For collegiate football recruiting enthusiasts, Wednesday was like Christmas — if you found all your presents weeks before Christmas morning. Regardless, it’s still an exciting day.
Following months of speculating about which players would go where, National Signing Day 2010 arrived and did not disappoint those watching intently across the country.
After receiving official letters of intent from players across the country all morning, University of Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema announced the Badgers’ 2010 recruiting class Wednesday at a press conference. As could be expected, Bielema was very positive and optimistic about the newly signed Badgers.
“We found some kids that really fit the profile of what we need here at the University of Wisconsin,” Bielema said. “I really like them obviously as football players, but as people… you just walked out of all those homes… knowing that you’ve got genuine people coming from great backgrounds.”
By the numbers, Wisconsin’s signing class is ranked 33rd in the nation by Scout.com and includes 24 scholarship athletes and six preferred walk-ons, which, according to Bielema, resulted in the UW head coach taking 53 flights over the last six weeks.
Of the Badgers’ 24 signees, defensive tackle Beau Allen, safety Michael Trotter, running back James C. White, cornerback Peniel Jean and tight end Manasseh Garner are considered to be five of the best in UW’s 2010 class.
Among the most important signees for the Badgers was Allen. With such a glaring need at the position for Wisconsin, the 6-foot-3, 307-pound Allen is someone many expect to be able to step in and contribute from the first day.
Despite being a native a Minnetonka, Minn. — about 20 miles from the University of Minnesota campus — Allen’s connection to the Wisconsin football program gave Bielema and edge over his Gophers counterpart, Tim Brewster.
“Stoney, his uncle, played here,” Bielema said. “That only comes about so many times, to have a legitimate shot at a big time defensive tackle because of the history here. We needed to capitalize on it, and Coach [Bob] Bostad did a tremendous job of cultivating that.”
Allen is rated as the No. 25 defensive tackle in the nation by Scout.com and is among the top overall recruits from the state of Minnesota.
The top-rated recruit in Wisconsin according to Rivals.com, Trotter, also has committed to the Badgers. Trotter, a 6-foot-1, 206-pound safety from Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, is another player Bielema and staff expect to have a big impact.
Regarded as the best tackling safety in the Midwest, Trotter helped lead the Hilltoppers to a Division I state title in 2009, the school’s first since joining the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.
“He did a tremendous job for them this year,” Bielema said. “He was actually awarded the Defensive Player of the Year in the state, so he’s somebody that we’re excited about.”
Trotter is not the only incoming Badger from MUHS, however. His brother, 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker Marcus Trotter, will join UW as a preferred walk-on.
While the Badgers did not have an open scholarship for Marcus at his position, the Wisconsin coaching staff was excited to get him to join their 2010 class, turning down a scholarship offer from Western Michigan and a preferred walk-on offer from Minnesota.
“Marcus is a great player who came to our camp,” Bielema said. “We had already signed four linebackers… but overall he wanted to play with his brother. He loves Wisconsin and I wanted to make that dream come true.”
Many of the Badgers’ incoming recruits that come from outside the Wisconsin-Minnesota area have connections to current or former UW athletes.
Linebacker Cody Byers, for example, is a 6-foot-3, 225-pound native of Centerville, Ohio. More importantly, though, Byers attends Archbishop Alter High School, the alma mater of current UW linebacker and reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Chris Borland.
At the running back position, Wisconsin signed James C. White, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound recruit from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. White is a product of St. Thomas Aquinas High School and a former teammate of current Badgers Dezmen Southward and Conor O’Neill.
While the connections made at these schools may have helped the Badgers with current recruits Byers and White, Bielema noted it could hurt in some ways as well.
“When I went to Cody Byers’ school, everybody wanted to talk about Chris (Borland),” he said. “Every chance I had I directed the conversation to Cody because we were there to see Cody.”
Two locals joined the 2010 class for Wisconsin, both of whom are from Madison East High School.
One of the Badgers’ six preferred walk-ons, Drew McAdams is listed as a 6-foot, 183-pound athlete. McAdams was the Purgolders’ quarterback as well as the team’s leading rusher and is not expected to play behind center during his career at Wisconsin.
Wide receiver Marquis Mason, the Badgers’ only scholarship athlete from Madison, is a unique athlete. Mason is one of the best basketball players in East High history, but has chosen football despite once considering hoops at the collegiate level.
Bielema and his staff see a tremendous upside in Mason as he continues to focus on football rather than basketball.
“The first time I saw Marquis live was two years ago at a basketball game,” Bielema said. “Marquis is extremely talented athletically. … I think he’s the all-time leading rebounder and point-scorer at Madison East. I think he’s an untapped talent, and the thing I love about Marquis is he’s working hard to make the dream come true to come here.”