The Wisconsin Badger football team has a recruiting class ranked No. 33 on scout.com. With 13 recruits from the state of Wisconsin high school system, a few local area players have been signed today. Let’s break down a few recruit’s strengths and weaknesses and how they fit Bret Bielema’s system.
Jake Irwin, DE, Waunakee, 6’5”, 255 lbs
National position ranking: 104
Irwin was a part of the 2009 WIAA Division II state champion Warriors, which finished 14-0. In the championship game, he had five tackles -- including a forced fumble, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and a sack. He also caused a loss of 18 yards with three tackles. The reason he succeeded in Waunakee was due to three key attributes. One, he disengaged from the offensive lineman with great agility and awareness. In the championship game, he had success with making the big play by reading the quarterback and making the necessary adjustments to his assignment. Two, he came into his senior season after a heartbreaking upset loss to Hamilton in the previous year’s playoffs. He wanted to make it to state in his last year. The proclivity to do so gave him the motivation to work harder and play every play the best he could.
Kimberly came into the game two-time defending champion, but it didn’t scare Irwin from performing to the best of his abilities (and that mentality brings up his third attribute). Three, he has the strength, both mentally and physically, to succeed at the college level. He has the mindset to take the defense first and run second system at Wisconsin and thrive. However, he does need work. One weakness is the lack of speed. In the next level, the sacks and tackles for a loss won’t be so easy to come by. He will need to not only disengage and read the play, but he will need to beat an offensive lineman on the outside or be quicker up the middle to stuff the run.
With a little work, he could fit well as a defensive tackle in Bielema’s system and be a decent replacement at defensive end if needed. The atmosphere and pressure of Big Ten football won’t be a problem, and Irwin will be a big game player from his resume. Remember, he played at Camp Randall in the championship. He knows the field, and he grew up knowing the Badgers. He already has a head start at doing what he needs to do. It will be up to him to turn his weaknesses into strengths.
Marquis Mason, WR, Madison East, 6’5”, 215 lbs
National position ranking: 71
Mason was top performer on a team that finished 2-7 in a tough Big Eight conference. He had 13 touchdowns and led the team in receiving yards four out of the five games. However, the stats do not tell the whole story. Of his 13 touchdowns, only four were for over 25 yards. He can have the big play, but most of his end zone catches were nine yards or less. With his big size, he shows he can make tough catches in traffic and be strong enough to get the short yards needed for first downs and scores. It is this reason why he is going to succeed for the Badgers. He is strong and plays more like a tight end, a need for Wisconsin due to the losses of Garrett Graham and Mickey Turner.
Mason blocks well and he has the upper body control to make the tough catches. However, given his duties in high school, he hasn’t learned to run routes as well as other wide receivers. Therefore, the big play ability is going to be based on his development. If he can study and stick to the called routes, he can be a double threat of making the short catches and still being able to go out in the slot. Otherwise, the Badgers have to keep him near the line, and the defenses will be able to shut him down with plays designed to stop the short pass.
Mason can make it in Bielema’s system if he works hard and develop new aspects to his game. In a few years, he may be the next big playmaker on the team.
These players may have an impact soon, but I believe it will be a few years before we see the full potential of both athletes. Once again, the Badgers have accomplished what it set out to do: fill their needs with players ready to take on their system.
If anyone else has comments on these players or any other player in the Wisconsin recruiting class, please comment. We love to hear from you. Plus, there were many players who were signed by other colleges who have a chance to succeed. Tell me what you think.