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February 23, 2013Follow @JohnVeldhuis
Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said in his introductory press conference he wouldn't be afraid to recruit anywhere in the country. And with just over two months under his belt in Madison, it appears he meant it.
Under Bret Bielema, the Badgers tended to focus on holding on to Wisconsin prospects and recruiting in the Midwest. In fact, 75 percent of the players on their 2013 spring roster are from the Midwest, including 46 players from Wisconsin. The Badgers also recruited Florida heavily, and have 12 players from the Sunshine State on their roster.
But while Andersen said his biggest priority is to hold on to in-state talent, he and his staff are also extending their reach into other parts of the country.
Georgia has seen the biggest difference so far. The Badgers extended just five scholarship offers to Peach State players during the 2013 recruiting cycle, but weren't serious players in what is traditionally SEC recruiting territory. But Ben Strickland was in just his first year as a full-time assistant coach last season, and had just recently started recruiting in the Atlanta area.
Though the 2014 recruiting cycle has been in full swing for less than a month, it looks like the Badgers will try and dip a little more into Georgia. Andersen and his staff have already offered scholarships to three Georgia prospects in offensive lineman Orlando Brown, linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams, and defensive end Andrew Williams.
They'll have their work cut out for them will all three prospects. Williams and Allen-Williams were ranked Nos. 85 and 247, respectively, in Rivals.com's 2014 Top 250, and all three players hold dozens of scholarship offers.
And while there's heavy competition for the state's best players, the Badgers could also make a living recruiting on the margins. Top SEC teams and other national powers usually recruit in Georgia, which has 21 players on this year's Top 250 list from Rivals. But Georgia has plenty of high school football talent, and it looks like the Badgers are also beginning to introduce themselves to other football players around the state.
Athlete Terry Googer, tight end Chris Laye, and running backs Nick Chubb and Treyvon Paulk have all been in touch with the Badgers in some form or another. Googer and Laye have been getting recruiting mailings from the Badgers recently, and Chubb and Paulk have both been in touch personally with Wisconsin running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Thomas Hammock.
And even though it's still early, making good first impressions in Georgia will be crucial for the Badgers. They don't have any current Georgia-born players to point to in their recruiting pitches, so personal relationships between the coaches and players will play a large roll in whether they can convince any Georgia natives to sign with them next year.
It's a tougher assignment than the Badgers might be dealing with in the Midwest, but it seems like a fight Andersen and his coaches are comfortable with moving forward.
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