UW football: Reloading offensive line was priority No. 1 in 'insane' recruiting period

2012-02-02T07:30:00Z 2012-03-27T19:40:14Z UW football: Reloading offensive line was priority No. 1 in 'insane' recruiting periodTOM MULHERN | Wisconsin State Journal | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 | Twitter: @TomMulhernWSJ madison.com

University of Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema and his three holdover assistant coaches weren't the only ones working overtime to hold this year's recruiting class together during a month Bielema called "insane."

Guard Dan Voltz, from Barrington, Ill., was one of the Badgers' first oral commitments and he started working the phones, calling the other players in the class, following the departure of six UW assistant coaches.

"When I committed, I committed to the university, not necessarily to the coaching staff," Voltz said. "I told a lot of guys why I committed.

"I think that had a lot of influence on a lot of guys. Obviously, everyone makes their own decisions and we lost some guys, but we have a great recruiting class still and things are still looking great for Wisconsin."

Voltz was one of 12 scholarship players who signed with the Badgers on Wednesday, along with seven preferred walk-ons.

Replenishing the offensive line was the No. 1 priority in this small class, about half of the size of most years. That was also the position with the most turmoil in recruiting, following the departure of line coach Bob Bostad, who was named the offensive coordinator and line coach at Pittsburgh.

At one time, UW had three commitments from offensive linemen who were ranked with four stars out of five by both Rivals and Scout. But Voltz was the only one who signed.

J.J. Denman, from Fairless Hills, Pa., signed with Rutgers, announcing his change of heart after Bostad left. Kyle Dodson, from Cleveland, opted for Ohio State, announcing his decision on signing day.

But Voltz remains as steadfast as ever about his reasons for choosing UW. One of the major reasons he picked the school was its history of preparing offensive linemen for the NFL.

"I get goose bumps thinking about it," said Voltz, one of three recruits who are already enrolled and taking classes, along with cornerback Hugs Etienne and running back Vonte Jackson. "I couldn't be more excited to be an offensive lineman here. I don't think there's a better school in the country."

Voltz doesn't believe that will change with the transition to new offensive line coach Mike Markuson, who spent the previous 14 years working for Houston Nutt at Arkansas and Mississippi.

While Voltz never wavered in his commitment, he did admit to some anxiety until Markuson was named the coach.

"Obviously, I was disappointed when coach Bostad left," Voltz said. "I had a lot of respect for him. But I embraced the transition. I had a little meeting with coach Markuson and got to know his philosophy a little bit, just get to know him as a person. I couldn't be more excited to play for him."

Bielema didn't waste any time putting Markuson to work on the recruiting trail. After the hiring was official, Markuson flew into Madison, spent about an hour at the football offices filling out paperwork, then took another flight out to start recruiting.

It quickly paid off with the addition of Jake Meador, an offensive lineman from Whiteland, Ind., who visited last weekend and was the last commitment in the class. Markuson recruited Meador at Mississippi and initially got him to commit there until Nutt's staff was fired.

"It was amazing," Markuson said. "I'm home, fired in Oxford, Mississippi, sitting with my wife drinking coffee and (Meador) was calling me. ... I was unemployed so I could talk to him as much as I wanted. ... Just unbelievable how it worked out."

The other offensive lineman in the class is Walker Williams, from Tacoma, Wash., who also stayed strong in his commitment.

"What a gregarious personality," Markuson said. "He's going to light up Madison."

Despite all of the turmoil in the past month, Markuson was able to assure recruits the future is as bright as ever. Markuson regards UW as one of the best offensive line jobs in college football. He also turned down an opportunity to be an assistant offensive line coach for an NFL team, after accepting Bielema's offer.

"It's important for us to establish some roots," Markuson said of his family. "I'm not a big move guy. I had some real stability with coach Nutt. ... I'm not one of those guys that's going to move around. I like to get my feet planted.

"Obviously, coach B has given me a great opportunity to do that here."

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