Badgers football: Coach says UW is 'perfect fit' for tight end recruit Kyle Penniston

2014-02-19T09:00:00Z Badgers football: Coach says UW is 'perfect fit' for tight end recruit Kyle PennistonTOM MULHERN | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

It didn't take the University of Wisconsin football coaches long to make the decision to offer a scholarship to tight end Kyle Penniston, from Santa Ana, Calif., and Mater Dei High School.

Penniston was going into his junior year of high school last summer when he attended one of the Badgers' three-day summer camps.

"I thought it was interesting," Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said in a phone interview on Tuesday, after Penniston said he will sign with the Badgers Monday night.

"They called me right off of the field (during camp) and said, 'We're going to offer this kid.'

"I said, 'That's great news, but I didn't know Wisconsin offered 10th-to-be-11th-graders.' There was a long pause. I knew they probably didn't realize that, in all of my years as a head coach, Wisconsin had never offered a kid that early, that I was aware of -- especially a California kid."

The Badgers had recently been pushing up the recruiting process, in part to keep up with everyone else. Guard George Panos was the first player to commit to the 2014 class as a sophomore in April of 2012.

But he was an in-state recruit from Hartland Arrowhead. The Badgers have traditionally gone after the top in-state players first.

The first five commits in the recently signed class were all state players, although defensive tackle Craig Evans wound up decommiting and signed with Michigan State.

In the case of Penniston, it was easy because UW was always where he really wanted to go.

Although Rollinson said he rarely talks about recruiting with his players, when it came up with Penniston, the conversation kept going back to UW.

"It's the perfect fit," Rollinson said. "When a kid knows in his heart, whether it's the Badgers or the Trojans or the Irish, what a great scenario — if that's the school he wants to go to.

"You don't have to do all of the hoopla, putting on hats and all of that other stuff that's ruining high school football."

Penniston has relatives in Grafton and Port Washington. His connections to the Midwest go back to his dad, who is from Minnesota.

UW beat out some top-tier programs, with Penniston having offers from Florida State, Miami (Fla.) and Washington State, as well as interest from Northwestern, Ohio State, UCLA, Southern Cal and others.

"It all started with that camp," Rollinson said. "He just got a good feeling from the staff, from the facilities.

"Wisconsin is a true college environment. Not that Florida State is not ... it's just a good fit for this kid. He's not a flash guy ... he's a blue-collar type of player — but he makes plays."

Penniston is a matchup nightmare at the high school level. He's close to 6-foot-5 and weighs about 240 pounds but runs well for his size, according to his coach.

"He's a hybrid player," Rollinson said. "He has that rare ability at his size ... he can put his hand down and take care of business as a true tight end — because I legitimately believe he's going to get a lot bigger.

"And then he's got the speed and the athleticism to kick out (and) motion. What we love about Kyle is he understands offense. He understands coverages. He has the ability to ... read it on the run and make the route adjustments. And then he's got great hands.

"You've got a combination of an excellent blocker, but a kid that can move around. We played him at wide receiver at times last year."

Penniston lined up in a variety of spots last year and is expected to do even more of that in the fall as a senior, including lining up at fullback. He also plays rush end in passing situations.

"As a coach you've got to utilize his talent both as a lead blocker, whether it's from the tight end position or motioning him, or kicking him back to fullback," Rollinson said. "But you've also got to get the ball in his hands, because he can produce."

Penniston is in the ESPN Top 300 at No. 228 and is ranked as the No. 7 tight end prospect nationally by ESPN and Rivals.

He is the second commitment for UW's 2015 recruiting class and both players are from a long way away. Quarterback Austin Kafentzis, from Sandy, Utah, committed last June.

Mater Dei is a storied program that has produced two Heisman Trophy winners at quarterback in John Huarte and Matt Leinart, as well as other standout signal-callers such as Colt Brennan.

Coming from such an established program should help Penniston if he is asked to play early, since UW did not sign a tight end in the 2014 class.

"I've been told by a multitude of college coaches, that they love the fact this (program) is technique savvy," Rollinson said. "Whether it's the quarterback position we've had such great success at, or wide receivers, they told us the kids we send out of here are very technically sound.

"We spend a lot of time on video. We spend a lot of time teaching the concepts and coverages and things like that. All of that has boded well for kids that have gone on to that next level throughout the course of our coaching here."

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(4) Comments

  1. ddiver54
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    ddiver54 - February 19, 2014 8:09 am
    Nice touch madtown. WTH?
  2. waubesa
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    waubesa - February 18, 2014 7:45 pm
    This is one of the top high school programs in the nation. The only other Mater Dei player Wisconsin has had was Joey Boese, who did just fine in Madison. Bruce Rollinson has turned out great teams for many years, and while I'm not his biggest fan by any means, he and his assistants teach their kids right, and you can almost bet that this is a high character kid, or he wouldn't be playing at Mater Dei.

    By the way, the Mater Dei basketball team is ranked #1 in the nation as we speak.
  3. pjh16
    Report Abuse
    pjh16 - February 18, 2014 6:24 pm
    And who would that be???
  4. madtownbarry
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    madtownbarry - February 18, 2014 4:24 pm
    Let's just hope he doesn't end up in a Jacuzzi with a bunch of our lovely coeds and see his career go down hill like his other high school phenom. Then again maybe that would be a great night in Madison to tell friends and family about for years to come..Dam, it must be great to be young still.

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