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Wisconsin football recruiting since 1990: top class of fullbacks

Our position-by-position look at the best group of players signed in a single class in recent Wisconsin football history makes a pit stop at the fullback position.

Wisconsin v Illinois Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers football program has seen an amazing wave of success since Barry Alvarez took over as head coach in 1990. His tenure in the athletic department shifted perception of Wisconsin athletics and paved the way for current success.

While the landscape of college football has significantly change since 1990, the lifeblood of winning hasn’t.

Recruiting and development are king.

The Badgers have seen tremendous results in developing talent since Alvarez took the reins and laid the blueprint, but recruiting has had areas of prosperity such as offensive line, running back, and linebacker. On the flipside, however, there have also been pockets of the roster that have been more challenging to recruit for.

Within each position though there has been moments of realized potential that create a source of strength on the roster based on the fruits of a singular recruiting class.

For example, in the 2021 recruiting class the Badgers currently have two four-star offensive lineman, and are heavily involved with five-star offensive lineman Nolan Rucci as well. If all three prospects were to sign with Wisconsin that could potentially be a major moment in the trajectory of the position, and ultimately alter the complexion of the offense as a whole.

With that as a launching off point, I began to wonder which classes in the past 30 years had the best collection of players in a singular position group.

In the fourth episode of the series we look into the top class of fullbacks.

Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin Badgers v Auburn Tigers Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

Top group: 2004 recruiting class

2004 Recruiting Class: Fullback

Name Position Freshman Height/Weight Hometown Notable Statistics
Name Position Freshman Height/Weight Hometown Notable Statistics
Chris Pressley Fullback 6-foot-1 / 264 pounds Woodbury, New Jersey 42 games played, 103 rushing yards, two total touchdowns
Bill Rentmeester Fullback 6-foot / 230 pounds Beaver Dam, Wisconsin 47 games played, 116 rushing yards, two total touchdowns

A dynamic duo at the fullback position, Chris Pressley and Bill Rentmeester were both part of the 2004 recruiting class. A two fullback class is a rarity in college football, but the two players saw tons of meaningful action while at UW.

Pressley was the higher rated recruit coming out of high school, and saw playing time immediately as a freshman. A broken leg made him miss the entirety of the 2006 season, but he was still able to be a four-year starter while at Wisconsin. A no-nonsense blocker, Pressley was a force at over 270 pounds. He was rarely called upon to run or catch the ball while in college, but he was immensely valuable as blocker.

Wearing No. 44 and donning a neckroll, Pressley was an intimidating player when he came through a hole, and he had the strength to make defenders pay. The image of Pressley squatting over 600 pounds while Knuck if you Buck by Crime Mob is blaring in the background will forever be my favorite memory of him as a player. (Editor’s note: this is the best video we’ve ever posted on this site.)

His running mate, Bill Rentmeester redshirted as a true freshman, but was thrust into greater action the due to Pressley’s injury in 2006.

Similar to Pressley, Rentmeester did not rack up huge statistics during his career at Wisconsin, but he was a hard nosed fullback for the Badgers for multiple seasons. A lead blocker for P.J. Hill and John Clay, Rentmeester was a valuable weapon for the offense.

Both Pressley and Rentmeester would go on to have opportunities in the NFL. Pressley would play in the league from 2009 to 2014 with the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with multiple seasons as a starter. Rentmeester did not go on to have the longevity of Pressley, but he was a member of the San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers for a brief time in 2009.

The combination of Pressley and Rentmeester might not have the overall flair as some Wisconsin fullbacks in history, but the production from a two-man recruiting class is hard to argue.

Ohio State vs Wisconsin - October 11, 2003 Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

Honorable Mention: 2001 recruiting class

Potentially the best fullback in Wisconsin history, Matt Bernstein really makes this class go. A New York product, Bernstein was a fantastic blocker, but he was one of the first fullbacks that ran the ball more often for the Badgers. A multi-year starter under Alvarez, Bernie ran for over 500 yards and had nearly 700 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns over the course of his career.

Bernstein is best remembered for rushing for 123 yards in a grind it out win against Penn State on Yom Kippur after fasting in accordance with his Jewish faith. Nicknamed the Hebrew Hammer, Bernstein etched his name in Wisconsin football history that night as he stepped up to play running back.

His lead blocker that night was actually the second fullback taken in the 2001 class, his dear friend Greg Root. The backup fullback was originally recruited as a linebacker, but was the reserve to Bernstein during his career. While Root did not have the statistical success on the field as Bernstein, he was essential against Penn State to pick up the slack.