Varsity - The Official Digital Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics

Varsity - February 14, 2013

Varsity is the free Official Digital Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics, covering Badgers football, basketball, hockey and more each week.

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LUCAS AT LARGE M I K E LUCA S ��� UWB A DGERS.C OM Mason a valuable asset behind the scenes A t the end of Gary Andersen���s signing day news conference, the first-year Wisconsin head coach related how he had reached out to UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez very early in the recruiting process. Andersen wanted to get a feel for things ��� how things had been done here in the past. ���And one of the first things out of Coach Alvarez���s mouth was to talk to Henry,������ Andersen said. Henry is Henry Mason, the former UW wide receivers coach under Alvarez (1995-2007). Mason had to leave the coaching profession after sustaining a severe spinal cord injury in the summer of ���07. But he has never stopped thinking like a coach, which has served him well in his present role as Wisconsin���s director of player personnel and external relations for the football program. ���Henry has been here so long that he���s very valuable to me,������ Andersen said. To this end, Mason has been flattered to be treated with so much respect. ���I absolutely feel good about that,������ Mason said. ���He (Andersen) understands where my heart is. I want to see us continue to do good things and be a program that wins; one we can all be proud of.������ So how can Mason help Andersen and his new assistants? What can he tell them? ���If nothing more, where our success in recruiting has been in the past,������ he said. ���What areas 16 �� VARSITY FEB R UA RY 14, 2013 have been good for us and what the productivity has been as far as the players that we���ve gotten here. ���I basically gave him a history lesson on what we���ve done before ��� what has been good ��� and he can see what direction he wants to go in the future combined with his own philosophy in recruiting.������ In some cases, the Badgers are going in new directions and places. Or revisiting old ones, like California, which Alvarez probed and tapped into occasionally with varying degrees of success. Donnell Vercher is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound safety from Fresno City College and Clovis, Calif., a Fresno suburb. Leon Jacobs is a 6-4, 200-pound linebacker from Santa Clairita, 25 miles north of Los Angeles. Both are members of Andersen���s first recruiting class. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who recruited central California while at Utah State, was the principle contact on Vercher and Jacobs. Vercher was the known in the recruiting process, Jacobs was the unknown. Aranda, who was recruiting Vercher before he joined Andersen at Wisconsin, noted that he talked with the previous coaching staff during the Rose Bowl practices and inquired, ���Do we need a (junior college) safety?������ The answer was yes. ���That alerted us,������ Aranda said, ���that maybe some of the people we were talking to before maybe we needed to get in touch with again.������ That led Aranda back to Vercher. ���He���s a ball-hawk,������ he said. ���Everywhere he has been, he has always gotten picks, he has always made plays. There���s a wow factor to Donnell.������ Why did he go the junior college route? ���He didn���t have grades,������ Aranda said. ���But he���s a great story that way. He got over a 3.0 (GPA at Fresno College), which is a credit to him and his family.������ Jacobs had originally given a verbal commitment to Fresno State in December before de-committing. ���He���s an amazing athlete, I���ve seen him play basketball a couple of times,������ Aranda said. Jacobs focused on hoops at Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance. He didn���t play football as a sophomore or junior, but returned to the sport after transferring to Golden Valley High School. Aranda���s 3-4 defensive scheme could be a good fit for Jacobs. ���He can bring a lot in terms of athletic potential,������ Aranda said. ���He���s still young with football and he���s a great looking prospect.������ Why didn���t he receive more recruiting traffic? Aranda pointed out that Santa Clarita is kind of out of the way and not a regular stop for recruiters. Plus, he transferred high schools. ���Those two things combined,������ Aranda said, ���gave us a hidden gem.������ Mason would approve. He uncovered his share of gems back in the day, too. Now he���s sharing that knowledge with Andersen.

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