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How the Badgers have been able to recruit well in Luke Fickell era

The Badgers have started strong on the recruiting front under Luke Fickell. How?

The Wisconsin Badgers have earned a strong start to 2023, specifically on the recruiting front, as the team finished with the 38th-best class in the cycle, including the 16th-best transfer group, according to 247Sports, after hiring head coach Luke Fickell from the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Fickell provides an impressive resume, especially as a player developer during his successful tenure at Cincinnati, but never compiled a top-40 recruiting class during his tenure with the Bearcats, yet the Badgers compiled one in his first offseason at Wisconsin.

How were the Badgers able to recruit so well to begin the Luke Fickell era?

“Number one, the brand recruits itself,” said co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Colin Hitschler. “And that’s been something that we all kind of immediately felt [and] just pushed. All you have to do is push the brand. There’s elite players that have played here for a long time.”

As for the strategy the coaching staff utilized their own genuineness, while maintaining the traditional identity that the previous regime held when recruiting.

“The previous coaching staff, specifically, you know, Jim Leonard, who is kind of my guy in the process, is as good as it gets. So, you know, for me, a lot of it was, how can I say that I’m gonna do similar things than him while, still keeping genuine to myself,” Hitschler said. “And, that’s key to the whole process. You got to be who you are. But at the same time, they’ve been as good as it gets on the secondary level and coach Leonhard with the safeties, and I have to kind of mesh that together.”

The strategy appeared to pay off, as the Badgers added six different defensive backs in their 2023 freshman class, including some incumbent recruits from the previous regime: Braedyn Moore, Jonas Duclona, Justin Taylor, A.J. Tisdell, Amare Snowden, and Jace Arnold.

As for the difference between Cincinnati and Wisconsin, Hitschler re-iterated his acknowledgment of the Badgers’ brand name, adding that the representation of a prestigious university helps athletes buy into the program.

“Number one is the brand, right? So I think the people that choose Wisconsin understand the brand name and the work ethic and the mentality that comes with it. I think it represents a state that has something unique about it, and people want to be a part of that. So, you feel that, no matter what high school you go to, even in Naples, Florida, you know that it’s a kid that wants to work and be a part of that blue-collar atmosphere that this team has had since way back in the day,” Hitschler said. “So, I think that’s different [from Cincinnati]. I think the expectation when you walk into the school with the power W is that you represent that. And I think the kids that want to be a part of it buy into it immediately.”

After a strong 2023 class that included several freshmen recruits and an incredible 16 transfers, the Badgers have already shifted focus toward their 2024 class, already earning commitments from 2024 tight ends Grant Stec and Robert Booker.