There was a great sense of excitement at Camp Randall Stadium as University of Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema announced Wednesday the Badgers’ 2009 recruiting class.

The Badgers received 17 letters of intent Wednesday, which pushes the final total for the class to 21, including four already enrolled at the UW. Wisconsin’s class includes players from nine states, including five from Wisconsin, four from Ohio and three from Florida.

“This is a day that kind of culminates not only a year of hard work, (but) some of these prospects … may have actually come onto our recruiting radar as early as their freshman (year),” Bielema said.

Among the signees, Wisconsin has two recruits who received a four-star rating, 11 ranked as three-star recruits and eight recruits who received two stars, according to One of the Badgers’ most intriguing two-star recruits is Dezmen Southward, a 6-foot-1-inch safety from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. St. Thomas Aquinas won the Class 5A state championship in 2008, leading to a No. 1 ranking in national polls.

Southward, who also drew interest from Connecticut and Syracuse, is a former basketball player, a major reason behind his 40-inch vertical and 4.39 speed in the 40-yard dash. Although he has only been playing football competitively for about one-and-a-half years, the UW coaching staff believes he has a lot of upside.

“The football coaches there at St. Thomas recruited off the basketball court and put him in football a year ago,” Bielema said. “They told us, basically, be aware this guy can really run, jump and he likes to be physical, so we brought him aboard.”

Wisconsin’s other two-star recruits include linebacker Chris Borland of Ohio, offensive tackle Travis Frederick and defensive tackle Tyler Dippel of Wisconsin, tight end Jacob Pedersen from Michigan, defensive end Casey Dehn of Minnesota, safety Josh Peprah — brother of current Green Bay Packers’ safety Charlie Peprah — and cornerback Darious Thomas out of Texas.

Frederick, who plans to major in either aerospace or computer engineering, hopes to gain from enrolling at Wisconsin for the spring semester after graduating early. One of the things Frederick should benefit from is being part of a group of offensive linemen filled with intelligent athletes.

“There’s that support there that people have been through that and they know how to handle it,” Frederick said. “Gabe Carimi’s an engineer, I believe, and he’s offered some help and let me know that it can be done.”

The Badgers’ three-star recruits are highlighted by quarterback Jon Budmayr from Woodstock, Ill., and running back Montee Ball of Wentzville, Mo. With the Badgers lacking a clear starting candidate at quarterback and the departure of junior P.J. Hill, both Budmayr and Ball have the potential to break through and see playing time in 2009.

Budmayr, another one of the Badgers’ four recruits enrolled for the spring, hopes to use the extra time of spring practice to recover from a collarbone injury suffered in his senior season.

“It’s good; it’s 100 percent,” Budmayr said of the collarbone. “I’ve been going full go at the workouts and throwing and everything.”

Another notable three-star recruit in UW’s class is Conor O’Neill, a high school teammate of Southward at St. Thomas Aquinas.

The rest of Wisconsin’s three-star class includes Pennsylvania native and linebacker A.J. Fenton; defensive end Pat Muldoon, tight end Brian Wozniak and receiver Jeff Duckworth from Ohio; defensive end David Gilbert from Oakland Park, Fla.; offensive tackle Zac Matthias of Hemlock, Mich.; and defensive end Shelby Harris and guard Ryan Groy, both Wisconsin natives.

Ranked by as the 17th defensive tackle in the nation and the highest-ranked recruit in Wisconsin, Kohout was the first member of the Badgers’ 2009 class, giving a verbal commitment nearly a year ago on Feb. 16, 2008.

Kohout, at 6-foot-4-inches and 265 pounds, doesn’t have the prototypical frame of a Wisconsin offensive lineman, but with some time in the weight room, he should be able to add the weight and size needed to improve his ability to play with leverage.

Perhaps the most exciting and surprising announcement of the day was the commitment of Appleton, a highly recruited four-star receiver who had previously given a “soft verbal” commitment to Illinois.

Appleton, who also starred on his high school track squad, led East St. Louis to a 13-1 record and its seventh state championship.

“Kraig is a very talented football player and had a lot of suitors,” Bielema said. “When you get a guy like Kraig, it’s a team effort and we sent, repeatedly, down to East St. Louis, coach after coach after coach and we were in the home, building a relationship.”

“I think probably the part that got us Kraig Appleton in the end was that the whole family knew that we were able to look out for Kraig’s best interests once he came to Wisconsin.”