MADISON, Wis. - Gary Andersen and the Wisconsin Badgers showed that they weren't afraid to recruit anywhere during the 2014 recruiting cycle.
In all they extended over 200 offers to prospects in 36 states, with most of their signees hailing from the Midwest. But they reached into Georgia and Maryland for the first time in this class and signed two prospects from each state, and Andersen said that they will keep mining those and other areas for talent in the future.
"Continuing to branch out is important," Andersen said. "We're never going to forget where we're built from, and our foundation is built right here, and that will never change in the state of Wisconsin and in the Midwest in general.
"But our ability to reach out … we can get into any living room, we can walk into any school. People understand the Motion W. They're not guessing where you're coming from when you walk in the door, and that gives us the ability to walk in."
In particular the Badgers are going to keep recruiting out on the east coast, specifically in Virginia and Maryland, to take advantage of wide receivers coach Chris Beatty's connections in the area. Andersen said he'll also send one other assistant out there on a regular basis to try and capitalize on some east coast momentum after the Badgers signed Taiwan Deal and Chris Jones from DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md.
"I grew up in the D.C. area, so for us to go in there and start some inroads- especially at the best program, or one of the best programs in that area," Beatty said Wednesday. "That's a good thing. You want to start a pipeline and be able to have people who can go back and trumpet your program at some point. And with Maryland and those other east coast teams coming into the conference, that becomes a more valuable area for everybody in the league."
Andersen also said that they will continue to recruit in Georgia, despite the departure of recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Thomas Hammock. In addition, the Badgers will continue to test the waters out near the west coast, where much of Wisconsin's current coaching staff spent the last few years. Andersen said distance from home can be a factor for west coast prospects, but in the end he has to respect that part of the process if it becomes an issue.
"Those kids grew up with great families, and they want to be able to be there with them. So at the end, I have to respect that," Andersen said. "I don't have to think it necessarily is the right decision, but we'll gain momentum out there. We're never going to sign six kids from the West Coast, but we can get in there and get a couple of young men."
News and Notes:
Attention Joel Stave skeptics: he's still Wisconsin's starting quarterback, at least for the time being.
"Joel's our starting quarterback," Andersen said Wednesday. "He started all the games last year. It's his spot to lose. So he'll be given that opportunity to obviously compete and get the team around him."
But with Bart Houston and Tanner McEvoy both set to seriously compete for the starting job this spring as well, Andersen said he and the coaches are looking for a way to make sure true freshman signee D.J. Gillins gets some reps to take advantage of having him on campus for an extra semester after he enrolled early.
"There's a lot of quarterbacks, but there's only so many reps to go around," Andersen said. "That is a definite challenge and something we're still in the middle of constructing as we move forward to spring ball."
The Badgers technically signed 25 scholarship players on Wednesday, but they won't see one of them for a while. Salt Lake City, Utah, athlete Ula Tolutau is planning on heading out on a two-year mission trip and won't enroll with the team until 2016. Andersen said some teams don't want to recruit a player like Tolutau because they want prospects on campus as soon as possible, but he isn't scared to recruit a little farther into the future.
"They don't understand the process," Andersen said of other teams' reluctance to pursue mission-bound players. "We signed him with either way he goes. But the plan is right now that he will go on a mission and he'll be back with us. But we'll take him in this program whenever we can get him involved. He's a tremendous young man. Glad he stuck with us."
After signing 17 players in 2013 and 25 in 2014, Andersen said he and his staff have about 15 scholarships to play with for their 2015 class. Some of their top needs at the moment include linebacker, offensive line, defensive tackle and tight end.
Andersen's son Chasen Andersen will walk-on with the Badgers as a linebacker this spring. Andersen said his son beat him to the team's facilities on Wednesday morning for a team workout at 6:30 in the morning, and that he had a chance to build relationships with players on the team in the last few months before he could officially join the team.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.