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Key Wisconsin recruits stayed committed despite coaching change

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Wisconsin's coaching change was stunning, but a number of key recruits stayed committed to the Badgers.

MADISON -- Austin Kafentzis was getting a hair cut when he found out Gary Andersen was leaving Wisconsin to take the head coaching position at Oregon State.

"I didn't know what was going on," Kafentzis said Wednesday on National Signing Day. "My phone was about to die. Twitter was blowing up, and I had no idea because I was like, two weeks away from going up."

In the days after Andersen's departure on Dec. 10, Kafentzis and fellow early enrollee, tight end Kyle Penniston, received calls and visit inquiries from various programs, hoping to lure the prep standouts away from their long-time commitments. Many players who verbally committed to Wisconsin received similar phone calls. Some reconsidered their decisions and flipped to other FBS programs. For Kafentzis and Penniston, however, they bought into new head coach Paul Chryst and remained a part of the 2015 class.

Signing Day Profiles

Kafentzis, who set 13 Utah state prep football records as a four-year starter in Jordan, Utah (Sandy), acknowledged he received an offer from Florida. With Andersen leaving on a Wednesday, and a "dead period" -- where there can be no in-person contact between a recruit and a coaching staff -- beginning that Sunday, the chance of taking an official visit was slim due to the timing. Initially shaken by the news, he took a brief official visit to Oregon State on a Friday, and decided either the Beavers or the Badgers would be his final college destination.

The 6'1, 200-pound Kafentzis -- who was responsible for 65 touchdowns (40 passing, 25 rushing) his senior season -- reaffirmed his commitment back in late December in a radio interview with Milwaukee radio station 1250 WSSP. He told reporters Wednesday his conversations with Chryst helped slow down the process again when making a difficult decision. Though he had high admiration for Andersen as a coach, he made the decision to play for Chryst at Wisconsin.

"This is where I feel comfortable and where I wanna play," Kafentzis said, "and where I wanna learn and just kind of go through the process here."

Though he didn't take official visit to any other schools, Penniston wavered a bit as well after news hit. Calls were coming in to visit some high-profile programs before that dead period started, but the 6'5, 230-pound tight end reaffirmed his pledge to Wisconsin after a conversation with Chryst.

"I had Ohio State ask me Thursday night to come out on a plane flight Friday morning," Penniston said. "I had Louisville ask me on Friday morning to come out on Friday night.

"It was a difficult decision."

Seymour offensive linemen Jon Dietzen never really thought twice about reopening his commitment after the coaching change. Michigan State sent him a couple things, but it didn't affect his status.

That wasn't the case for a portion of the recruiting class courted initially by Andersen, as a stream of decommitments hit in the weeks leading up to Signing Day. Dietzen, who was ranked by many recruiting services as the top recruit in the state of Wisconsin, admitted it was disappointing to see some players, especially some he bonded with, reopen or flip their commitments to other programs.

"There's a couple guys that I got pretty close with through the process that they're on different paths now," Dietzen said.

"For whatever reason it is, I wish them luck."