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May 1, 2012Follow @McNamaraRivals
After back-to-back recruiting classes with limited available scholarships, it's likely Bret Bielema is looking forward to having a bit more flexibility in 2014.
Saturday, George Panos gave Wisconsin's head coach another big reason to be excited about the current sophomore class.
"He was really excited, obviously," Panos said in regards to Bielema's reaction after he committed before the spring game. "He gave me a hug and told me he was pumped and excited for me to be a Badger.
"One of the things he said was that he wanted me to be the leader of the 2014 class."
A 6-foot-5, 290-pound in-state lineman from Arrowhead High School, Panos will follow in the footsteps of his father. Joe Panos was a captain for Barry Alvarez on the Badgers' 1994 Rose Bowl team.
"My dad said from the beginning that the schools that were talking to me are recruiting me, they're not recruiting my dad," George Panos said. "Him being a Badger, I've been around there a lot and I've come to love it.
"But as far as the recruiting process, I've taken in my parents' opinions, but in the end it was all my choice."
Wisconsin was the second Big Ten school to offer Panos after Nebraska came through earlier last week. But the offer from UW was all he had to hear during a memorable Saturday in Madison.
"We got to the spring game and sat down and had lunch," Panos said. "After that I had a meeting with coach Bielema. We went up to his office and talked about how my trip was. Then he told me that he wanted to offer me a scholarship to play football there. I was obviously in shock.
"After that he talked to me about what it means and how I have to keep on working and keep on getting better with my studies. After the meeting I went out and talked to my mom a little bit and called my dad on the phone to discuss it. Then we saw coach Bielema walk through the office after about 10 minutes there and I just told him right then that I committed.
"It's definitely a huge weight off my shoulders. It gives me a chance to focus on my schoolwork and focus on weightlifting and getting stronger. I can focus on just playing football."
Panos, who said the coaching staff did not talk about a specific position on the line at the next level, is excited to be the first member of Wisconsin's 2014 class.
"If people are considering going to Wisconsin I'll push them to go to Wisconsin because getting a tough class will help us in winning in the future," he said.
In addition to Panos, the 2014 in-state class also includes potential Division 1 prospects Jaden Gault, Craig Evans, Brandon Hines and Luke Rasmussen, among others.