Badger Bits: For Wisconsin, Player Development Trumps Recruiting Numbers

One of the Badgers' latest zero-to-hero development projects: left tackle Ricky Wagner.

Around this time every year -- after the college football recruiting classes are finalized -- I get a little antsy about the Badgers. Wisconsin never seems to bring in the amount of talent other Big Ten programs do, and it can be worrisome when making assessments based on rankings that take into account the average "stars" each class has. Even if that sounds a bit silly, I bet I'm not the only one who got uncomfortable after seeing the Badgers had just the eighth-best class in the Big Ten, as ranked by Rivals.com.

But then I take a step back and realize how many of Wisconsin's best players in the last few years were relatively unheralded recruits. J.J. Watt was a two-star tight end coming out of high school. Scott Tolzien was also a two-star prospect, and James White and Chris Borland were three-star prospects.

Like so many Badger teams in recent history, the 2012 team will feature plenty of players who were relative unknowns out of college. Two of them, left tackle Ricky Wagner and wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, were included by SI's Andy Staples in his annual All Two-Star (And Fewer) Team. Both players were zero-star prospects, and even more impressive, both players switched positions since coming out of high school.

The coaching staff has shown the ability time and time again to identify under-the-radar talent and develop such players into major contributors, so I guess we have no reason to get too wrapped up in the Badgers' recruiting numbers.

Links

The Badgers travel to Iowa City and Columbus this week.

It was a strange week in the polls for the Badgers, as they moved up in RPI and coaches poll, but down in the AP poll.

Here's Dave Heller's list of how the AP voters ranked the Badgers this week.

The Big Ten could have anywhere from six to nine teams in the NCAA tournament field.

The Kohl Center ice surface has a new, legendary name.

Here's a photo of former Badger and current Bucks rookie Jon Leuer dunking over Dwight Howard. (h/t Dave Heller)

Peter Konz continues to receiver first-round NFL draft grades from draftniks like SI's Tony Pauline and CBS's Pat Kirwan. (h/t Dave Heller)

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