After Wisconsin picked up a commitment from top 2015 quarterback Austin Kafentzis from Sandy (Jordan), Utah, it seemed as good a time as ever to discuss the Badgers' burgeoning interest in the area. Gary Andersen was born in Salt Lake City, played center for two years at Utah and spent his formative years as a coach at schools throughout the state. His personal connections with the Kafentzis family also reportedly played a major role in Austin choosing Wisconsin over offers from BYU, Hawaii and Utah, landing the Badgers their first commit for the 2015 class.
UW's interest in utilizing those Utah connections is also found in the 2014 class, of which Salt Lake City ATH Ula Tolutau became the sixth member last month. An offer is also out to 2015 running back/linebacker Osa Masina, the top Utah prospect in that class according to 247 Sports.
To explore Kafentzis' commitment and what it means for this Wisconsin-Utah link, we chatted with Brett Hein, the Managing Editor of SB Nation's fine BYU Blog, Vanquish the Foe. BYU was the first school to offer Kafentzis, and Brett's had some opportunities to see him play. Needless to say, he came away very impressed.
1. B5Q: Wisconsin fans are excited about the prospect of Kafentzis, and we've heard from a few BYU fans on Twitter who were hoping to nab him. From what you've seen and heard, what kind of prospect is Kafentzis? Just how good is he?
Brett: Kafentzis can ball. He's accurate, has arm strength, and can get on the move. If any Wisconsin fans have followed Chuckie Keeton before and after he played in Madison, this should be exciting. Kafentzis was named National Freshman of the Year by MaxPreps and followed it up with National Sophomore of the Year honor this season.
In 14 games, he threw for 32 touchdowns (against 12 interceptions) and ran for 26 more. His average game last year for his state champion Beetdiggers looked like this: 14-22 for 216 yards and 2 TD's through the air with 135 rushing yards and 2 more TD's on 17 carries.
2. B5Q: Do you think Kafentzis will remain committed to Wisconsin, or will he continue to hear pressure from BYU, Utah, etc.
Brett: He'll still be hearing from BYU and Utah. BYU was first to offer him just after his freshman season ended, and he still has two full seasons of high school ahead of him, right in their backyard. I would guess he stays committed, but I don't think BYU or Utah will simply disappear.
3. B5Q: Have people in the region taken notice of Gary Andersen's early efforts at Wisconsin, both inside and outside of recruiting? He's been very popular so far and has seemingly made people out here even more impressed by what he did at at Utah State.
Brett: Andersen was well respected in all his years in football in the state of Utah, and his pull of two of Utah's three best recruits (Kafentzis and Ula Tolutau, with the offer into the third in Osa Masina) is definitely drawing attention. He is a respected defensive coach as well, recruiting/coaching guys like Bobby Wagner through to the NFL from "little" Utah State.
4. B5Q: Is there a viable Wisconsin-Utah connection now? Is it safe to say that before long, BYU, Utah and Utah State will be facing direct competition from Wisconsin for in-state prospects?
Brett: I definitely think so. The talent in Utah isn't extremely deep (though getting much, much better each year), but the cream of the crop have always been good and BYU/Utah have always had to battle to keep the best players in state, usually against Pac 12 schools. But this brings a whole new dynamic: a Big Ten coach has ties to woo the state's best. And it's not just any Big Ten program, either. Wisconsin's recent success (that's what these kids see) has been fantastic. I think most of Utah's best prospects will have Wisconsin offers. Andersen had to sit back and take a recruiting beating (as far as in-state kids go) from Bronco Mendenhall and Kyle Whittingham while he was at Utah State; now, I think he might enjoy returning the favor a bit.
5. B5Q: Perhaps this is a stretch, but will this stoke interest in this season's Wisconsin-BYU game? How excited are BYU fans about that game, and possibly (hopefully!) a trip out to Madison?
Brett: Not a stretch at all. The interest was definitely there anyway -- BYU fans able to travel have definitely made Camp Randall priority #1 this year over Notre Dame, Virginia, or playing at Reliant Stadium. But, this is an emerging dynamic to the game (and what we hope is a series?!?!) that could be at least a little important. BYU stands to gain some ground, even if it's just a little, if it can show in-state recruits it earned a W in Madison.