The Wisconsin Badgers won't be at a recruiting disadvantage any more. New head coach Gary Andersen and his staff have been given the all-clear by the NCAA to start contacting and recruiting prospects, according to athletic director and interim head coach Barry Alvarez.
Andersen and his staff will now try to keep a 17-member class together, in addition to working on some other prospects that were still interested in Wisconsin as well. Andersen already announced that he'll be retaining secondary coach Ben Strickland on his new staff to help ease the transition in recruiting, and Alvarez said that was a good move for the new head coach.
"High school coaches have called me and referenced how good of a job Ben has done," Alvarez said after practice Sunday.
Alvarez said Strickland has been working on all of the prospects in Wisconsin's 2013 class, and not just the in-state one's he's been responsible for. A few recruits told Alvarez on their official visits earlier in the month that their relationship with Strickland has been very important to them as well, making Strickland one of Andersen's most important staffers for the time being.
At the same time, many of the assistant coaches who are leaving for different jobs next season are getting some down time where they can start doing some work for their new employers. Alvarez said that he thanked them all for their hard work during Rose Bowl prep but he had a simple request: don't recruit prospects that are already committed to Wisconsin.
"I think they've been very professional. They've given us their full attention and they've been good with the kids," Alvarez said. "I just asked them 'Don't recruit the guys that are committed.' The other guys that aren't committed that you've been recruiting is open season. I just asked for their professionalism."
And according to Alvarez, other schools have already started trying to pick off members of Wisconsin's 2013 class. Alvarez said the new staff at Tennessee, where wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni will be going after the Rose Bowl, has already been in touch with a committed player or two over the last two weeks.
Alvarez said Azzanni told him about the contact and that he wasn't doing it and didn't feel comfortable with it, but Alvarez didn't sound too worried about outgoing staff members poaching prospects that they had previously recruited to Wisconsin.
"Now we've got a leader, we've got a head coach, and we'll turn it over to those guys plus the two that he's holding over," Alvarez said.
-- Former starting quarterback Joel Stave has not been officially cleared to play in the Rose Bowl after he broke his left collarbone during the regular season, but the redshirt freshman has been saying he feels ready to play. Alvarez said that if Stave is healthy, the game plan will change a little bit, but Curt Phillips will still start the game.
"We'll wait for total clearance and then make a decision on how we're going to use him," Alvarez said. "If he's cleared then we'll use both quarterbacks. Curt won that championship game, he's earned the right to start."
-- Cornerback Devin Smith has been wearing a green no-contact jersey during practice, and is still working his way back from a concussion he suffered against Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game. But Alvarez said Smith is very close to being 100 percent, and the next few off days the players get for the holidays should get him there before the team leaves for California.
News and notes
-- Alvarez said he recommended offensive line coach Bart Miller to Andersen as a new tight ends coach, since Andersen's friend T.J. Woods will reportedly be following him to Wisconsin to coach the offensive line. Alvarez said he's been impressed with Miller's work, and he'd be happy to see Miller stay on in some capacity.