MADISON, Wis. Coaching turnover at the top and the subsequent departure of seven assistants easily could have left Wisconsin's 2013 football recruiting class in shambles. Yet when National Signing Day arrives on Wednesday, the majority of committed recruits from the past year will still officially pledge their allegiance to the Badgers' program with signed and faxed paperwork.
That type of dedication amid uncertainty should say something about the state of Wisconsin's program, according to Allen Trieu, Midwest recruiting analyst for Scout.com. The Badgers have staying power, and committed recruits realize few situations could be better than the one they already have.
"Whenever you have a situation where there was a coaching change, there's potential for the class to fall apart," Trieu said. "The fact that it hasn't is a testament to the new coaches, and also to the kids who are in the class staying loyal. In general, when you look at where the class started, what happened during the year, and then where it's ending up, I think it's a really good class."
According to Scout.com, Wisconsin will bring in 19 recruits and has the No. 34 recruiting class in the country. That number ranks fifth among Big Ten teams behind Michigan (No. 1), Ohio State (2), Nebraska (11) and Illinois (31). Yet the class falls right in line to past seasons at Wisconsin, which rarely signs five-star recruits in any year.
As a means of comparison, last year's class at Wisconsin ranked No. 63. The previous six seasons before that ranked as follows: 38, 33, 51, 26, 41 and 37.
What makes the Class of 2013 stand out for Wisconsin is the signing of two marquee four-star recruits, which offers further proof of the Badgers' ability to bring in quality players with offers from other top-level programs.
Four-star wide receiver Rob Wheelwright selected Wisconsin over offers from programs such as Nebraska and Michigan. And four-star running back Corey Clement picked the Badgers over Penn State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Florida State, among several others.
As a senior at Walnut Ridge High School in Columbus, Ohio, this past season, Wheelwright caught 48 passes for 874 yards with nine touchdowns.
"Wheelwright is a guy who committed so early that people forgot about how good he actually was as a junior," Trieu said. "He had a bunch of big-time offers. They were able to get him despite some late interest from Ohio State. The kid is long, athletic at about 6-foot-2, 6-3, can return kicks, is really good in the open field and after the catch. He'll definitely bring that element to the table."
Clement, from Glassboro, N.J., set the South Jersey career rushing record and once ran for 476 yards on just 15 carries in a game during his senior season. He finished his season with 2,510 yards rushing on 249 carries and 34 touchdowns. He averaged 10.08 yards per carry.
"Someone who has the accomplishments in New Jersey like he has right now and is garnering the attention that he has as an 18-year-old, it could swell anybody's head, could give anybody an ego," Glassboro coach Mark Maccarone told FOXSportsWisconsin.com in November. "He is not like that at all. He's extremely humble and appreciative of the opportunities he's been given to do what he does. He takes full advantage of them and does them extremely well."
Although Wisconsin doesn't have other four-star recruits, the Badgers are expected to sign 15 players rated as three-star recruits. And from its original group of commitments, Wisconsin lost only two recruits. Safety Tiquention Coleman will play at Arkansas, and safety Tyler Foreman will attend UCLA.
Defensively, Trieu said he considered defensive ends Chikwe Obasih and Alec James to be future bookend pass rushers on the Badgers' line. Obasih hails from Brookfield Central in Milwaukee, while James is from rival Brookfield East.
On offense, Trieu singled out offensive lineman Matt Miller, a 6-foot-5, 260-pounder from Toledo, Ohio, as a future star with the potential to carry on Wisconsin's tradition of producing NFL-caliber linemen.
"He's a tough, hard-working, blue-collar kind of guy that can play guard and he can play center," Trieu said. "He kind of reminds me a bit of a Peter Konz who is not a big time recruit who ended up being a great player in college and an NFL kind of guy just because he outworked everybody and had such good technique.
"I think Matt Miller is that kind of guy. He fits into that kind of mold where he's not going to wow you physically, but he's just a pure football player."
One difference Badgers fans may notice in the Class of 2013 is the lack of a quarterback anywhere among the commitments. Under former head coach Bret Bielema, Wisconsin signed one quarterback with every recruiting class. But Badgers coach Gary Andersen apparently won't sign a signal caller with this class, largely because the program has plenty of players at the position.
Highly-touted quarterback Bart Houston came in with the Class of 2012 and took a redshirt season after sustaining and injury, but he has four years of eligibility remaining. And Chance Stewart, a Class of 2014 recruit from Sturgis, Mich., remains committed to the program as well. Stewart has passed for 4,106 yards with 36 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in his first three years with the varsity team.
"Stewart is really good," Trieu said. "It afforded them an opportunity to not have to pick a quarterback this year. I know the class size this year is a little bit smaller, so that allowed them to not have to use up a scholarship on a quarterback."
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