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February 7, 2012

Grading the 2012 class

Wisconsin didn't have many scholarships to play with in the 2012 class and lost six assistant coaches in the month of January. Still, head coach Bret Bielema was able to ink a number of prospects who should help the program moving forward.

Below, we take a look at the Badgers' 2012 and grade how they did at each position.

Quarterbacks

Wisconsin landed arguably its top target at the quarterback in three-star Bart Houston. The 6-foot-4, 201 pounder will have high expectations when he arrives on campus this summer.

"To put things into perspective, Bart has been a three-year starter at De La Salle (CA) where he lost one game in three years as a starter," Bielema said on Signing Day. "If he carries that forward here we're going to be in good shape. He's a very, very accurate passer. He comes from a traditional team that really runs the football.

"He really exploded once he went to some camps that allowed him to show his ability to throw the football. He has the ability to get the ball down the field with some accuracy."

Grade: A

Running Backs

Vonte Jackson's season-ending knee injury this fall is still fresh in the minds of many Badger fans. It's important to remember, however, that the in-state standout received one of the first offers Wisconsin extended in the 2012 class after his summer camp performance in 2010.

"He's from a great program," Bielema said. "He unfortunately tore his knee up, an ACL, during the first game of his senior year. He has the ability to break some tackles and make some people miss. He's very, very fast. He's a guy we were impressed with in camp going back two years ago. Obviously with Melvin Gordon here we went to a few of his games.

"We saw Vonte during his junior year. He's exceptional. He's a great character and a great kid. He comes from a great family. I really think he's going to be another addition in the long history of our great running backs here at Wisconsin. He never gives up. He's a tremendous competitor."

Grade: A-

Wide Receivers:

There's no doubt Amara Darboh was the top target on UW's board at wide receiver. But with all signs pointing to Michigan, the Badgers made an offer to Reggie Love and received a quick verbal.

A bit raw at this point, Love has a huge upside that intrigued Wisconsin.

"Reggie is actually a guy that has only played football for a year and a half," Bielema said. "He's 6-foot-3 and all of 200 pounds. He's a big wide receiver who took up the game just recently. He has great ball skills and is a tremendous athlete. He runs really well. He's a really aggressive kid. He's not someone you naturally think of as a basketball player.

"He shows a little bit of a burst and his ability to get away from people. He'll go up and get the ball at its highest point and then he takes off with it. Those aren't slow guys he's running away from down there in Florida."

Grade: C+

Tight Ends

With limited numbers and three freshmen tight ends already on campus - four counting grayshirt Eric Steffes - UW elected not to sign a tight end in the 2012 class.

UW did add two preferred walk-ons in Matt Prell and Alex Walker.

"He's a tight end out of Kenosha Bradford," Bielema said of Prell. "Again, 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, that we think with our developmental program will be able to grow."

"He's a kid out of Nicolet," Bielema said of Walker. "I think he'll fit in to that program and the way we do things."

Grade: Incomplete

Offensive Line

It's tough to think what could have been on the offensive line. Dan Voltz, one of the top prospects in the country at his position, was the first verbal UW received in the 2012 class. Walker Williams committed in the fall, another huge get for the Badger staff.

Decommitments from four-star prospects J.J. Denman (Rutgers) and Kyle Dodson (Ohio State), however, were big blows late in the process. Wisconsin did well to snag three-star Jake Meador on Singing Day, though it's clear the staff wanted to take four scholarship linemen in this class.

"The thing I love about Dan is he plays the game the way we love to play it," Bielema said of Voltz. "He's very aggressive. He gets on people and he tries to finish you to the ground. If not, he does so a long way away from the play. I think the tradition our offensive line has really drew Dan here.

"Before Dan had got on campus I hadn't even hired an offensive line coach yet. I think that shows the trust and the faith that he had in what we're doing and what we're going to continue to do. I've been very pleased."

Grade: C+

Defensive Line:

Arthur Goldberg was a solid get for UW out of Pittsburgh who performed well at UW's summer camp.

"Coach Charlie Partridge worked with him and had an opportunity to be hands on with him," Bielema said of Goldberg. "He loved the campus and loved everything about it. He joined us shortly thereafter when we offered and has been a great commit to us. He gets off and does a nice job running to the football. He likes contact and comes down the line of scrimmage. He gets after people a little bit. You can see with his hands that he's got good hands and good movement. He's a go to work guy."

Striking out on the talent in Illinois at the defensive line position - Vincent Valentine, Faith Ekakitie, Jaleel Johnson and Tommy Schutt - was troubling, though. All four were recruited by UW but ended up at different schools.

Preferred walk-on Trent Denlinger is expected to work at defensive end when he arrives on campus this summer.

"He's a defensive end out of Cuba City that we've had in camp the last couple of years," Bielema said. "We only took one scholarship defensive lineman so it was important for us to fill that roster with some quality walk-ons."

Grade: C+

Linebackers

With a good deal of depth at linebacker, the Badgers signed just one in 2012. They got a good one in All-American Vince Biegel, who could very well prove to be the top prospect in this class.

"He's an in-state product," Bielema said of Biegel. "His dad, Rocky, was a great player at BYU. Vince comes to us from Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids. He's got great instincts and an ability to flow to the ball. He has a little bit of aggression when he gets there. He's a big, rangy kid that can probably play both inside and outside.

"He just moves really well and has a high motor. He's a great kid that has come to our camp. I actually offered him last year after his junior year in our high school camp having gotten awfully excited about him. He's a guy we're very, very impressed with and we can't wait for him.

Grade: A

Defensive Backs

The addition of D.J. Singleton was huge for UW in this class. His verbal came after Wisconsin landed Reggie Mitchell and Hugs Etienne during the summer.

All three were very high on UW's recruiting board.

"Coach Thomas Hammock did a nice job with D.J.," Bielema said of Singleton. "He comes up and he's very aggressive. He's a guy that likes to fill the alley and bring the contact. He has the ability to run and eye the football while making a good, solid fundamental tackle. He's a guy we're very impressed with. His athleticism and ability to run made him a highly recruited kid."

In-state standout Leo Musso is also expected to get a crack at the secondary.

"I'm thinking there might be the possibility that he plays the safety position, but he's also done a really good job at running back," Bielema said of Musso. "I'm really, really happy to have him in our program. He shows his athletic ability and burst. He's one of Waunakee's most physical kids and a guy we're excited to get in."

Grade: B+

Specialists:

Bielema made it very clear preferred walk-on Jack Russell has a chance to compete for the starting job at kicker this fall.

"He will come in and be our kicker from Waunakee," Bielema said of Russell. "Jack has done a tremendous job. He's only been kicking for the past couple of years so he's at the relatively early stages of his football career. We're really excited to have him with us."

Getting Russell to turn down full scholarship opportunities at other schools was an impressive feat for the Badger staff.

Grade: B


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