically the offensive coordinator, [Matt Canada], and then [tight ends coach Eddie Faulkner], is a guy – actually, I think I’ve probably heard more out of [Faulkner's] name on the recruiting trail. I think that they, from a recruiting standpoint, refilled their coffers pretty well there at those spots. Actually, a guy who I think is a big loss, [former wide receivers coach] DelVaughn Alexander, was really kind of the guy I heard of more than anybody on that staff. That’s whose name I heard a lot. I think he was a big loss from a recruiting standpoint.
HS: Looking on to 2013, what do you see?
JH: It’s going to be very important for them to recruit the state of Illinois. The state of Illinois is a prime recruiting talent pool they pull from. It’s very deep, especially with the offensive line talent that is in Illinois. I think going forward to the class of 2013, how they fare is going to hinge greatly on how they recruit the state of Illinois.