UW football: Bielema working to keep recruiting class together

2012-01-17T11:05:00Z 2012-04-18T10:48:29Z UW football: Bielema working to keep recruiting class togetherTom Mulhern | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 | madison.com

University of Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema has been on the road, calming the fears of recruits, following the departure of five assistant coaches from the program.

"The good thing is ... because it's a small recruiting class, it's been easier to manage," Bielema said in an interview this week.

The Badgers have 12 known oral commitments. Two of them appear to be wavering.

Kyle Dodson, a four-star offensive tackle from Cleveland Heights (Ohio) High School, has been targeted by new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. But that goes back to before the UW assistant coaches left.

Dodson committed to UW last summer, but took official visits in December to Auburn and Ohio State. He was expected to visit Southern California last weekend.

J.J. Denman, a four-star offensive tackle from Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, Pa., was recruited by running backs coach Thomas Hammock, the only full-time Badgers offensive assistant from last season still on the staff.

But Denman developed a good relationship with former offensive line coach Bob Bostad, who went to Pittsburgh. Denman was scheduled to visit Pitt last weekend.

Despite those two situations, when Bielema was asked about the reaction on the recruiting trail, to the departure of the coaches, he said, "unwavering."

"Every year, it kind of reinforces what you're saying and what you're doing," Bielema said of the team's approach to recruiting. "What I think has come out of this, is the kids are picking Wisconsin for what Wisconsin is.

"Obviously, we've got good coaches and we know what we're doing, we're moving forward. (Recruits) are really strong. In a lot of the homes, they're like, 'Coach, we picked Wisconsin for reasons beyond the staff.' "

Signing day is Feb. 1, so Bielema has two more weeks to hold things together, while also filling the four remaining vacancies on his staff. But the Badgers are not the only school dealing with staff turnover.

"A lot of times, not only our staff but other schools have a lot of transition," Bielema said. "(Recruits) realize, it's just kind of the way of the world."

You can bet, one of the themes of UW's signing day will be how recruits sign with universities, not coaches. Bielema said that's ideally how things should work.

Bielema was asked about the widespread panic among some fans over the coaches' departure and the potential impact on recruiting.

"I definitely haven't hit the panic button," Bielema said. "I think if I hit one, other people would."

"I've enjoyed it," he said of the hiring process.

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