During one of the University of Wisconsin football team's spring practices last month, tight ends coach Joe Rudolph kept working while the players took a 5-minute water break.

Rudolph hustled over to the sidelines, where he mingled with some high school prospects and their parents who were on campus for unofficial visits.

When the 300 seconds had elapsed - and Rudolph didn't waste a single one of them - he went right back to coaching, a seamless transition from the potential future Badgers to the present ones.

A trademark of any successful recruiter is good time management, and this was a perfect example of it. Efficiency has become even more important for Rudolph since he was promoted to recruiting coordinator by UW coach Bret Bielema after Randall McCray left UW in February to become the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State.

The choice of Rudolph was a no-brainer for Bielema. Not only is Rudolph a former UW athlete with a strong connection to the program, he's been a star recruiter since he joined Bielema's staff following the 2007 season.

When Bielema went down his checklist of what he wanted in a recruiting coordinator, it didn't take long to decide Rudolph was the right man for the job.

"The recruiting coordinator needs to have, first off, a good big-picture view," Bielema said. "I think for us at Wisconsin, there's nobody better on our staff than Joe. He's a guy that I've been impressed with every day since I've been around him.

"... Obviously, you've got to have a great personality. But (simply) being able to follow through and do things (is important). A lot of people talk about what they're going to do and never do it - Joe Rudolph does it every day. It's just amazing to me how much of an effect he's had on us in recruiting, and I want that to carry over to all of us."

One of Rudolph's greatest strengths as a recruiter is his attention to detail, according to Bielema. He's also shown a knack for finding hidden gems; one of the eight players UW has landed during the past two recruiting cycles from the state of Ohio - Rudolph's primary recruiting territory - is Chris Borland, a lightly recruited linebacker who was the Big Ten Conference's Freshman of the Year last season.

Like Bielema, Rudolph is a strong believer in the importance of UW's summer camps, which allow the coaching staff to get prospects on campus and evaluate them in person. Borland camped in Madison in the summer of 2008, blew the coaches away with his athletic ability and passion for football, and ended up earning a scholarship offer.

"The fact you get to know someone and you're face to face and you're getting to know them and you see their level of competitiveness and you see what type of kid they are, you see how they react when things get hard," Rudolph said. "I think that's invaluable, I think it really elevates someone when you have a chance to work with them one on one."

UW's 2011 recruiting class is in its infant stages, though it got off to a strong start when Jake Keefer, a linebacker from Baldwin-Woodville High School and one of the program's top in-state priorities, verbally committed last month.

Rudolph estimates each UW assistant coach watches a couple hundred films of prospects from their recruiting areas during a cycle. There may be 25 to 30 of those players per assistant that UW has interest in and evaluates during the spring recruiting period - 15 which fit the program's academic profile, and five to 10 who have a mutual interest.

If UW can convince prospects in that latter category to take an official or unofficial campus visit, that's where Rudolph believes he can make his biggest impact as the recruiting coordinator.

"They don't really become real until they're here on campus," said Rudolph, who was a member of Barry Alvarez's first recruiting class in 1990 and went on to become a two-time, first-team All-Big Ten offensive guard. "So if someone is coming on campus, you want to make sure they have a great visit.

"I get excited when you bring in someone who you feel would be a great fit in your program. You're like, ‘Boy, this guy can really help us. And he'd really fit well with our players. It seems like this kid would have a great future with us.' I do like that."

Next February, when UW will officially unveil its 2011 class, seems like a long ways away. But Rudolph knows the time will fly.

"It's happening faster and faster than it ever has," he said. "But at the same time, we know who we are and coach (Bielema) is always stressing that we give the guys in this state a chance to come in here and compete. I love that. Because those guys make up the heart and soul of this program."

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