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Badger Bits: Badgers in the NFL, Wisconsin hockey recruiting

Plus, some love for the greatest No. 21 in school history.

Harry How

Generally speaking, when a collegiate team has success, its players' success translates to the NFL. While there are examples on both ends of the spectrum, the Badgers football program has achieved unheralded success within the Big Ten conference, winning three straight conferences championships for the first time since Michigan did so back in the 1980s.

With the aforementioned equation, several former student athletes have proved their worth at the next level, making themselves known on either side of the ball. Bleacher Report compiled lists of the top players at their respective positions, and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt ranked first among 3-4 DEs, compiling a score of 95/100. Carolina Panthers punter Brad Nortman ranked third, compiling a score of 90/100. Atlanta Falcons center Peter Konz ranked 30th, compiling a score of 63/100, and was joined by Dallas Cowboys Travis Frederick, who debuted at No. 12 with a score of 83/100. Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy was ranked No. 14 among the top-35 4-3 outside linebackers, compiling a 71/100. Finally, Green Bay Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien emerged as the 42nd best among the group, compiling a score of 75/100, while Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson made his mark at No. 3, recording a 91/100 score.

Just like any other year, memorable seniors exit the Bo Ryan program with notable entities under their belt: an NCAA tournament experience, a lot of wins and discipline on and off the court. During Ryan's 14-year career with the Badgers, the program has only kicked off two players -- both freshman, mind you. Point being, good guy after good guy filters through the program, and it's rewarding to see their careers blossom outside the confines of the Kohl Center. Zach Bohannon emulates this example to the greatest extent, and Phil documented his journey from the Air Force to UW with three degrees in between. He may not have lit up the scoreboard, but his impact was felt once the whistle was blown, bouncing up from his seat faster than the Energizer bunny to congratulate or rally his teammates. Of course, he's also the king of Twitter (@ZBohannon).

The hockey boys were busy this weekend, but it was the recruits and former UW skaters making their impression out on the NHL Playoffs ice. In Game 1, the Detroit Red Wings' Brendan Smith posted a +1 rating with 21 minutes of playing time; in Game 2, he posted a -1 rating with 17 minutes of playing time. The Montreal Canadiens' Rene Bourque recorded a goal in each of the past three games.

Mike Eaves also brought in a couple of new recruits over the weekend. Trent Frederic is the program's first member of the Class of 2016, and had this to say about becoming a Badger:

"It's the total package. It's close to home, the rink is phenomenal, the coaches are great and you can't beat the education."

Former UW skater Michael Mersch, who signed with the LA Kings recently, must have convinced his brother how great Madison really is, as Dominick Mersch was signed as a member of the 2017 Class.

"Having my brother go there I know what it's like socially and what it's like being part of the (Wisconsin) program, what they can do for you on the ice and off."

Finally, Eaves and his staff added a defenseman with the commitment of Adam Parsells, who picked the Badgers over strong interest from Ohio State and Minnesota State.

Quick Hitters

The softball team kept its hot streak vs. Penn State churning this past weekend, winning its ninth and 10th straight games.

Michelle Mueller also got some love on ESPN's Top 10.

Video of the Day

There may not be another better No. 21 in school history than Josh Gasser. Only the third freshman to start in the Bo Ryan era, the Port Washington, Wis., native has made his presence known on both ends of the court, frequently shutting down the opponent's best perimeter player while lighting it up from beyond the arc.