MILWAUKEE — Paul Chryst wisely kept close tabs on recruits in his home state of Wisconsin while he was at Pittsburgh.
Now that he is coaching the Badgers, Chryst seems to be sliding comfortably back on to the recruiting trail back home with national signing day approaching.
“Certainly in Wisconsin, it’s a pride state,” said Gary Westerman, coach at Bay Port High School in Green Bay.
“One thing in talking with coach Chryst, he said, ‘People in Wisconsin want to win football games, but they also want to know the name on the back of the jersey, too.’ “
Not that Chryst and his staff aren’t looking beyond the Midwest for talent. That’s a must in a Big Ten Conference featuring national champion Ohio State and a Michigan program with new coach Jim Harbaugh.
“It’s important to me to recruit players and keep the players at home,” Chryst said in a phone interview during a recruiting trip. “And then certainly you supplement … the state of Wisconsin has never and won’t provide you all of your roster. You’ll go to different areas in getting kids.”
— Gary Westerman, Bay Port High School coach
Chryst’s predecessor, Gary Andersen, also spoke of recruiting nationally while working hard to keep in-state players. He appeared to have good recruiting connections in the West after coaching at Utah State.
But Andersen surprised Wisconsin in early December when he left after two seasons to take the same job at Oregon State.
For whatever reason, Andersen didn’t seem to have quite the same connection to Wisconsin high school coaches as Chryst. Born in Madison, Chryst played at Wisconsin. He was offensive coordinator with the Badgers under Bret Bielema before taking the Pitt head coaching job in 2012.
“Certainly, Paul gets it,” Westerman said. “When he was at Pitt and the job opened, I sent him a text saying, ‘Coach, the guys in this state would love to have you back.’ “
To Westerman, Andersen’s approach seemed to focus on recruiting nationally, and to recruit junior college players. Andersen wasn’t quite as visible to state prep coaches as previous Wisconsin coaches, said Wisconsin Rapids High School coach Tony Biolo.
“Had he stayed a little bit longer, I think he would have gotten a better feel for that,” Biolo said.
Long-time Lancaster High School coach John Hoch said the relationship between Wisconsin high school coaches and Andersen started out well, but in the end “wasn’t as smooth as we’ve probably seen at Wisconsin.”
Hoch, the Wisconsin AP’s High School coach of the Year in 2014, described Chryst’s in-state roots as important to helping being “able to keep a fence around” the state and top prospects.
Chryst can’t talk about incoming Badgers before players sign letters-of-intent with the school. The first day that can happen this recruiting year is next Wednesday.
High school seniors can talk all they want. At Bay Port, Alec Ingold switched his verbal commitment to the Badgers a month after Chryst arrived in Madison.
Chryst, while at Pittsburgh, recruited Ingold, Wisconsin’s AP High School Player of the Year. Instead of going to Northern Illinois to play quarterback, the athletic Ingold plans to enroll at Wisconsin to play linebacker and pursue an engineering degree.
Chryst’s credentials in overseeing potent offenses might help no matter where the coach is recruiting. Chryst’s last season as Wisconsin offensive coordinator in 2011 featured a high-scoring attack led by quarterback Russell Wilson and record-setting running back Montee Ball.
Ask about his recruiting philosophy, and Chryst will talk of finding the right fit, both on the part of the team and the prospective player.
“Our job is to know, in evaluation and talking to coaches — we need to know and be in on top of every prospect in the state,” Chryst said. “Ideally, we’d like to keep every kid that can play in the Big Ten.”
In the end, coaches want to get a feel that the Badgers are keeping tabs on the state’s best recruits, said Biolo, who is also president-elect of the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association.
“That’s all high school coaches look for. High school coaches want the best for UW,” Biolo said. “Every one of them wants their kids to play there.”
This article was written by Genaro C. Armas from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.