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Here's how the Badgers football program has fared recruiting the state's top players in the internet rankings era
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Here's how the Badgers football program has fared recruiting the state's top players in the internet rankings era

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A collection of the most interesting quotes and thoughts from Badgers players and coaches during spring practices.

Two important trends continued for the University of Wisconsin football program when offensive lineman Joe Brunner orally committed to the 2022 recruiting class last month.

First, UW continued a recent run of being able to attract four- and five-star talent, something it must do to close the gap between it and the top tier of college football. Brunner, a consensus four-star prospect from Milwaukee and one of the top tackle recruits in the country, is the 12th four- or five- star prospect UW has landed in the past three cycles, per 247Sports’ composite rankings.

Brunner’s commitment also showed UW’s wall around the state was holding strong. Brunner is the top-ranked recruit in the state by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals. UW has secured a commitment from the state’s top player in each of the past six cycles and eight of the past nine.

Since Paul Chryst took over in 2015, he’s missed on only one top in-state recruit — offensive lineman Ben Bredeson in 2016 — and he’s had a strong record in securing the top five in-state prospects in his tenure. Chryst and his staffs have brought in 25 of the 35 players ranked in the top five in-state recruits per 247Sports’ composite rankings in his first seven cycles.

They could increase those numbers to as high as 29 of 40 if UW is successful in recruiting four-star in-state linemen Isaac Hamm (Sun Prairie), Carson Hinzman (St. Croix Central) and Billy Schrauth (St. Mary’s Springs). Milwaukee King tight end Jerry Cross, the No. 4 player in the state, has orally committed to Penn State.

Barry Alvarez made recruiting the state a priority at UW when he arrived as coach in 1990, and that mentality was imparted on Chryst, who worked with Alvarez as an assistant or as a coach in his athletic department for more than 14 years.

“I absolutely believe in it,” Chryst said of the importance of in-state recruiting. “Each year, you’ve got to work at that. I know when coach (Alvarez) was at Iowa, we had a lot of players that left the state and were good players elsewhere.

“When I was an assistant for coach Alvarez and coming back, you take a look at it, there's a lot of really good football players from this state. For us to be the best team we can be — I still believe it's true what coach said a long time ago — you’ve got to start with getting the best kids in-state. Still believe it's true. Certainly was a big part of what he believes in and certainly learned that lesson quickly from him.”

UW has landed the top player in the state in 17 of the past 21 recruiting cycles, as far back as 247Sports’ composite rankings were created. Eight of those top-ranked players were offensive linemen, seven of which chose UW, helping to reinforce the Badgers’ pipeline of NFL blockers. Six were defensive lineman, with UW landing four.

The four No. 1 in-state recruits who didn’t commit were running back Brian Calhoun in 2002, defensive lineman Rhyan Anderson in 2004, defensive end A.J. Natter in 2013 and Bredeson.

Calhoun chose Colorado out of high school as the Badgers already looked to have a workhorse back in Anthony Davis, who had 1,466 yards as a freshman in 2001. Calhoun transferred to UW after two seasons and led the 2005 squad in rushing with 1,636 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Anderson enrolled at Miami, which was competing for national championships at the time while UW was going through a difficult stretch, going 5-7, 8-6 and 7-6 as it recruited Anderson. He didn’t play much for the Hurricanes and eventually transferred to New Mexico State. Nebraska’s early work on Natter helped make him a Cornhusker, but he only played in 11 college games in four years.

Bredeson was the biggest miss of top-ranked recruits for the Badgers. He went to Michigan and earned multiple All-Big Ten Conference honors before being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.

In the 20 cycles between 2002 and 2021, the Badgers have secured commitments from 70 of 100 players ranked in the top five in the state. They’ve also been spurned by very few players who went on to strong college careers.

From 2002-2014, only two of those players — Beaver Dam’s R.J. Shelton in 2013 (Michigan State) and Milwaukee offensive lineman Brandon Brooks in 2007 (Miami-Ohio) — went on to earn all-conference recognition.

In the Chryst era, four players have done so: 2015 defensive lineman Robert Windsor (Penn State), 2016 quarterback Nate Stanley (Iowa) and 2018 defensive lineman Will McDonald IV (Iowa State).

Chryst tried to land Stanley after being hired as the Badgers’ head coach, but Stanley had orally committed to the Hawkeyes a month prior.


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