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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Bielema announces 1st recruiting class

The first of February 2006: A day that will go down in history for UW athletics.

A new era began for the University of Wisconsin football program Wednesday, as Bret Bielema officially became the successor of Barry Alvarez, nominally taking hold of the post he has run since Wisconsin's 24-10 victory over Auburn in the Capital One Bowl. He celebrated the occasion by unveiling his first recruiting class as head coach of the Badgers, a class he praised for its loyalty to the program, sticking with Wisconsin despite the multitude of coaching staff changes.

"Obviously this has been a unique recruiting process," Bielema said. "Everybody wants fast guys, everybody wants strong guys, guys who can make plays, all the little things that can make a difference on the football field. But the part that gets left out of the equation is what goes on [in their heart] … I think these guys, because of the way this recruiting season has gone, have shown great perseverance."


Bielema also stated that he expects to have his coaching staff completed in the upcoming weeks.

The Wisconsin class was not ranked particularly high nationally. According to, the UW class was 43rd in the country, slightly ahead of Purdue (50th) and behind Michigan State (33rd). ranked the Badger recruiting class even lower, as 67th best in the country, one spot ahead of Northwestern, with only Minnesota (70th) and Indiana (81st) finishing below them. Ohio State was the top ranked Big Ten school in both recruiting services.

Bielema was not at all worried about the perceived strength of the class, however, making the point that the accuracy of such rankings has proven to be sketchy at best in the past.

"I do believe that the University of Wisconsin is a development program," Bielema said. "Our guys are going to play their best football in year three and four. Obviously, we hope they're good in year one and two as well."

Bielema was adamant in his belief that working shorthanded, while much of the UW coaching staff was in flux, did not play a negative role in the recruiting class

"I don't feel it has any [impact]," Bielema said, praising the efforts of assistants Paul Chryst (offensive coordinator) and Henry Mason (receivers coach) who were held over from the Alvarez staff.

"There was never a time where I wasn't able to get anywhere or see anybody because of lack of man power," he said.

Bielema stated that when he first began looking at recruits, he identified several positions that needed to be recruited heavily.

"I felt there were three areas that I really needed to be strong in with this recruiting class," Bielema stated. "There was an immediate need at wide receiver, [defensive backs] and offensive linemen."

To that end, the Badgers were successful in filling their roster in areas of need, as they signed four players at each of the positions plus several other athletes that could move into any one of those roles. The team also signed a pair of tight ends to try and reload that position.

Although Bielema wouldn't speculate as to how many recruits from this crop could see playing time in the upcoming season, there are several safe bets as players who could play a significant role in the 2006 campaign.

At least three players on the roster are expected to possibly be four-year starters for the team. Running back Lance Smith (5-foot-10, 197 lbs, Warren, Ohio) and wide receiver Lance Kendricks (Milwaukee, Rufus King High) are considered to be the class of the staff, both bringing loads of potential to Madison.

Smith was rated among the top 20 running backs in the nation by, compiling over 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns his senior year. He is already considered to be a prime candidate to fill the starting running back position vacated by Brian Calhoun, who declared early for the NFL Draft as a junior.

"Running back was also a priority," Bielema said. "After we got Lance committed, I really didn't feel a strong need to go anywhere else, even with the announcement of Brian [Calhoun], because we signed three running backs a year ago."

Bielema's confidence in the Badgers' running back position speaks volumes of the respect he has for Smith's ability.

"He has the ability to move a lot of different directions in a short amount of space," Bielema said. "He's got good hands, good size, good speed. [He's] someone that, along with the group of running backs that we have, can compete for the start."

Kendricks was one of the in-state recruits to sign with UW. He was rated as the second best prospect in Wisconsin and among the top 30 wide receivers in the country by

"[Kendricks is a] guy that had many different opportunities throughout the country. He's a big athlete that can run," Bielema said. "We're going to start him at the wide receiver position. We think he can come in and add a presence there early on."

"He is a taller guy that doesn't have taller guy problems," Mason said.

One of the feats the first year head coach was proud of was the fact that they managed to recruit Wisconsin exceptionally well.

"I do know this: Anybody that we offered [a scholarship to] in the state of Wisconsin is in this program now," Bielema said.

As well as UW did in Wisconsin they also raked in bodies from across the state line in Minnesota.

Three players were recruited from the North Star State, and another recruit — Brad Thorson of Mequon, Wis. — had committed to play for the Golden Gophers, not to mention Bielema's theft of the Minnesota's defensive backs coach, Kerry Cooks.

"[It will] probably spice [the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry] up a little bit," a grinning Bielema said of the Minnesota recruiting coup.

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