Wisconsin has been turning overlooked high school recruits like Montee Ball into Big Ten caliber players for years. Leo Musso out of Waunakee may be the latest.
Bret Bielema called Waunakee senior running back Leo Musso on Wednesday. At the time, Musso was headed to his team's postseason banquet, so he told Bielema that he would have to call him back in a bit. In hindsight, he couldn't believe he put the head coach at Wisconsin on the backburner, but a few hours later he did call back, and Bielema offered him a scholarship. Within 24 hours, Musso became Wisconsin's 11th confirmed commitment in the high school class of 2012.
Musso put up massive numbers this past season, rushing for 2,382 yards and 39 touchdowns on his way to his third WIAA championship. He also tested well at the Nike Sparq Combine in Chicago last March, recording a 40-inch vertical and a 4.12-second shuttle to take home top performer honors. He isn't the infusion of speed many are probably hoping for, he ran the 40 in 4.6 seconds, but he is versatile enough to play safety and there is no question that he intends to do the program proud.
Musso won't help Wisconsin's ailing recruiting rankings, however. Rivals rates him a two-star and the eighth best player in the state. He is only a name in Scout's database. His only other recorded offers came from Northern Illinois and South Dakota State. This is every bit the under-the-radar type commitment that the Badgers have transformed into Big Ten caliber output with astonishing regularity over the years. But in the context of the team's hot start on the trail, the commitment may fall flat to some.
Wisconsin appeared to be on their to a class for the ages early in the process, garnering pledges from the likes of OL Dan Voltz, OLB Vince Biegel, QB Bart Houston and RB Vonte Jackson, all of whom are rated as four-stars by Rivals. This past month has been rough, however. The Badgers lost four-star lineman J.J. Denman to Rutgers, and will likely lose Kyle Dodson back to the Buckeyes because apparently Urban Meyer takes everything he wants. In such a small class, the defection of just two high-profile recruits can have a big impact on rankings. UW's class is currently ranked just 47th by Rivals and 53rd by Scout.
Now the question is whether you care. Wisconsin did just fine these past two seasons with what was technically lower-quality talent than what they are expected to pull in this season (Wisconsin's class still ranks 25th by average star rating on Rivals), and the Badgers have always prided themselves on being able to pick the Jim Leonhards out of the crowd. On the other hand, these class ranking things have proven to be pretty accurate in the long run.
Star-gazing tends to break down at the individual level, however. A lot of guys fail to fully live up to their hype because they didn't work hard enough (See: John Clay) or were perhaps slightly overrated to begin with (See: Josh Oglesby). And Wisconsin wouldn't be Wisconsin without guys like Russo or
Ball [Ed: Ball was a Rivals four-star in 2009] or Abbrederis or any of a million other overlooked players to come through the program, work their asses off for four years and hopefully leave the team in a better place than when they found it.
It'd be nice to see the Badgers receive a spotlight on ESPN this Wednesday, when hundreds upon hundreds of high school football players will be faxing their letters of intent to college coaches around the country. Considering the team's recent success, a Motion W baseball cap should appear at every press conference in front of every five-star running back and offensive lineman recruit in the country. It doesn't, and I'm not 100 percent sure why. Maybe it wouldn't be Wisconsin Football if it did.
Which isn't to say that we shouldn't go after big-name talent, and that a guy like Kyle Prater would not have been massively helpful.
Bret Bielema agreed to a contract extension through 2017 over the weekend.
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