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February 5, 2014

Persistence pays off for Badgers





MADISON, Wis. - Gary Andersen and the Wisconsin Badgers were anything but passive in recruiting their first full signing class. They hung on to early in-state commitments from George Panos and Jaden Gault and competed with other top FBS schools for some of the best prospects in the country, and they didn't take no for an answer when a prospect they liked committed to another school.

In all the Badgers were able to flip eight players who had committed to other schools during the recruiting process, including a four-star prospect in Dareian Watkins and three-star prospects Beau Benzschawel, Caleb Kinlaw, T.J. Edwards and George Rushing.

When asked about how he and his staff balance respecting a prospect's decision and still recruiting them, Andersen said he thinks his staff had success because there weren't really any decisions to respect.

"Just because a young man says he's committed to a school doesn't mean that's the school he's going to," Andersen said Wednesday during his signing day press conference. "We walk in to those situations, and kids don't slam the door. We're not beating down the door to walk into their living room … recruiting is aggressive, recruiting is competitive, it's something that we love and we're just not going to take no for an answer."

Wide receivers coach Chris Beatty was the primary recruiter for three prospects who flipped to the Badgers: Watinks, Rushing, and cornerback Derrick Tindal. Rushing and Tindal committed to the Badgers within the last two weeks, and Beatty said that the Badgers benefitted from making themselves available to committed players who started to have second thoughts.

"It's one of those processes where you just want to stay available," Beatty said. "You stay in touch with them, you don't want to be obtrusive or disrespectful to any other program, but if they leave the lines of communication open you're going to try to reach out. You hang in there, you hang in there, you hang in there, and then at the end hopefully you win."

The Badgers were also able to flip offensive linemen Jacob Maxwell and Micah Kapoi, who were previously committed to Northern Illinois and Hawaii, respectively.

Andersen and his coaches also benefitted from college football's lack of an early signing period, since six of the eight prospects they flipped in this class had committed to another school during the summer of last year.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint in recruiting," Beatty said. "Nothing is official until February- there's no early signing date. You want to make yourself available to the best players you can."

Beatty said he thought the now-signees appreciated Wisconsin's attitude during the process, where they stressed that they were always going to be there for a player if they changed their mind. In the end Beatty said to flip a player coaches need to just hang on as long as they can, and see what happens.

"I think they appreciate you being respectful in the process that you do it," Beatty said. "We were never disrespectful to the institutions they had committed to, but it was one of those things where 'If you're not 100 percent sure, we're an option.' And at the end you become an option."



John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.


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