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National Signing Day 2016: Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst recaps Badgers' class of 2016

"It's an exciting day for these kids."

MADISON -- Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst spoke with the media on Wednesday afternoon inside the Camp Randall Stadium south end zone media room on his first full recruiting class as the head of the UW football program.

Chryst talked about many of the 25 scholarship commitments -- including two early enrollees in linebacker Dallas Jeanty and Kare' Lyles -- and what many of the players who are "the right fit" will bring to the program.

As an FYI, six walk-ons were announced with the scholarship program, but more announced via Twitter in the past week that they also accepted preferred walk-on offers. Per Chryst, those not announced need to wait until they're admitted into the university.

Here are the highlights from Chryst's press conference:

  • "Today's a really good day for us and our program. It's culmination of a lot of work and the recruiting process is a fun process. You certainly feel better being able to recruit the class for a full year."
  • Chryst is confident is each commit is a great fit for Wisconsin. They picked Wisconsin for a number of reasons, and a chance to be a part of a great program. Football is certainly a big part, but also earning a degree in a great city and great state. Said the group's a great fit, and they'll get a chance to make their mark.
  • Notes this is a big day for the kids that committed, saying not every kid has the opportunity to play in college. "It's an exciting day for these kids."
  • When asked about making the east coast a priority, Chryst said all of recruiting's what's a good fit. Chryst said he did a study about the number of players who came out east, and who contributed heavily. "The ability for us to go out east is important for us long term."
  • The coaching staff utilized relationships -- noted the Arizona connection with the Lyles and four-star defensive lineman Garrett Rand
  • When asked about no surprises during NSD, Chryst went back to the right fit, which included character of the players and who they are, and why they picked Wisconsin to begin with.
  • On Green Bay (Bay Port) standout Cole Van Lanen, Chryst calls him a "heckuva prospect." "He has everything that you want in an offensive lineman." Says the four-star lineman has an edge to him, and has a chance to be special.
  • On early enrollees Jeanty & Lyles: "I think it's a bonus, but I think it's only right if it's good for those people." Talked about the leaders of the class -- noted Jeanty being the "heart."
  • On the future of the running back position with the addition of Sam Brodner, said he's comfortable with the running back position after Clement and Ogunbowale leave. "There's a guy that loves football," Chryst said about Brodner. "I think every position will have attrition, and our job is to help develop kids."
  • With Isaiahh Loudermilk and evaluating him playing 8-man football: Chryst saw big body with balance. "As far as lineman, there's more than enough to get an accurate evaluation." Calls him a "puppy" and will continue to grow. "He's a fun kid to be around ,and the 8-man wasn't a determent."
  • Deron Harrell -- they don't know if he'll start in the fall or semester after
  • On the two Amherst kids, Tyler Biadasz and Garrett Groshek (latter walk-on who was not announced), said both coaches on the offensive and defensive lines would like to work with Biadasz.
  • What to expect from these walk-ons from this class? Chryst said last year's types were more lineman-type players. This year's are more skilled, to the point of not knowing where they're play. It's a complimentary class to last year.
  • With the other walk-ons who announced on Twitter, big thing is being first admitted to Wisconsin.
  • Says four-star defensive lineman Garrett Rand is advanced and physically will be ready to play.
  • When asked about what he's seen in his first year since taking over at Wisconsin on the recruiting trail, he started to go on then stopped and said, "I don't know what you even asked." Awesome.
  • "We don't mind recruiting against anyone," Chryst said...OHHHHHH YEAHHH!!!!
  • Chryst said he's excited to work with the three quarterbacks heading into spring football. Notes how Bart Houston's played a lot of football and liked his growth. Excited about Alex Horinbrook and took advantage of this year. It does help having Lyles here early. He's not panicking about having greater numbers at quarterback.
  • Chryst on recruiting process: "There is no script that you follow. You've just got to be flexible with it."
  • Chryst wouldn't rule out anything when it comes to a true freshman starting at quarterback, when someone asked about Lyles possibly getting a chance. Noted Travis Frederick as someone who played at UW as a freshman. A lot of the competition is with yourself.
  • What role did Justin Wilcox play in reaffirming Rand's commitment. "Well apparently he didn't screw it up," Chryst joked with a laugh. Chryst said there wasn't a lot of talk about who would be defensive coordinator. Said Wilcox went in there and reassured him.Wisconsin Head Coach Paul Chryst

Here's the full transcript:

National Signing Day News Conference

CHRYST: Today is a really good day for us and our program. It's a culmination of a lot of work, and the recruiting process is a fun process.

Certainly feel better having been able to recruit this class for a full year, and you truly get to know them and I think one of the common threads amongst the whole group is as varied as their backgrounds and positions are and where they come from is I really am confident that each individual is a great fit for Wisconsin.

That's fun to see, and I think that they picked Wisconsin for a number of reasons, and I think they saw Wisconsin for what we want them to see. It's a chance to be a part of a great program, and football is certainly a big component, but value and want to get an education and earn a meaningful degree from here and get to do it in a great city and a great state.

I think that this group is a great fit and time will tell. They will get their opportunity to leave their mark, certainly as a class and individuals. But it's an exciting day for us and love the group that we added.

It was a big class. I think we were able to add a number of different positions, really every position we were able to cover and certainly a lot of them more than one. I think the thing that gets lost today, there is so much focus on maybe where you're ranked or what's this going to do for your program, the thing that gets lost and we try to make sure we celebrate with these young men and their families, this is a big day for these kids. It was fun talking to them today and really the days building up. Not every kid has the opportunity to play in college and to be able to earn a scholarship and to play in the Big Ten and to do it here at Wisconsin.

It's an exciting day for these kids! I had a really neat email sent by one of the parents and you got a sense of what this day means for them and how grateful they are for the opportunity and how confident they are of this being the right fit, and it was good, it was good to read and it was good to kind of put the focus back on to what it should be and that's a big day for these kids and we're certainly excited as a program.

QUESTION: Paul, you mentioned the number of positions you address and had I think Daronte' Jones was talking about getting out east a bit, and he said you made that a priority. Why is that and what kind of success do you think you can have long term back east?

CHRYST: I think that having had the opportunity to be here a number of years. Then you look at the areas that are product productive for you and I remember doing a study, one of my last years here as an offensive coordinator, and the number of players that we had from out east that came was significant, but the percentage of those that were very good players and doesn't mean just because they're from the east coast, they're going to be a great player here, right?

But for a long time, maybe just look at the general student population here, kids will travel from out east to come to Wisconsin. It's been that way for a long time. I think it fits you going out there and my neighbor went there, I had my Wisconsin t-shirt on and a teacher in school or neighbor, so it's talked about.

But I think the ability for us to get back out and really be out east, I think, is important for us long term. That's going to be one of those areas that you certainly have your in-state, and that's first and foremost and then you look at probably those areas in the Big Ten footprint and those that have been good for us in the past. Not only doesn't it guarantee anything but it's a great starting point.

The other thing I think we were able to do this year is taking advantage of the relationships some of our coaches had. We were out in Arizona because Kare's dad and mom went to the university and that also led us to Garrett Rand, and Garrett's mom is from Wisconsin. So if you can go out of state and find a connection to Wisconsin, I think it's important but getting out east is important to us.

QUESTION: Paul, you didn't have any main surprises on Signing Day, everybody that said they were coming came and didn't lose anybody after Dave (Aranda) left as well. What do you think it says about you and your staff's ability to recruit, the fact that everybody stayed?

CHRYST: I think it goes back to what I was talking about with fit, these kids, parents, why they picked Wisconsin. Certainly the football, it starts the relationship. We're football coaches recruiting and they're football players. But in the end I think kids are picking Wisconsin and we want them to pick Wisconsin because of that and so many more reasons. I also think it's a group of guys that we're targeting that have the character that when they say something that's when they're going to do.

It's not that they didn't have a lot of options but it wasn't a group that we sensed there would be a lot of drama at the end certainly and you still are appreciative. There were no surprises today. But I think it's because of who they are as much as anything and I think why they picked Wisconsin to begin with.

QUESTION: In a program that has a tradition of offensive line success what does a guy like Cole Van Lanen bring?

CHRYST: Cole is a heck of a prospect and we're really glad he's gone from being a recruit to being in our family. He's got size. He's explosive, and he has everything that you want in an offensive lineman.

The thing I really enjoyed when you get to know him, he's got an edge to him and he will work and he comes from a great family and he's got support, but I think he's got a chance to be special.

QUESTION: With the two early enrollees with Kare' and Dallas, how important is it to get them on campus and get them accustomed to what college life is like?

CHRYST: We have had them for a number of years now with the early enrollees, and I think it's a bonus. But I think it's only right if it's good for those people. I don't think there is any magic about enrolling early, it wasn't like we targeted those two and said all right, Kare', Dallas, you need to come early for those reasons. It fit for them, it was the best choice for them and we're glad to have them and the thing I think with both those two and you will see those who haven't -- you get a chance to meet them and talk to them. Kare' and Dallas were two of our leaders in this group. Kare' committed pretty early and Dallas might have the most -- he is the one that connects everyone. He's an unbelievable person and all of the players know him and talk to him and he's got a little bit of the heartbeat of this class.

So we've got two of the guys that are maybe really early leaders in the class and them being here and getting adjusted, I think, will help when the rest of the class comes in June. They will know the ropes a little bit, they will be able to help show them. It's not that we planned it that way but I think that's a residual benefit. You're going to meet them and you are really going to like those two young men. They're big-time people.

QUESTION: You were able to get a commit from Sam Brodner pretty late in the process after he had a decommit a few months ago at the same position. Are you comfortable with the future at the running back position right now once Corey (Clement) and Dare (Ogunbowale) leave?

CHRYST: Yeah, and I think you're always -- that's one of the things I think we've done -- I can say this because I've been here for a while, we have done well getting players that want to be here and develop them.

Sam is a guy that's been in camp -- we were talking about whether we take him as a linebacker, take him as a running back.

I think he's a guy that loves football and every position is going to have attrition, right, through graduation and our job is to help develop these kids and it's not to say that, you know, you're going and we've already started working on -- heck, we've been working on next year's class already, but I like the group that we got. I like who we added with Sam and then it's -- the next thing we get to do is go work with those guys on the field and looking forward to that.

QUESTION: Isaiahh Loudemilk, playing 8-man football in Kansas, what's the difference in assessing whether a kid can play at this level when you're playing eight-man football?

CHRYST: Yeah, it was pretty neat to see and in going there, I think Isaiahh, when you're looking at the film and evaluating it, there are some things that jump out, size in Isaiahh jumps out, his athleticism, the way that he can -- you know, I remember seeing a couple of clips with just a big guy with balance and body control.

It didn't matter whether there was 8 or 11, you know what's interesting? I've been around and recruited some of the eight-man football not at the skilled position, I think maybe that's where it might be a little bit different but as far as linemen, I think that there's more than enough where you get an accurate evaluation.

Then as you get to know them, you will see he's a young, exciting prospect. He's a puppy, and he's just going to grow. Their weight room -- his coach is a great guy and they're doing a heck of a job in their program and they were kind of embarrassed I said let's go see the weight room and it truly was the closet off of the gym. But they had it all in there and the kids used it and so they were proud of that.

Yet I think that once Isaiahh gets here and stops playing other sports he's a guy that's just going to continue to get better and better and improve.

He's a fun kid to be around and I think that the eight-man wasn't a detriment, really didn't challenge it in the evaluation process part of it.

QUESTION: Is Deron Harrell going to grayshirt, or is he going to join the team?

CHRYST: We don't know if Deron (Harrell) is going to join in the summer or in January, and that's going to be his call. But there is another guy that we were watching and the more we saw him and saw long, athletic, Mickey Turner went out and watched him play hoops, Ted (Gilmore) went and watched him and said here is a heck of an athlete can and we think he can fit a number of different positions and at the time we got in late and we didn't want to overcommit anything scholarship-wise but he came here on a visit, and with his mom and they felt like they knew this was the right fight, so we are excited about Deron, certainly.

QUESTION: You reached in-state to a school that's had some success in Amherst in getting two kids in Biadasz and (Garrett). What can those guys bring to your program?

CHRYST: It's a neat program that they've got going there. Won the state, and Tyler came to camp, we just kept seeing here is a football player and you watch it, okay, on the defense line, yep, I'd take him and Rudy on the offensive line, I'll take him so you're talking about a guy that both the offense and D-line coaches would like to work with from a winning program. Mom, dad, brother, you get to know them and it's like, OK, this guy's got some stance to him, he's not afraid of work and he's a great fit here. I think there is something about guys that have been in winning programs, but you wouldn't just start there and not recruit -- we've got other ones that we're excited about that they didn't win as many games, but I think it's certainly pretty neat what they've done.

QUESTION: Paul, I have two questions. First of all, everybody talks about your scholarship players, but what do you expect from this group of walk-ons?

CHRYST: This group of walk-ons, it's interesting because last year it was a group that we really liked and we liked this year's group. But last year's was more linemen types, offensive linemen and defensive linemen and I think the ones that we have now are more either skilled and we're not sure what skill position, those linebackers that they could grow into something, but not the offensive linemen.

So it's kind of complimentary, not by design but a complimentary class to last year's class that was heavy with the offensive and defensive linemen.

QUESTION: You announced five or six walk-ons, there are other kids that have said they accepted preferred walk-on status. Why wouldn't you announce that?

CHRYST: The biggest thing is making sure they're admitted into school as they go through it. So, we had a recruiting weekend, and (it's) making sure that they're admitted into school from our end of it.

QUESTION: Obviously a lot can change with spring ball and fall camp and most of these guys enroll. But based on what you know how and what you've seen and the personnel that you already have on your team is there a guy that sticks out as one that could possibly contribute as a true freshman? Coach Breckterfield mentioned Garrett Rand, are there guys like that?

CHRYST: There are, and I think it's always two-fold. It's what are our needs? Where are we within maybe at a spot or two? And it's making sure that young man is ready to step in. And Garrett certainly physically for a lineman is advanced. He has a chance, I think, to physically be able to play.

Now, how all these kids come in and how they pick it up and what they do. We tell every one of 'em, come this summer and fall camp and be ready to compete and play. And yet I think you have a sense during fall camp of how it's going to shake out and play and even that's kind of an exact science, you know? The last year, Al (Alec Ingold) came and had a nice camp and we thought probably going to redshirt him as a linebacker and then you have an injury at the running back position and you move him over and you look back at the end of the year and he gave us a lot of significant snaps.

So there's guys that you think maybe because they're maybe physically or the position they're at might be an easier or quicker transition, not goes to go easier, but quicker transition but you don't really know.

QUESTION: Now that you've been through one full year here, how much has recruiting changed since your last full cycle here, four seasons ago now and the impact that Coach Urban (Meyer) has had at Ohio State and Jim Harbaugh the approach he's taken at Michigan. What kind of impact has that made?

CHRYST: I think each year when you look back recruiting changes or maybe evolves but you really don't get concerned or focused on what other people are doing. You go out and you identify prospects and then you find which ones you think are good fit for our program, and whether they're highly recruited, we don't mind recruiting against anyone and whether they're not highly recruited and no one is on 'em, we don't mind that.

I think that it's -- and that way I would say I haven't changed in that way. That's the way that this program has actually done a great job, finding and identifying young men that can two and become great players, and so I think you're always going to go up against and compete -- all these kids have choices and yet I think in the end when you ask every one of the kids and you do that every year, what made you pick coming to Wisconsin, it was "it felt right!"

So it all comes down to a feeling they have and it's identifying the right kids and letting them know of your interest and then getting guys that want to be a part of something and I think there is a draw to Wisconsin that, you know, kids pick it because certainly the football starts it probably.

But it's the academics and it's -- they believe in what we believe in and that's the strength of the team. They want to be a part of this team, so I don't know if -- I think maybe what's changed is -- I don't know if it's -- what's changed is more people understanding and hearing more, because of social media, of all the things that go on with recruiting, but there's been recruiting battles for a long time and a lot of people do a lot of different things in recruiting, I think you're just hearing more about it and maybe because of social media it's becoming a little bit more sensationalized or, you know, yet I think the -- there's some pretty cool ways that kids announce what they're doing. I kind of like that part of it. I don't know what the heck you even asked! How we got on to all of this. Feel like Bo! My bad!

QUESTION: You alluded to depth when you talked about Al (Alec James) having to switch over. Unless something changes you've got three scholarship quarterbacks you will be going into. Is that enough of a number or is there a chance to adding to that number?

CHRYST: If they're the right ones, it's the right number. I think that it's -- I feel comfortable with it. Yet I think that we would like to take one a year. There has been a gap and with D.J. (Gillins) transferring and that was a little bit different scenario, really, since last year, there are two quarterbacks no longer with us, but they also were recruited to a different style, I would guess.

So I really do like the three that we have. I'm excited to work with them and we've gone into seasons with less than that so they have seasons where you have more depth but I think we've got two quarterbacks. Bart (Houston) has played a lot of football, been around the program. I liked the starts he did when he came in against Illinois and I liked his growth this year and I'm excited about Alex (Hornibrook) and how he took advantage of this past year and I think he's got a chance to be a really good football player. I think it does help having Kare' here early, so we've got three for spring. But not panicking saying, boy, we need another number. Don't feel that at all.

QUESTION: Were there challenges or snags throughout the year in this recruiting class? Because it's a culmination of all the good things that happened, but were there snags or tough challenges?

CHRYST: I think there always are. As you're going through it there is no script. Each one of these kids as they get recruited there is no manual for them, how they go through it and what they do and they're trying to figure out what are the things that are going to be most important to them and their decision.

So there is certainly no script, you just follow it right down -- maybe the -- Luke Benzschawel, once we offered him and his brothers, dad played here. Mom and dad went through the process, and you want them to feel the process. But, yeah, every year, every trip you take, everything, there's a lot of different things that happen in the recruiting and you've just got to be flexible with it.

But I really do like this group that we've signed today, and I think it's a great fit and I think it's made up of tremendous people. The kids and it's a fun, good group of parents. How you get there, that's the enjoyable part and it's the journey to it for these kids and for us going through the process.

QUESTION: This is probably a ridiculous question noting that it's February 3rd, but could you see any situation in which a true freshman could win the starting quarterback position in your system noting how complicated it goes from high school to the college game and also noting Kare''s ability?

CHRYST: Yeah, I wouldn't rule out any -- the quarterback's not -- it might be a little bit harder but we have had a number of different players, you know, true freshmen, Travis Frederick did it, and you would say when we were here, the center position is the most difficult of the offensive line positions. That's the way all of 'em -- Kare' is no different than anyone else. You come in and be ready to compete.

I think that also goes to, is he going to be better than Bart and Alex? And you don't know. That's where -- you want them to think that way and you want to coach 'em that way. I think all of the competition, especially at the quarterback position, is with yourself. It's challenging yourself and working to become the best you can be. And at the end, you know, we're going to play one, two, three of them.

Last thing to worry about is who is starting against LSU and certainly for Kare', we haven't even been on the field with him yet with the ball in his hand. But I wouldn't say no to anybody and nothing is impossible and all that, but I think you're asking a lot of someone to do that.

QUESTION: What role did Justin Wilcox play in Garrett Rand's coming in at the 11th hour as he did?

CHRYST: Apparently he didn't screw it up because he went up there (chuckles). He had known Garrett and Joe Rudolph and Inoke were involved in recruiting Garrett but I think it was -- one of the things that Garrett was -- that was real for him in the process was understanding what defense we were going to use and when there is a change, they want to know how is that going to affect them.

Really, that was one thing that there weren't a lot of -- I didn't have -- Garrett talked a little bit about it, but other than that there wasn't a lot of questions about who is going to be the defensive coordinator. We told them early and this is what I was looking to do and kind of stay within the 3-4, so once they understood that.

But I think it's a group that picked Wisconsin for a ton of reasons, but Justin went in and probably reassured him more than anything what we were telling him was accurate.

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