Lucas at Large: Assistants step up as recruiting season winds down

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As the lone holdover on the offensive coaching staff, Thomas Hammock felt an obvious urgency to hold recruiting together with defensive assistants Charlie Partridge and Chris Ash.

More to the point, Hammock said, "We were just trying to do the best we could to hold on and keep this thing moving forward for our kids in the program and the kids we were trying to get.''
    
That entailed, he said, "Mapping out a plan and seeing the kids we needed to see'' from the standpoint of "making sure we allocated our time and resources appropriately'' on home visits.

As the interim recruiting coordinator, Partridge suggested, "I won't say it was survival mode, but it was right on the edge of it - you're making sure you're hitting and covering all of your bases.''

Partridge was invaluable in this capacity.

"Charlie is great at organizational skills,'' said UW head coach Bret Bielema.

Partridge's resume includes a two-year stint as the director of football operations at Iowa State.

"My mind is very grid-oriented,'' he said. "I'm a mathematical-type guy.''

That led to making sure there was a list and everything was prioritized.

"We really got into that mode where every important kid in this class was getting hit and getting hit by the right person,'' he said. "Thomas and Chris did a great job.''

There were also significant contributions from the staff underlings:  graduate assistants Ben Strickland and Luke Swan and quality control coordinators Bart Miller and Terrance Jamison.

Strickland has since been promoted to a full-time position.

"Putting those four guys on the road was a great opportunity for them and they came through in flying colors,'' Partridge said. "The in-state (prep) coaches talked about how great of a job they did.

"I'm so proud of them for that.''

Besides laying the groundwork for this season's preferred walk-ons, Partridge noted, "Every staff in the country is getting ahead on junior recruiting and we didn't want to lose ground there.''

The Badgers signed 12 players on Wednesday.

"I think it was a blessing in disguise that it was a small class,'' Bielema admitted. "If you were dealing with a class of 22 or 23, it would have been, I think, a real challenge (to hold the class together).''

Ash had experienced similar circumstances at previous coaching stops.

"Been there before, done it before, so it wasn't anything that was really unexpected for me,'' he said. "You've got to be on the same page, you've got to be organized and you can't waste time.

"There's no down time at all. You're on the go all the time. It's pretty much non-stop. But that's why we're each in this profession. I love meeting people, I love to travel, and I love the university here.

"January is always hectic and crazy as you're coming down to the wire with recruiting. When you're shorthanded with staff, it just means you have to get to a few more places in a few less days.''

With the signing of safety D.J. Singleton, the Badgers were able to reopen the door to New Jersey, which has historically been a very fertile recruiting area for the UW program. QB Joe Brennan and TE/FB Sherard Cadogan will both be redshirt sophomores next year.

"This was my first year recruiting there (New Jersey),'' Hammock acknowledged. "But one thing I've always believed is that if you can recruit, you can recruit anywhere.

"Wisconsin is a great brand to a lot of people out East. We had a small class overall this year and the number of kids we offered was smaller but we're certainly making progress (in that region).''

Throughout the recruiting period, Hammock reassured high school prospects and coaches that "Wisconsin is a program that has been doing well for a long time and that's not going to change.''

In the end, Hammock stressed, the objective was to send the message to each recruit that "You're going to be a key piece to the puzzle as we try to win another Big Ten championship.''

That recruiting pitch never gets old.

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