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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badger Herald Q&A with Benjamin Worgull of

On Wednesday, hundreds of high school players across the country will sign commitments to play collegiate football at various schools as part of National Signing Day.

With a new head coach and coaching staff at the helm, Wisconsin will close out its recruiting efforts for the 2015 season Wednesday as the newest batch of Badger football players will sign on the dotted line to come to Madison.

With National Signing Day just a few days away, Eric Kohlbeck of the Badger Herald talked to Benjamin Worgull of to discuss all things Wisconsin recruiting. Worgull is the publisher of – a member of the Network – and covers Wisconsin recruiting and athletics for the website.


The Badger Herald: How would you say Wisconsin’s recruiting class for 2015, overall has made it through the coaching change?

Benjamin Worgull: Well, it’s gone through some peaks and valleys, without question, just because of the different ways these coaches attack, as I’ll try to explain. Gary Andersen extended a lot of scholarship offers to a lot of prospects of the 2015 class. Probably about 250 or so kids he offered. And he extended to a lot of kids that maybe had questionable – who needed to do work in the classroom to be admitted.

So now that Chryst is here, we’ve seen a couple of those kids decommit from the program and they’ve lost throughout the entire recruiting process, they’ve lost four kids because of academic related issues. The Thursday after the national championship game, I believe, is when you can start doing in-home visits; you can start going out and see prospects at their school. So he’s been very aggressive over these last several weeks. He’s added some kids to this recruiting class that probably will help add depth that Wisconsin has to add at quarterback, they added a nose tackle, they added an in-state athlete who’s going to play outside linebacker.

So, Gary Andersen set a really good foundation for this class. He went to a lot of different areas of the country, attacking a lot of really high-character players, lot of guys who have a high ‘star ranking’ and Chryst has come in and really done a good job at hitting in-state kids hard. So, where both these coaches have done a really nice job is Gary Andersen has set the foundation and kind of built the walls and now Chryst is building the roof and trying to get everything else set up inside for National Signing Day, if that makes sense.

BH: Would you say the number of players that have decomitted since Andersen left and Chryst has taken over, is that typical of what you would see when there’s a coaching change?

BW: Yeah, and I think there’s more coming to be honest with you. We sit at 23 [commits] right now but I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost three more. Probably it’s a little bit more than normal just because Gary Andersen took fliers on some kids. So you had some kids who, like I said, that needed work to do in the classroom to get there, while maybe some other coaching staffs don’t have that type of problem with the academics or the previous coaching staff recruited guys who were academically set. So, there’s probably been a little bit more than usual, but that’s part of the reason why, because of the academics.

When you lose the head coach and you lose most of the assistant coaches, you’re going to have some kids that realize this isn’t the program I committed to; I don’t know any of these new coaches and sometimes new coaches come in and they, maybe there’s one coach that likes you but the next coach doesn’t, so they want kind of their own guys. None of these kids are the, what I would call, the main players in this recruiting class. So, is it a little more than normal? Yes, but I don’t think Wisconsin will get hurt by this in the long run.

BH: How important was it that Chryst kept defensive coordinator Dave Aranda on his staff, and if they would’ve lost him, would Wisconsin have lost even more recruits?

BW: I would throw Thomas Brown in that mix as well. You keep both of those guys and it’s been huge. I’ll start with Dave Aranda. Aranda recruited the state of Florida really hard. You look at a guy like Nick Thomas, who’s enrolled early. Nick Thomas, with a big spring, with 15 spring practices, and a good summer and fall camp; he could, I’m not saying he could start at inside linebacker, but could certainly be in the rotation to play as a true freshman. I mean he’s a very, very talented kid and he was recruited solely by Dave Aranda. Jordan Griffin, same thing. He’s an inside linebacker from Seffner, Florida who is on the fence right now deciding between Wisconsin, South Florida and Vanderbilt. If Dave Aranda wasn’t here, I think Wisconsin would have no shot at Jordan Griffin. I think Griffin’s one of the best players in Florida. You look at his numbers, he put up a ton of tackles this past year, really solid athlete.

And then Thomas Brown, in one year look what he’s done in terms of recruiting running backs. He got Jordan Stevenson. Bill Busch recruited Jordan Stevenson initially and after Busch left, Thomas Brown took over and really calmed the waters there. Bradrick Shaw from Hoover, Alabama, — the best high school in Alabama — Thomas Brown was the lead on that, and especially the 2016 kid, Antonio Williams from North Carolina, a four-star running back. He was the leading recruiter on him. So, I think retaining both those guys were key in keeping some key pieces to his class. If both those guys had left, or one had left, the numbers right now would look very different. They would be losing some of their top-end players.

BH: You had mentioned earlier how Chryst is trying to make more of an emphasis on recruiting the state of Wisconsin. What top prospects from the state has he recruited and which ones has he flipped to commit to Wisconsin?

BW: Well, he offered four kids. He offered Alec Ingold from Bay Port. He flipped him from Northern Illinois. He offered Vincent Hughes from Franklin a gray shirt offer. Vincent Hughes was committed to Northern Illinois, he’s still committed to Northern Illinois, and he declined that offer. He offered Jake Whalen from Wausau West — a gray shirt offer to play fullback and Whalen is visiting this weekend. He’s down to between Wisconsin and Iowa. And he bumped Zack Baun from Brown Deer up from a gray shirt offer to a full scholarship offer. He offered Robert Windsor of Fond du Lac a full offer but Windsor signed a commit to Penn State.

Ingold is a very talented athlete. You look at his numbers; he had over 4,000 total yards last year, passing and rushing and 45 some touchdowns. He was named the state offensive player of the year, the Gatorade state player of the year and Wisconsin and Gary Andersen was going to let him go to Northern Illinois because he didn’t see him as a fit to what he wanted to do. Well, Chryst recruited him at Pittsburgh and knew how good of an athlete he was. I mean, Ingold is the typical guy that Wisconsin has done well with in-state for years. They have that passion for playing in-state, that kids from Texas, or Florida, or Virginia or wherever doesn’t have because Wisconsin is not their home-state school. So I think Ingold’s history as a wrestler, his football IQ being a quarterback, that’s going to help to translate to be a solid outside linebacker. Same with Zack Baun. Zack Baun was a tremendous quarterback for Brown Deer and he has the knowledge and the skill set, and he signed to be a good outside linebacker.

So, Chryst is a guy who obviously values in-state kids. He won a state championship at Platteville, played at Wisconsin, coached at Wisconsin. He knows the high school scene around here. So I think going forward, you’re going to see Wisconsin not just recruit the top players in the state, but maybe that next tier of players.

Update: Jake Whalen did visit Madison this weekend and has committed to Wisconsin. 

BH: Along with Wisconsin, have there been any new areas that Chryst and his staff will focus on recruiting? Are there new areas in the country, outside of Wisconsin, that Chryst and his staff will try to recruit?

BW: I think it’s a little early to say, because they don’t have a wide receivers coach in yet. So, I think they’re still trying to find their recruiting areas. So far they haven’t gone out into any new areas. They’ve kind of spent this chunk of time finishing up the 2015 class.

But I would be very surprised if Wisconsin wasn’t in Florida. Florida is a huge recruiting area and it always has been even since Bielema was here. They will be hunkered down in the Midwest. I would imagine they will go back into Ohio and western Pennsylvania. I think they will go to the west coast a little bit. It remains to be seen how successful they will be. They’ve been able to pull some kids out of that area that past couple of years. I think maybe they’ll have a better head start than they did when Bielema came and Bielema tried to recruit California and failed miserably. Daronte Jones, the new secondary coach, recruited the east coast for Hawaii and that’s a hard sales pitch to be able to go from the east coach all the way to Hawaii. That’s a 15-hour plane flight or whatever it would be. I think he’ll have more success now, recruiting that area for Wisconsin. But these are all areas that Wisconsin has already been in.

I don’t see them doing a lot in Utah or the upper Pacific northwest, but I really think the Midwest, which was lacking under Andersen, will be the main focal point for Chryst and his staff.

BH: Out of all the recruits that are expected to sign on National Signing Day, and the ones that have already enrolled early, who do you think has the best chance of seeing significant playing time right away next year as a freshman?

BW: Probably Jordan Stevenson, the four-star running back out of South Oak Cliff in Dallas. And I say that because you look at the running back roster right now and there’s Corey Clement and there’s nobody else. I think one of those true freshman will play. I think Stevenson is a talented athlete. He’s such a mean runner. To put up those kinds of numbers in Texas high school football is just so impressive and he plays at a really good high school too that has a number of D-I prospects on it. He’s just a smooth, natural runner. He was committed to Texas for a long time and he took an official visit up here in late September for the USF game and just fell in love with the running back tradition that was here.

Obviously one of the inside linebacker that I mentioned, Nick Thomas, I think has a great shot to play early. I would say a wide receiver but they only signed one wide receiver in this class. But I would also maybe keep my eye on Jon Dietzen from Seymour just because Wisconsin needs a right tackle and Dietzen can play either tackle spot. He’s enrolled early, so he’s going to get a full year with the program and if he has a big offseason, I could see him possibly getting an opportunity to play early. But other than that, I really don’t see anyone else making that big of an immediate impact. History suggests that probably between four and six true freshman will probably play this year.

BH: This isn’t necessarily a recruiting question, but with quarterback Austin Kafentzis coming in, do you see him making a push to see playing time at quarterback and overall, who do you think is going to win the starting quarterback job?

BW: I would be surprised if Kafentzis played this year, but having known him and having seen how determined he is and how intelligent he is, I wouldn’t count him out. He’s a very good athlete and without question is probably the highlight of this class. He’s been committed for so long. He committed back in June of 2013. So he’s a really good athlete. I don’t really know a lot about [Alex] Hornibrook. He’s a lefty and he strikes me more as a pocket passer. For him to be enrolled early is key.

You look at that quarterback group and there’s going to be a lot of quarterbacks and not a lot of reps in spring so it’ll be interesting to see how they vary it up. I don’t think Tanner McEvoy will be quarterback under Paul Chryst and he shouldn’t. So I kind of think right now, Joel Stave is the leader in the clubhouse and I know that’s going to rattle some people but Joel Stave has a ton of experience. He’s won a lot of games for Wisconsin. He just won a bowl game — well Melvin Gordon won the bowl game — but, you know what I’m saying. Paul Chryst recruited Bart Houston and if anyone can get Bart Houston going on the right track it’s Paul Chryst. D.J. Gillins has taken steps forward. He’s dual-threat that Wisconsin, under Gary Andersen, was looking for and he’s made some nice strides. So I think just to see how these quarterbacks fare in the spring under Paul Chryst who, unlike Gary Andersen, Paul Chryst has an offensive background and really can impact these quarterbacks.

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