Feb. 4, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head football Bret Bielema spoke with the media on Wednesday afternoon to answer questions about his 2010 recruiting class. Below is a transcript of the press conference.
Bret Bielema: One of the things that you really realize on today's date is how much hard work went into making this day finally come here. A lot of these kids, I'll show you the clips here in a minute, we made contact with as early as their freshman year, their sophomore years. You can't actually send them a note or a letter personally until the first day of their junior year. You can't call them on the phone until a six-week window in the months of April and May of their junior year, and then it goes into a different phone call ordering when their senior year rolls around.
But as this recruiting cycle moved on, I just really felt that this staff, the way that we recruited these young men, found some kids that really fit the profile of what we need to have here at Wisconsin. I really like them, obviously, as football players, but as people. As I've been in the homes, as a head coach, I can only go in one time, and you just walked out of all those homes, including Warren [Herring] who is here tonight, knowing that you got genuine people coming from great backgrounds and hopefully we will have success here at Wisconsin.
So I'll run through this video, and we'll show a couple clips of each guy. It starts off on the defensive side of the ball, in alphabetical order, and then I'll move to the offensive side after that. But this is Beau Allen, a young man out of Minneapolis. Mom and dad were both UW grads, grandfather was an All-American swimmer here. We actually had him first on campus sophomore year, but you'll see he's a big body that can hopefully play for us early on.
Cody Byers, from Alter High School, which was actually the same high school as Chris Borland. I believe his overall high school record was something like 33-0, 52-2 overall in his entire career, so here you see him making a pick. He played all over the place. He actually played quarterback on offense and then also defense on the linebacker position, but really a phenomenal athlete, good size. He's got a couple inches on Chris and really moves very, very well. Here you see him coming up and making a play, but somebody that actually committed to us pretty early; I think it was actually in early summer.
Kyle Costigan from Muskego, a guy that we're going to bring in. I believe he visited here about three or four weeks ago, and he actually was weighing about 250 pounds. His mom told me last night he now weighs 284 on his weigh-in on Monday afternoon. He's a guy that's continuing to get bigger and bigger and has played both offensive and defensive line. We'll get him here and see where he fits in.
Bryce Gilbert from Brookfield Central, same high school as Joe Thomas or Ben Strickland, as he likes to reference. We actually signed two players from Brookfield Central. You can see Bryce came in, actually played defensive line for us in camp. That's when we made an offer to him in early spring. And again, a guy with good size. We haven't really been able to recruit some inside defensive tackles very well in the last couple years, but I really feel good about the guys we have coming in this year.
Josh Harrison out of Wayne, another one of Coach [Joe] Rudolph's recruits out of Ohio, is an outside backer. We're going to play him in the middle as well, but he can run really well, uses his hands; a very, very motivated young man. He actually comes from a great high school, a high school coach I've known for a number of a years, even going back down to his days in Florida. Here you see [Harrison] making a nice pick. He kind of reminds me, even when you meet him and talk to him, he reminds me a lot of DeAndre Levy. From the first time I met DeAndre to where we are today, this kid reminds me [of him].
And then Warren [Herring], from Belleville, [Ill.], he's going to play outside defensive end for us. He's a good player that has a unique recruiting story. I went down the commitment list early, and then turned around and came back our way. I think the thing I appreciate about Warren is he actually put in the time, did his research, came back and made a good decision. Although he looked good here on the screen pass, we're not going to play him at tight end. He may try to get out there, but he did get a score during the senior year.
Jake Irwin from locally here in Waunakee High School. A neat story about him, he actually had never played defense at all. He's played offensive line for Coach Rice, and was a very good football player. When he came into camp, we asked him to play defense, where we thought he might fit in better, and I think it was the first time I've ever offered a defensive lineman who never played defense right after camp. He had a big state championship game against Kimberly, here you see him make a great play, strips the ball out and is able to recover it, and then his first of many highlights, hopefully, in Camp Randall to score in his last game to go to state championship. Pretty big.
Peniel Jean, a young man out of Palm Beach Central, actually the tragedy in Haiti hit close to him. His mom and dad are both Haitian, came here. Peniel comes from a great family. He's already graduated and was set to come here as early as summer, as soon as possible. The thing I remember about him on film, the first thing I noticed, is he's a tremendous, very, very physical in the way he plays. We'll try him out at corner.
Joe McNamara from Cypress Bay down in Fort Lauderdale, one of Coach [Charlie] Partridge's recruits. I think we got four kids out of the sunshine state. You'll see him on all offensive clips here. His high school coach, Coach Montoyo, who's been a good friend of mine for a number of years, plays all their best linemen on offense, so he hasn't played defense, which is where we're going to start him and see where he starts to progress. But very physical. He's a wrestler, his dad is a head wrestling coach at the high school. Originally mom and dad are from Iowa, so it's kind of like getting a Midwest kid out of south Florida.
Cameron Ontko, another player from Coach [Joe] Rudolph out of Ohio. Here you see him make a play. He's very physical, very, very fast. He's probably one of the fastest kids that we signed this year, just on pure speed, but he's got a lot of ability. If you watch his highlight film, most of his highlights are on offense. He played running back, did a great job for his team, but we're going to play him at defense at a linebacker position. He kind of reminds me a little bit of [Chris] Borland, a little undersized, but really, really physical and very, very fast.
Frank Tamakloe, a new recruiting area for us out in the D.C. area. Here you see him play very, very physical. Neat story about him, both mom and dad actually came to this country. I believe his dad went to Stanford, his mom went to Harvard, and this kid's extremely gifted academically and athletically. We're going to play him at the safety position. Here you see he really brings a little bit of anger when he comes to the hit.
Michael Trotter out of Marquette, state champs as well. We actually have Michael coming, and his brother Marcus is going to walk-on as well. We're going to play him at the safety position. Again, another guy that came into camp, earned a scholarship from here in the state, and did a tremendous job for them this year. He was actually awarded the Defensive Player of the Year in the state, so he's somebody that we're excited about.
Jameson Wright out of Fort Pierce Westwood. He might be over 6'1. We're going to play him at the defensive back position, either at corner or safety. Very, very gifted athlete, big long rangey, long arms, and has played on some teams with a lot of speed. Kids I've recruited out of that area have tremendous speed, and he is no different. We're excited to get him up here and see if he has the ability to play for us early.
Konrad Zagzebski from here at D.C. Everest, another great one from that school. He actually is going to play probably for us on defense, but plays a variety of different ways. Played in the Under Armour All Star game in Orlando at linebacker, but he keeps getting bigger and bigger. I saw him this past Saturday, I swear he grew an inch. He, unfortunately, had an ACL injury midway through his junior year, and you see he recovered here and was able to run a guy down. We're going to start him off at linebacker, but possibly, if he keeps doing what I think he might grow into a possible defensive end position.
Joey Brennan, Joe comes to us from Camden Catholic out back in New Jersey. Coach [Paul] Chryst went out there and recruited two players from out there. Joe plays quarterback. Here you see he has a very strong arm. He's a guy that did his research, due diligence. I believe on his tour, when he came here to visit us for the first time with his mom, he had made a swing through Stanford, through Miami, and the thing he was looking for was a good fit for his skills. He didn't really want to go be a second running back in anybody's offense. As a quarterback, he wanted to play quarterback. He's going to come in here. He's got good size. He's probably all of 6'3 plus, throws the ball very, very well, and is excited. He's a great competitor.
Also from the same high school as Sherard Cadogan. Sherard comes to us as a tight end. He was actually recruited by a lot of schools as a linebacker, a defensive player, but we kept recruiting him as tight end and one of the rewards of the bowl game, after, it was New Year's Eve day, I was sitting in Pasadena with Coach [Barry] Alvarez getting inducted into the Hall of Fame, and I got a phone call from Sherard. One of the comments he made, he said, `coach, I watched your bowl game and saw your tight end catch 13 balls. I want to come play tight end for you guys.' So it shows that the bowl games do make a difference, and we're excited to get him.
Manasseh Garner, another tight end. Manasseh is probably a little bit more like a Lance Kendricks or a Travis Beckum. Here you see him playing defense, so he's got a great attitude, but really, really runs well, might even borderline be a wide receiver. A tremendous young man. His dad's a preacher, granddad's a preacher, from the Pittsburgh area, just a great kid. One of the good stories about the type of people we're bringing in here, plus he can run a little bit.
Chase Hammond, another Ohio product out of Boardman, probably even taller than 6'4. He's probably about 6'5 plus. Tremendous basketball player as well, a guy that we're excited to get here and see exactly what happens. He actually, I believe Coach [Joe] Rudolph can . . . I believe the first or second game of his junior year broke his leg, so he missed his entire junior year, which is why he was a little bit off the radar, and then came on, had a strong senior year. As we got involved with him, when he committed to us, things were just starting to pick up. Here you see him jump out of the gym. Again, comes from a great family. Dad and brother came up here on the visit, mom loves him coming to Wisconsin.
Rob Havenstein, neat story here too as well. From Linganore, a very, very good program in Maryland. Here you see he looks like our guys. He's actually probably about 6'7, 340. I watched him play basketball two weeks ago, just amazed at the way he ran. But mom and dad are actually both from Michigan, went to Western Michigan, and then moved out to Maryland and stayed out there, but he had always dreamed of playing in the Big Ten and coming back to the Midwest, so he's going to be a good one.
Dallas Lewallen from here in Berlin High School, same high school as a couple years back as Joe Stellmacher, came to our camp. Here you see another big guy that plays with a little anger and a guy that we'll bring in and play in the offensive line and see exactly where he fits. But again, came into camp, did a really good job in camp, we made an offer, and he committed to us early on. Someone that I think, in high school was limited in some of the stuff they made him do, but we're excited to get him up here.
Jeffrey Lewis, another Wisconsin product, another camp product, came to our camp and earned a scholarship from Brookfield Central. Here you see he's just got great range, very, very tall, very long, covers a lot of ground in a hurry. It's kind of a two-back tandem there for them. The other running back and [Lewis] are very productive, kind of an off year for Brookfield Central, lot of injuries, but excited about Jeff and the ability that he brings here. We'll start him off at tailback and see what his body does, but you see here he's got the ability to run pretty well as well. Here he's lined up at the fullback spot and sneaks through. The thing I like about Jeff is he came to camp with an attitude to earn a scholarship, and that's exactly what he did.
Marquis Mason, a local product from Madison East. First time I saw Marquis live was two years ago in a basketball game, and was just impressed by his athleticism. Here you see him grab it. But Marquis is extremely talented athletically. As you guys probably know covering the local area, I think the all-time leading rebounder and point scorer at Madison East, and I think an untapped talent. The thing I love about Marquis is he's working very hard to make the dream come true to come here, and I think it's going to happen.
James White, another player out of St. Thomas Aquinas that was nationally ranked as the best team in high school for a long time. James and another running back from his high school carried the workload. James was there all year long, the other player was injured, so James was called upon quite a bit. He just did a great job for them all year long, really fits in to the type of things that we do here. He'll remind you a little bit of Montee Ball. Maybe not quite as tall as Montee, but extremely powerful. I actually had a chance to go watch him live in a game, during our off week, and was just amazed at how much electricity he brought to the sidelines.
This kid, Isaiah Williams, late addition, we kept recruiting all the way through. He's from Pace High School, wide receiver that Coach [Charlie] Partridge has been on. He actually had a commitment to another school, and then we just stayed with him. Recently, he played in the Miami-Dade All Star game, and of all the great players going all over the country, he was voted the MVP of that game, so somebody that we're excited to get here. And again, you can see the really jump, a big, physical receiver.
That's a little bit of what their skill set is. I think our staff did a great job, and our staff in the back, can't say enough thank yous. Sharon Betlach, our recruiting secretary, our administration, for letting us do it the way we need to do it. I think it's going to be a great thing for us for years to come. It's always interesting, I was at the basketball game last night, people always ask me, `coach, are you nervous about tonight? Are you worried about kids changing their mind?' I got the same question a couple weeks ago from a local reporter. And the thing I kind of took a step back and realized, I believe this is my fifth signing class, and of those five years, we've only had one kid ever decommit to us as a program.
And you know, personally, on our recruiting list right there we signed 24 kids; we have six walk-on kids coming. We actually had four kids on that list that have changed from other schools, and I think it reflects the kind of kids that we're going after, once they make a commitment, they stick with it, they stay with it. Their character is something that will persevere here, so hopefully they can run and hit pretty good too. That will make them win a few ball games.
With that, I'll open it up for some questions.
QUESTION #1: Coach, I think Konrad [Zagzebski] was one of those decommits from Minnesota. Just talk about, I guess, what kind of swayed him to come to this program and how nice is that when you get a guy to decommit from a rival like that.
BIELEMA: You know what, I think the recruiting process really accelerated on Konrad in a hurry, and that's the way that that first part came to be. One thing I've always tried to stay true to here at Wisconsin, I really don't care what other schools do or how they handle their business. I just worry about the way we handle it. And Konrad, because of his injury, we wanted to make sure everything was right, and talked with the people we needed to. Coach [Steffenhagen] is his high school coach and he and Coach [Barry] Alvarez have had a great relationship. Once we were in there, explained our situation, mom and dad came down, and his parents are the salt of the earth people, and once they saw what we had to offer, it was a pretty quick turnaround for him.
As far as the specifics, there are a lot of different things that go into it, but I'm just glad he's wearing a Wisconsin uniform, and he is too. He's hopefully going to be a good player, but he'll probably go into the modeling career. He's got the blond, curly, long hair. I know that he's a good kid with a great smile. And you know, the thing I said about him, I really do mean, I don't know how big he's going to get or where it's going to go.
QUESTION #2: Coach, I'm sure you probably get this question every year about recruiting websites and rankings and stars and all that. Do you ever just, out of curiosity, take a look to see where other people have opinions of your class?
BIELEMA: Honest to goodness, today somebody brought it up in the office, and [football operations coordinator] Mark [Taurisani] printed it off for me and showed me the two different rankings. One was 30 and one was 83. I thought that was the greatest way to explain how much validity there is to the ranking system because, if you just think about it, if you were taking a USA Today coaches poll or the BCS rankings, and one team was ranked 30 and one was 83, you'd realize there was something wrong. So we don't personally cater to any recruiting services.
That may be a mistake, it's not in my mind, but I've known recruiting services that have tried to push kids a certain way. I really got upset a couple years ago when I found out one of my players, after the signing date, shared with me some of what the recruiting people had said where he should go rather than Wisconsin. So I've kind of ended all ties. We don't cheat in regards to, certain times information is leaked which they really appreciate [information being leaked]. Well, we don't do that here, and I try to keep all of our information in-house like there is in the beginning of the football season. It's nice to be pre-season ranked, but the ranking that really matters is in the end. My guess is these players are going to try to shoot higher than 83 and definitely higher than 30 when their playing career is done here, so I really don't care.
QUESTION #3: Bret, you mentioned earlier on about the last couple years not getting as many defensive tackles as you'd like. What's been the difference, and particularly with this class, are any of these guys, off the top of your head, might be able to contribute early?
BIELEMA: There is probably, Jeff. I think we made an effort as a staff, first off, in the respects of the recruiting area, but also, Coach [Charlie] Partridge made a valid effort in trying to get as big a pool as we could, and it just was the year of defensive tackles. I don't know of, if in my entire coaching career, even though all of them haven't been here at Wisconsin, I've been in similar places with Iowa, Kansas State, where we've had such a good pool.
But then again for Beau Allen, to have the ties that we do with him, I remember sitting down with his dad in my office the first time as a sophomore, when we offered him a scholarship, and I said, `hey, just remember we're one of the first, because all these other schools, and I started rattling off all these sexy schools, are going to recruit you and offer you scholarships, and to my chagrin they did.' It was kind of a way to set the standard for where we were. Stoney, his uncle, played here, [so we have] all the ties.
That only comes about so many times, to have a legitimate shot at a big-time defensive tackle because of the history here. We needed to capitalize on it. Coach [Bob] Bostad did a tremendous job of cultivating that and getting us to where we are today.
QUESTION #4: Coach, with Marquis [Mason] being kind of raw in football, I think it's only two years at Madison East, how much, upside potential does he really have, especially once you get him into a collegiate program with collegiate coaches like you guys?
BIELEMA: I think that's why we make that offer; you see tremendous amount of ability. Again, to have a guy that close, with that much ability, that's why I made an early statement. I brought him in and talked with Coach [Bob] Bostad, and he got in touch with coaches in the high school program. `Hey, if we make this offer, is it something he'd be willing to pursue?' He kind of lit up that day and he has constantly made strides from that point to get to where he is today. I think once he gives up that orange ball, he might even become better at coming where he is, but he's very good at that, which gives you indication I think he does like contact.
QUESTION #5: Bret, you talked about finding players who were a good fit and that this is a good group that represents that. Could you expand on that a little bit, and how do you think it complements your last two classes too?
BIELEMA: Well our first day back from winter break, I brought all of our team in together on a Tuesday meeting, and then I dismissed the team, everybody except for the seniors. In that front row were the fifth year seniors who had been there for that long, and the numbers had dwindled quite a bit from that original signing class. I don't think I was able to sign a class that we wanted in that year and it was still affected a little bit next year, but these last two classes, in particular this class, I think embody the things that make them good players here at Wisconsin.
Against Miami we maybe didn't have the most talented roster, but we had the most talented team, and I think that's something we really pride our guys on and the flash to the recruiting question about rankings and stuff. A lot of times we get kids that fit our program who don't fit other places, and when we make offers on them, they don't have much out there. They may not, for instance, a young man that doesn't leave the state of Wisconsin and only comes to our camp. He's not ranked highly, but if you throw him in anybody else's backyard, he's probably going to be very highly ranked. So little deciding factors, and then just discussions with Coach [Barry] Alvarez, people that have played here and the people that know that success can come if you get the right kind of players, have been a big, big factor.
And we had a heart-to-heart, our staff, a year ago in January and February, really started to talk about ...Coach [Joe] Rudolph did a great job talking about his time here and the type of player that played. He expressed that to everybody, and I think that culminated with this staff or this signing class.
QUESTION #6: Bret, you mentioned getting back into Jersey and going into D.C. Why those two areas? Is it a one-shot deal or are these areas you're trying to get inroads consistently?
BIELEMA: Two different stories. D.C. area, actually Coach [Kerry] Cooks, who has now left us, came to me, and he had made a connection with a couple coaches in that area, and I saw a national presence from that area. First off, Illinois started getting a lot in there, Michigan State had gone in there. So Coach Cooks had asked me if he could go spend some time in there in the spring and he came back with a bunch of film of great kids with good grades. And one of the things we always kind of stress is to find a Midwest kid in a far away place. So if you're even going to Maryland, you can find a kid with Midwest ties, like Joe McNamara who is from Fort Lauderdale, born and raised, but mom and dad are born and raised in the northwest corner of Iowa, so they're Midwest people.
Robby Havenstein is one of those. He's a Michigan kid that's transplanted one generation. Frank Tamakloe, good grades, his competition, we found ourself battling a lot with Stanford, Northwestern and Boston College, the good academic schools. He was another example of a guy that came out and just fell in love with the atmosphere. I think Coach Cooks had told me at one point, we have over 40,000 alumni within a 100 miles of the D.C. area.
I went out there that last week. Coach Cooks started the recruiting process, Coach [Bob] Bostad and Coach [Dave] Doeren went out and helped with Tamakloe and Robby. But you know, once you become a head coach, they don't think you can go out on the road and recruit by yourself. You always need a person to go with you. I didn't want to waste manpower the last week, so I said, `hey, I'll go out there.' I thought they were like in populated areas. I was in the middle of nowhere. My GPS stopped. I didn't know where I was. There were just trees all around me. I got lost quite a few times. But those kids, I can see where they come from, why they fall in love with Wisconsin, It looked the exact same way.
QUESTION #7: In Jersey?
BIELEMA: In Jersey, [offensive coordinator] Paul [Chryst] did a tremendous job. We kind of dabbled in out there, and nobody has to remind anybody in this room the success that Coach [Barry] Alvarez's staff had, so Coach has been prodding me and we're definitely going to explore that even more now. Paul went out there and found Joey [Brennan], and then as a result kind of also found Sherard [Cadogan], and we continued to hit on that. Then I actually went out and spoke to an All-State clinic out in New Jersey, just trying to get ties in out there, and the reception was just overwhelming. After I hire my new coach here in the coming days, I'm going to restructure some recruiting areas, and that area of the country will definitely be addressed.
QUESTION #8: Bret, to get back to those rankings just a little bit, how do you identify kids and what do you really look for when you're out there?
BIELEMA: I'll be quite honest with you, Tom, kids can come across our desk in three different ways. First off, from prior schools that we've been at, for instance, Cody Byers. We found out about Cody Byers when we were recruiting Chris Borland, and it kind of goes that way. And obviously, coaches that are assigned to certain recruiting areas will bring films in and you have an opportunity to look at them and view them, and we'll have films sent to us, just blind, random films.
Any time we take those in, we don't ever first look up to see where he's ranked. The first thing that I want to know is if they can play football. You have to evaluate the tape, decide whether or not they can play at a Division I level, at our level, and play the kind of football we want. And then, before we make any offer, I want to make sure we've had a transcript analysis and find out exactly what kind of student we're dealing with to make sure, A, that they can come to Wisconsin and, B, that they can have success.
Then I have a standing rule that I always want to meet the players before we offer them. Obviously there's some extreme situations where I can't make that happen, but in the last six-week window, I've been on 53 flights to try to get around the country as much as I can and be in different areas. And the last two weeks have strictly been trying to get to see as many juniors as we can too to see what they look like, what the people say about them, and they have to be a great fit for what we have here.
Knock on wood, I see all these things happen all around the country. We've been fortunate here that we don't have a lot of problems, a lot of issues, because I think we get good kids who buy in to what we're trying to get done here.
QUESTION #9: It seems more and more that summer camps are a critical part of your recruiting strategy. Can you talk about how they fit in?
BIELEMA: Yeah. Especially here in the state, for the most part, I would say any kid that we sign here in the state has been in our camp, and that's the way we get it done. They get a chance and it's a great opportunity for them to find out how we work. Obviously, we get to watch them. It's a little bit of a self-serving purpose, but if you want to come here and play offensive line, you're going to come here and work with Coach [Bob] Bostad for three days, and that's a tremendous help. You get to run around on Camp Randall, you get to be in our facilities, and that's something that they picture themselves doing down the road. It's an area that's continued to grow more and more.
QUESTION #10: Coach, every recruiting story is a little bit different, but you guys have four sets of teammates on this team, and you mentioned Chris [Borland] and Cody [Byers], kind of connection there. When you get one kid committed to you, is it a little bit easier to get another kid or kind of how does that work that you can make that connection?
BIELEMA: Well, you hope it's going to help you, but on the same account, sometimes it can play against you too. I would say when I went into Cody Byers' school, everybody wanted to talk about Chris, and every chance I had, I kept directing the conversation to Cody, because we were there to see Cody. So on the same account, it's a great thing because it brings a reputation to what, and they're our best sellers.
One of the things that we do, I don't know how unique it is, I know one other school I saw it done prior to coming here, but what we'll do is, on recruiting weekend, I'll invite in 10 of our players, and we'll have 12 kids, we'll have their parents, so you're talking 30, 50 people in a room. I'll introduce half a dozen of our players, and then I'll leave, and we call it a player panel. And I'll let those people fire any question at our players that they want to ask, without us in the room. It's not bugged, it's not wired, it's not filmed. We just let our kids talk.
Granted, I pick who's in the room, but, on the same account, the first thing that I'll do on a Sunday morning, if I'm wondering or not whether a kid is a great fit, before I meet with them on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I'll call their host and say, `hey, what was he like last night? When you were at dinner, how did you feel with him? When you were with him in dorm room, how did he handle the atmosphere of Madison?' I want to know the whole package. I want to know what makes this young man tick a certain way, and they have to be a great fit. It's plain and simple.
QUESTION #11: Coach, can you address just kind of the past few days and the leading hours up to today, I mean, just two examples that come to mind are Kyle Costigan and Marcus Trotter seem to have been just shorn up, you know, within the past day. Just talk about the whirlwind that's just happened.
BIELEMA: Well, first off, we were kind of pretty much done shortly after the bowl game. James White and Sherard Cadogan, when they jumped in, we wanted one more running back, and James has been on the top of our list for a long time. So to get James to jump in was huge, and then Sherard, because of everything he brings to the table was a big hit for us. Then, all of a sudden, we had Eric Smith and Leonard Hubbard decide that they want to transfer out. That gave me two more opportunities to extend scholarships and allowed us to search around a little bit more.
Isaiah Williams, who I didn't know if we were legit on for a while, Coach [Charlie] Partridge kept working him and working him and working him and eventually he said he wanted to come on a visit. Now, all the sudden, we got three opportunities to get guys on campus and give scholarships to. Fortunately for us, it worked out for the most part. Kyle Costigan was coming, and because I didn't have any more scholarships at the line position, he was a guy that we were going to bring in the following, in January, and then some other schools tried to get him to sign today. He just kept staying true because he wanted to be at Wisconsin. And then when I finally had the opportunity to give him a scholarship, I called and shared the news with him, and it went over really big.
Marcus is a great player who came to our camp. We had already signed four linebackers, and so he's a guy that I didn't have a linebacker scholarship for. We're already oversigned by one. I've had a lot of conversations with him. Marcus had some different options, but I think it was important for him to come, and overall he wanted to play with his brother, and he loves Wisconsin, and I wanted to make that dream come true, so he's going to come here and has an opportunity to get on the field and play, hopefully earlier than I thought.
QUESTION #12: Bret, what do you guys see in McNamara who, a guy you said has only played only offense to say, okay, let's put him on defense and that's where . . .
BIELEMA: I'll share this, and I mean this wholeheartedly, he's kind of an exception. I know the high school coach and I know the type of offense he runs. I've known him for probably 15 years now, and actually I gave him a little bit of heat because he never let me sign one of his players when I was an assistant coach, but now Coach [Charlie] Partridge has done a great job, and we got him. And the thing that was different about Joe is, in Florida, they play spring football.
So Coach Partridge called me from the practice and said, `hey, coach, I know I don't have film to back this up, but recruiting is getting going on this young man. He's got great grades. He's an exceptional student, originally committed to Stanford, and things started moving quick, and he goes, Coach, I'm telling you, he can play defensive tackle.' And that's my defensive line coach, who I think the world of, has done a terrific, great job of, since he's been here at Wisconsin, finding the right kind of kids. [Partridge] is from South Florida. Charlie is from Plantation, so he knows that area, he knows the type of player that's going to fit in here. So all these kids that we're getting from down there, I think, are great fits for where we are.
And Joe, I hadn't had an opportunity to meet him until two weeks ago. I talked to him, heard him on the phone, and things began to fall apart with his other commitment. Charlie just felt really strong about what he saw right there in front of him. The coaches even said, if it were any other school, he'd play defense, but coach just believes in playing the best players on offense, so a little bit different story.
QUESTION #13: Coach, similar to that last question, how hard do you find it to convince a guy who played offense his whole career to come and play defense for you at college?
BIELEMA: It's got to be the right mentality. I wouldn't do it if I don't think the guy would fit. I think defensive players are a little bit off the wall. You have to be a little bit different, you have to think a little different. You have to enjoy hitting people. You have to enjoy, not that offensive players don't, but I think defense has a different mentality. And Joe, with his wrestling background, he's just a very serious young man. When he shook my hand and told me he wanted to come, he said, `Coach, I want to thank you for showing me what a true college experience could be. I want to be a part of this.' It just tells me he thinks the right way. And mom and dad, after being at home, knew he was going to be a good fit.
QUESTION #14: Could you touch on James White and getting another player from St. Thomas down there in Florida?
BIELEMA: Yeah. James, neat story too. I'm not saying it's a perfect formula, but we have so many of these kids are from two-parent homes and come from great environments. James' dad is a Broward County police officer and just very serious. Mom and him, when they came on their first visit, they had, I had never seen this before, they sent me 20 questions ahead of coming on the visit. They wanted answers to these 20 questions, and I thought it was awesome. They weren't exactly easy questions either. I thought this kid was going to come our way for the last, for three weeks before he said yes, but he wanted to go through the process and hear everything. He visited a lot of great places. He's extremely talented and has a great mind.
We always give the dad a little heat because when coach and I went in there, coach had told me before that they play in this thing called the Pig Bowl. The police officers get together and play against each other. Well, he had it keyed up on his television where [White's father] had returned a touchdown in the Pig Bowl a few years ago, and he had it all keyed up and was very excited about his football playing experience, and now he's kind of living it through his son. I think he actually came over to the Champs Sports Bowl and watched us play and had an opportunity to see that thing firsthand. I can't tell you that beating Miami in his home state wasn't a big factor in why he came.
QUESTION #15: Coach, a lot of times, you know, you hear everyone's excited about the Florida guys because they got great speed. It seems to be a state that everyone is excited about. Where does Wisconsin stack up in terms of, obviously you guys get a lot of your guys from this state, where do they stack up in terms of, you know, other states and talent?
BIELEMA: I do get that question a lot. The Wisconsin kids, during Coach [Barry] Alvarez's time, I've talked about the study that I did, they've always been our most productive players because they've grown up hearing about Wisconsin. Fortunately, for my players, they grew up hearing about Wisconsin being good. When Coach Alvarez first started, Wisconsin wasn't good and, I just read an article a couple days ago that went back and talked to Coach [Dan] McCarney and all the coaches that first started going on the road with Coach Alvarez, and that wasn't the case. And because of what [Alvarez] did here, it changed the culture, and now these kids want to be a part of it.
It's great for me to go into a home and see the emotion of a mother and father. I won't say specifically, but there was one where we were bringing a young man, and when I was leaving, I saw the dad thank me, and he got welled up and he quick turned and went the other way, because he didn't want to have his daughter see him cry, because I know how much it meant. When something means that much to you, a lot of times you're not going to be denied.
So I think, yes, kids come from outstate and come in here and contribute. People always like the Florida guys, they have the dreads, they think that's neat or whatever. They come with a little bit of flair to them, but our kids just show up and go to work. With our Wisconsin kids, just look at last year's team. Chris Maragos might have been one of the biggest factors in our success and he's a walk-on Wisconsin kid. J.J. Watt right now epitomizes everything that we want to be, so those kinds of things add up. And the out of state kids are attracted to that.
QUESTION #16: Bret, going back to recruiting areas, where does Texas fit into your plans?
BIELEMA: Well, since Coach [Kerry] Cooks left, we never went back to the state, except for I guess we did one time when, Coach [Dave] Doeren, there was a defensive back we were live on. That's something that, going into this, I definitely was excited about. Devin Smith has done a good job for us, and there are a number of players that we have on our roster, but after being here for, again, going into my fifth signing class, I'm really going to try to evaluate where our players have come from and what kind of success we've had. I think Dallas and the area that we've hit traditionally warrants merit and stopping at. I don't know if it deserves as much time as we've had in the past.
QUESTION #17: You talked about the decommits, sometimes it's one Big Ten school to another. What does that do for the relations within the conference, because it seems it's more and more frequent?
BIELEMA: It's happened every year since I've been here. I learned this firsthand when I went from Iowa to Kansas State. I left, and I remember they threw me a great going away party and everybody's hugging and everybody's patting you on the back, and then the first recruiting war I lost like five friendships, including [Iowa head coach] Kirk [Ferentz] for a period of time. You lose more friendships in recruiting than you do any game day, just because it's personal. You're taking pride in what you do and how you do it.
We don't negative recruit. I tell my coaches all the time, grandma taught me a great saying, `if you always tell the truth, you don't have to remember what you said.' I don't want someone coming to me and saying I said this or did this, just be honest and open where you're going. It happens between schools. I understand when schools try to recruit our guys. If a young man says he's interested in us, I don't care where he's committed to. If he's interested in coming our way, and we haven't signed a letter of intent, to me there's no reason not to pursue that. In some people's eye, right, wrong, or indifferent, it happens everywhere in college football.
If I feel a kid's a great fit for what Wisconsin brings, and he has interest, we'll go out. By the same account, if a kid tells me he's not interested in our place, it's, `hey, thank you, goodbye.' I'm not going to sit there and badger him about what opportunities we have here.
QUESTION #18: Little off topic a little bit. You mentioned on the radio broadcast at halftime last night, I think Jake Bscherer, that he's considering transferring, but you're trying to keep him here. Where does that stand?
BIELEMA: Jake has kind of made a decision that he wants to [transfer], I just wanted him to have all the information. For a player to have one year of eligibility and transfer out, there's some significant NCAA rules that have changed over the last three years. I just wanted to make sure he and his family were straight on that decision. He's told me that he's interested, and I've had a sit-down conversation with him. I think he's kind of gone to the conclusion that that's what he wants to do. We'll do everything. We were giving him all the academic support and everything he needs to do to make that happen, but he won't participate in spring drills or anything.