Madison — Dave Aranda will take a can’t-miss prospect, a player whose talent on the football field is obvious to even a casual fan.
Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator, whose primary recruiting territory is Florida, also must possess a keen eye for under-the-radar prospects. That includes players who have focused on other sports but have also shown promise on the football field.
“You go to some of the bigger schools,” he said, “those are the types of guys that we can attach ourselves to. Maybe football is not their main sport….A great student who really shines in basketball or other sports.
“That is a possible steal there. We’ve got to be all about that.”
Not every prospect who chooses to play a variety of sports in high school rather than specializing in football is worthy of a scholarship offer. But UW head coach Paul Chryst, like many coaches, sees the value in athletes who excel in sports across the board.
“I love that,” Chryst said. “You see them compete. You see them do different things. I love wrestlers, basketball and track.
“All those things…it is one more piece of information that you get on the individual.”
UW defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield isn’t afraid to take a flier on a player who shows ability in another sport.
When Breckterfield was at Montana in 2010, he recruited a defensive lineman from Hawaii. Tonga Takai had no scholarship offers but after watching him on the basketball court, Breckterfield convinced him to sign with Montana.
“He moved like a deer,” Breckterfield said. “I put him on scholarship just for that.”
Breckterfield left Montana in 2011 to coach UCLA’s defensive linemen, but Takai stayed on and was a first-team all-Big Sky player as a senior. He was invited to try out with the San Francisco 49ers but did not make the team.
“He was about to go to a junior college….He did well for himself,” Breckterfield said.
Several players on current UW roster were multisport standouts in high school.
Examples include: outside linebackers Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel, inside linebackers T.J. Edwards and Leon Jacobs, wide receiver Alex Erickson, defensive end Arthur Goldberg, fullback Derek Watt and defensive lineman Zander Neuville.
Schobert led Waukesha West to the WIAA Division 1 state football title as a junior in 2010. He was a two-time all-conference basketball player and, before his breakthrough junior season in football, figured basketball would be his ticket to college. Schobert also played baseball and was on the track team.
“For me, growing up I don’t know if I had a choice,” Schobert said about playing so many sports. “My dad put me in stuff from a young age, and I loved every sport I played.”
Schobert believes his hand-eye coordination improved from playing baseball. He insists he has better body control on the football field because of his days on the basketball court.
“In basketball you get used to controlling your body in space,” he said, “going into the air and finishing layups and getting rebounds….I had a great group of guys, five or six friends in high school. We all played baseball, football and basketball together.
“So I had a great experience and a lot of fun on those teams. It made me an all-around athlete.”
Punter Drew Meyer excelled at football at Arrowhead High School. However, he also lettered twice in lacrosse.
“I definitely advocate playing as many sports as possible,” he said, noting the possibility of burning out from focusing too much on one sport. “You can get too specific in your movements. Different sports allow you to have a whole different range of movements.
“It all comes back to creating a well-rounded athlete that can react to different situations.”
Goldberg’s No. 2 choice in high school wasn’t lacrosse. Goldberg, 6 foot 3 and 296 pounds, won two letters in wrestling.
His experience on the mat carries over to his work in the trenches. Goldberg learned how to use leverage and honed his balance practice after practice.
“Wrestling was huge for football — for leverage, bending my knees, using my hips,” Goldberg said. “And one of the biggest things is conditioning.
“They used to shut the door, turn the heat up and just drill at each other for a couple hours. Out of all the sports, I’d say wrestling is the most beneficial for football.”
But is it tougher than football?
“They are both tough but I’d say wrestling is tougher,” Goldberg said. “They’re both tough mentally but wrestling — the physical (nature) going one-on-one for three periods.
“It wears you out. Practice is just brutal.”
Brutal but beneficial.