MADISON, Wis.-When the torch was passed from Barry Alvarez to Bret Bielema, one thing remained the same: the borders around Wisconsin remained closed to outsiders hoping to add the state's top prep talent to their respective rosters.
With six of Wisconsin's top seven prospects in the 2008 class (according to Rivals.com) verbally committed to play for the Badgers next fall, BadgerBlitz.com provides an update on the UW instate commits and their WIAA state tournament run.
Bradley Nortman, 6-foot-3, 210-pound punter/linebacker/tight end, Brookfield Central
The most recent verbal commit did a little bit of everything for Brookfield Central, but the Lancers, who entered as a No. 2 seed, were bounced in the second-round of the Division II field by Germantown, 17-0.
The former Minnesota commit will have a chance to compete for playing time right away, as the Badgers lose starting punter Ken DeBauche to graduation at the end of the season
Mike Taylor, 6-foot-2, 195-pound linebacker, Ashwaubenon
Ashwaubenon struggled down the stretch and dropped two of their last three games, the latest a 31-28 loss to DePere in the second round of the Division II pool. Taylor and his teammates started the season 8-0 and were expected to compete for a state title.
Taylor played for one of the best programs in the state that made the state finals two seasons ago in a game where Taylor emerged as a legit Division I prospect. Many thought the sophomore was the best player on the field that day. The same people are excited he will be a Badger, not a Hawkeye, next season.
Taylor is now expected to turn his attention to wrestling, where he is one of Wisconsin's best in the 189-pound division. He fished third in the state meet as a junior.
As the highest rated player in the state this season, Westphal's final high school game did not come in the state tournament, but rather in Menasha's regular season finale. Menasha struggled all season and dropped six of their last seven games, but did finish the season with a 19-7 win over Appleton East.
On the bright side, Westphal will have a chance to make an immediate impact with the Badgers next season, as UW has been desperately thin on the defensive line all season.
Matt Shaughnessy and Kirk DeCremer will be the only true defensive ends with game experience returning next season, paving the way for Westphal to crack the two-deep in fall.
Peter Konz, 6-foot-6, 285-pound offensive lineman, Neenah
At 4-4, Neenah needed to win against Oshkosh North to become eligible for a state tournament birth. The rule states that a team can qualify if they have a winning conference record, but Konz and his teammates fell short and saw their season come to an end.
Konz will have one thing going for him when he arrives on campus next fall. A 20-7 victory over Westphal and Menasha earlier this season provides the lineman bragging rights heading into their first camp together.
Look for Konz to redshirt his first year on campus with the depth at offensive tackle so strong at this point.
Williams essentially came from nowhere, earning a scholarship after an outstanding performance (mainly a sub-4.4 forty time) at a Badger camp during the off-season. He may be the reason why Milwaukee Riverside's Shane Covington will play for Indiana, not Wisconsin, next season.
Bradford defeated previously undefeated Kenosha Tremper, 21-16, in the second-round of the Division I field and will now take on another undefeated team, Verona, Saturday at 4 p.m. Williams had two touchdown catches in Bradford's first-round win over Janesville Parker.
Williams and his teammates are riding high after an emotional win over Tremper and have a favorable draw that could land them at Camp Randall in two weeks. In all likelihood, they will have to get through Arrowhead, which has produced current Badgers Tyler Donovan and Nick Hayden, to reach that goal.
Prediction: Loss to Arrowhead in the Division I semifinals
Kevin Zeitler, 6-foot-4, 279-pound offensive lineman, Wisconsin Lutheran
Lutheran, with just one loss entering the tournament, was a Division III title favorite this season; their only loss coming to a good Hartford (currently undefeated and still alive in the Division I field) team by two points. Zeitler teams with potential Division I prospects Chris Echols (running back) and Damon Campbell (linebacker) to create possibly the most talented trio in the entire state.
After defeating Greendale, 35-22, in a game dubbed the "real D-3 title game" Zeitler and company will now take on Brown Deer (11-1) Saturday at 3:00 p.m.
After a late offer from Michigan, Zeitler settled on the Badgers and should be named the lineman of the year when postseason awards are given out after the season.
Prediction: Division III state champions
Badgerblitz.com will continue coverage of this tournament, on all levels, as it unfolds