Ed. note: I'd like to take a moment to introduce Luke Mueller, our newest writer at B5Q. Luke's a junior at UW-Madison, and he'll be covering the remainder of spring practice for us.
One detail that flew under the radar from Wisconsin's last practice before Spring Break was wide receivers coach Chris Beatty being named named recruiting coordinator by head coach Gary Andersen, replacing Thomas Hammock since he left for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens.
The timing for a new recruiting coordinator couldn't be more perfect, with the new coaching staff having a year under their belts, allowing players and recruits to become acclimated with the staff and the transition in recruiting philosophy from Bret Bielema to Andersen. The shift has gone from primarily Midwestern talent to recruiting highly touted players on a more national level and selling the program's recent success as a way to showcase talent nationwide.
Tuesday, Beatty insisted Wisconsin would maintain its continued success recruiting the Midwest, but also create new pipelines in freshly-tapped areas such as New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and the Washington, D.C., area.
"With Rutgers and Maryland coming to the Big Ten, that is all Big Ten country now," Beatty said.
Incoming freshmen like Lubren Figaro (Everett, Mass.), Chris Jones and Taiwan Deal (Hyattsville, Md.) and Caleb Kinlaw (Goose Creek, S.C.) show the Badgers' new focus on targeting players from the East Coast.
Beatty did allude to a new area that he hopes to find talent from in Texas.
"There is a lot of talent in the Dallas and Houston areas," Beatty said. "Those guys are willing to travel."
It has been five years since the Badgers landed a recruit from Texas, dating back the 2009 recruiting class with Darious Thomas and Josh Peprah.
Beatty's philosophy entering the living rooms of targeted players is "We don't recruit guys to redshirt." He looks for them to make an impact from the moment they step foot on campus in Madison.
Opportunities open for receivers
Beatty also elaborated on the departures of Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Duckworth and Jacob Pedersen. He said the door is now open for guys like Kenzel Doe, Jordan Fredrick, Alex Erickson, Sam Arneson and company to step into a key role for the offense. He alluded to the fact that there are ample opportunities for the five incoming freshman to make an impact right away this season.
Injuries have hampered the unit as a whole this spring, most notably Rob Wheelwright and Reggie Love. Both put in work with the Juggs machine on Tuesday, but didn't participate in drills open to the media. Beatty did mention T.J. Watt's move to tight end offers him the chance to make an impact this season.
"We want to be as big of a strike zone for the quarterback as we can," Beatty said. "It doesn't matter who is throwing it. Our job is to catch it.
"We could punt the ball out there; you should be able to catch it."
Thomas Brown's transition eased by running backs on roster
Thomas Brown, Wisconsin's new running backs coach who previously coached at Marshall, said his adjustment to UW has been smooth so far and provides a great opportunity.
"[Wisconsin] provides a great place to be a running backs coach and a football coach, period," Brown said before adding that his goal is to "maintain what has been done in the past here and do everything to keep things going."
"[The unit has] great guys who have been a pleasure to work with. They're very talented and even better kids.
"When I say 'kids,' I know they aren't much younger than me, but in my role I get to call them 'kids.'"
Corey Clement, Melvin Gordon and Derek Watt were all involved in the hiring process, as Andersen had them meet candidates and participate in the interviews. Brown believes that may have been more beneficial for him than it was even for them.
"[It] gave me the opportunity to get to know their personalities and get to know those guys outside of football," Brown said, adding that meeting the players from his unit early on heightened his excitement and affirmed his interest in becoming a coach at Wisconsin.
As a recruiter, Brown said he will be responsible for the state of Georgia (Brown was a four-year running back with the Bulldogs), New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York.
Brown concluded the conversation saying he hopes from a fundamental standpoint to "put my stamp on the running game", but that the scheme and Wisconsin offense would not change with his arrival. He likes the fact that he has a familiarity with the style because it is similar to what he ran at Georgia, but from a coaching perspective, is different than what he ran his first two years.
When asked about the biggest difference he has seen so far between the SEC and Big Ten he laughed and said, "I don't know yet, we will find out this season." With LSU looming as the first opponent on the schedule, his insights and familiarity with the conference may prove invaluable.
-- Gillins was 6-for-8 with one hurry. He started off the media portion of practice a bit jittery, but calmed down as offensive drills went on. He ran one quarterback read and showed great speed that was even noticeable when handed the ball off to running backs on designed running plays.
-- Houston was 7-for-8 with one hurry and had a noticeable zip on the ball, which he has been praised for all spring.
-- McEvoy was 10-for-12 with one sack and was forced to scramble once. One incompletion was a drop by his wide receiver.
-- Stave did participate in all drills open to the media, going 10-for-13 and allowing one sack. He threw one pretty deep ball about 25 yards down field.
-- Reggie Love, Rob Wheelwright and Dallas Lewellan were the most noteworthy players absent from practice. Beatty said he hopes to have Wheelwright back in the next few days, but was unsure about Love's return.
-- Leon Jacobs showed great speed throughout practice on defense.
-- Former running back James White took in practice from the sidelines.