When Barry Alvarez arrived in Madison to be the head football coach of the Wisconsin Badgers for the 1990 season he set in motion a lot of important practices that turned a program which had occasionally been good over the previous 100 years into one that has been consistently good for the past 30.
Arguably the most important idea that Alvarez had was building a metaphorical fence around the state of Wisconsin to keep all of the best high school talent home and playing for the Badgers. Wisconsin, and all of the upper Midwest for that matter, has not been a region that has been recruited particularly hard outside of the schools that are already here. You don’t see Texas or Alabama or Georgia or Southern Cal coming to Muskego every year mining for talent.
Those kids, traditionally, have been strong Wisconsin leans on the recruiting trail and then eventually all-conference performers in the B1G for the Badgers. The Wisconsin walk-on program is legendary as is their ability to turn other under-recruited kids into NFL-level talent.
In recent years, however, other schools besides Iowa, Minnesota and Northern Illinois have taken note of the talent level at Wisconsin high schools. The Badgers have still done an extremely good job of keeping top talent home, having not had the top two players in the state commit to them since 2016 (top in-state player Ben Bredeson went to Michigan). It’s starting to look like the 2022 recruiting cycle is going to be Paul Chryst’s, and the Wisconsin Fence’s, most difficult challenge yet.
Since 2010, when the Top247 list was first released, the state of Wisconsin has had a dozen players make it. The only player who didn’t commit to the Badgers was Bredeson. In the class of 2022 alone, the in-state list includes six (!!!) players from Wisconsin.
- No. 67, Joe Brunner, OT, Whitefish Bay, 4-star, 93 rating
- No. 81, Carson Hinzman, OL, Hammond, 4-star, 93 rating
- No. 105, Isaac Hamm, DE, Sun Prairie, 4-star, 92 rating
- No. 116, Braelon Allen, ATH/S, Fond du Lac, 4-star, 92 rating
- No. 143, Billy Schrauth, OL/DL, Fond du Lac, 4-star, 91 rating
- No. 214, Jerry Cross, WR/TE, Milwaukee, 4-star, 90 rating
Wisconsin has already offered all six of these players but let’s take a look at some of the other schools who have offered them too.
Brunner: Arizona State, Iowa, LSU, Miami (Fla.), Nebraska, Notre Dame, Penn State, Tennessee
Hinzman: Alabama, Arizona State, Iowa, LSU, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State
Hamm: Iowa, Minnesota
Allen: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame
Schrauth: Iowa, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee
Cross: Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State
It is not every day, nor every year, that teams like Alabama, LSU, Miami (Fla.) and Tennessee are up in Wisconsin offering recruits. Hinzman says its best: it IS “insane.” According to 247 Sports’ database, the last time Alabama even offered a kid from Wisconsin was 2017 for DT Juan Harris out of Janesville. The also offered Bredeson in 2016 and then no one else since 2010 and then I got tired of looking up more years.
LSU offered Bredeson in 2016 and RB Julius Davis in 2019 and nobody else since 2010, so yeah, we are squarely coming up on an insane in-state recruiting cycle in 2022.
So, you may be asking, what can Wisconsin do about keeping these interlopers out of the state? Sadly, there is no law that can keep SEC coaches out of B1G country but the Badgers do have a built in advantage when recruiting these kids. Many of them grew up as Wisconsin fans and receiving an offer from the Badgers is a big deal for them.
Cross and Brunner are already listed as “warm” on 247 for Wisconsin and Hamm is from Sun Prairie, which is just outside of Madison, so he doesn’t even need to visit campus to know how great it is.
A lot of kids may also be drawn in by the “let’s make something special happen at our home state school” idea. Winning a conference title or a national title is special no matter where you do it, but doing it for your home state that hasn’t won one in while/ever multiplies the special-ness greatly. A number of recruits have talked about how Paul Chryst and co. use this as a selling point, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the class of 2022 take the challenge personally.
The last two classes out of the state have had some high-end talent and the Badgers signed the top-five in 2020 and have the top-five committed in 2021 too, so they clearly don’t lack the ability to close on top players. But 2022 will be different. The players are better, they’re ranked higher and they have blue-bloods coming after them early.
Time to see how high that fence has been built over the past three decades.