How Wisconsin football lured a 3-star defensive line recruit from Tennessee

Hank Weber made his decision public Monday, but he realized Saturday afternoon that he wanted to attend the University of Wisconsin and play football. Weber, the Badgers’ 10th verbal commit of their 2024 class, met with Greg Scruggs. UW’s defensive line coach started asking more personal questions, and one involved what was hindering him from committing. “I was thinking through the question,” Weber told BadgerExtra. “Originally, it was the distance from home. When I started thinking about it, it’s not that bad. Like it really isn’t. It’s super doable. “And then I was like, ‘Oh, everything else here checks my box.’ It has everything I need to take the next steps in my career with where I want it to go. I mean it has the academics, it has a great coaching staff. It has crazy support from the fans, the whole state of Wisconsin. It has great football. I feel like I can be developed to the best of my potential ability.” Gatorade player of the year ready to join Wisconsin football over lacrosse offersWeber told coach Luke Fickell Sunday morning, and he’s the second announced commitment in as many days. Here are five things to know about the Tennessee lineman, his recruiting journey, and how he could be used at UW. A recruit with significant FBS interest Rivals, 247Sports and On3 all evaluate Weber as a three-star talent. Rivals views him as the No. 25 player in the state of Tennessee for the 2024 class. Wisconsin football gets first June commitment from Florida prospectWeber attracted interest from a list of Power Five suitors before committing to UW. He tweeted offers from Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Purdue, Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech. Weber decided to become part of the Badgers’ 2024 class which holds the following players: quarterback Mabrey Mettauer, tight ends Grant Stec and Rob Booker II, offensive lineman Derek Jensen, outside linebacker Thomas Heiberger, inside linebacker Landon Gauthier, wide receiver Kyan Berry-Johnson, safety Kahmir Prescott and cornerback Vernon Woodward III. Brentwood Academy coach Jacob Gill saw UW’s approach on the recruiting trail firsthand. “I think the one thing that’s really stood out about the Wisconsin staff is just how personable they are,” Gill said. “For the first time I talked to coach Scruggs, he was talking to me, not at me, and really trying to build a relationship. Same thing with (tight ends coach Nate) Letton when I talked to him. Both of those guys (are) just great people, great guys, obviously great ball coaches to be in a place like Wisconsin. So I think you can see that true relationship-building skill in those conversations with them.” Here’s what Wisconsin has planned for a new football indoor practice facility Gill recalled the conversation with Weber when the recruit said he was going to commit to the Badgers. “He said, ‘I knew I liked the guy, but when I got up there, man, I just fell in love with the entire program,’” Gill said. “And so I think him having a great relationship with the guys recruiting him and then being able to get on campus, see everything that Madison and the University of Wisconsin has to offer him. I think it became a total package type of deal for him where he wanted to get in and commit.” Not a stranger to Madison Contact between Weber and the Badgers first started with Paul Chryst’s staff, and he attended UW’s 66-7 win over New Mexico State on Sept. 17, 2022. Weber returned to campus to attend UW’s “The Launch” spring football event April 22. Madison makes his choice clear Weber’s travel to Madison for his official visit last week with his mom and dad started off rocky, but the program’s personnel smoothed it over quickly. “I got in town by midnight Thursday because my flight got canceled in Chicago. It got canceled to Madison, so we had to drive up,” Weber said. “They handled it all. They got us an Uber and stuff, so it was no stress at all. “It was super professional of them. They handled it great. The recruiting staff at Wisconsin’s second to none.” The UW staff keep Weber and its other visitors busy during the weekend, whether with meetings with coaches, a photo shoot, a boat ride – which Weber said he missed due to taking a nap – and playing laser tag inside Camp Randall Stadium. Here’s when 6 of Wisconsin football’s games will kick off Meals included dinners at Fickell’s house Friday and a hibachi set up outside of Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday evening. UW provided a lunch Saturday which consisted of Mission BBQ, another food truck that served brats and cheese curds, ice cream and lawn games. Defensive end Isaac Townsend hosted Weber, though the recruit also spent time with fellow linemen James Thompson Jr. and Curt Neal. What stood out to Weber the most on the visit was the staff’s reaction when he told them of the news at the hotel. “I did commit Sunday morning … with coach Fickell in his office,” Weber said, “and then I got brought out to the rest of the coaching staff in the hotel lobby, and we were all jumping up and down, hugging, all that. So it was super fun.” How he’s utilized at the high school level Weber said he has started on both sides of the ball for Brentwood at offensive tackle and defensive end. Gill, who will enter his first season as coach of the high school program, envisions Weber to “be a priority defensive player, but he’ll still play some offense for us as well.” Will Jack Nelson break Wisconsin football’s first-round pick drought? The coach described his defensive scheme as “pretty multiple,” one that could benefit Weber and has gleaned ideas from a variety of defensive coordinators at the college and NFL levels, Fickell included. Weber — who Gill said measured at 6 foot 4 and 265-plus pounds — will still be known as a defensive end, taking the majority of snaps on the outside in five-, six- or nine-techniques lining up against tackles or tight ends. “So some of the front structure and some of the backend stuff and some of the three-high safety stuff, those are all things I was doing before I got this job, and some things we’ll continue to do here,” Gill said. “So we’ll be pretty multiple up front and the back end, but I think structurally, some of the same concepts that he will get introduced to here in regards to technique and front alignment, stuff like that, are some things that will show up for him once he gets up to Madison. And so we’ll be pretty multiple with him. “Obviously he’s great in the run game, but obviously in passing downs as well, trying to figure out ways to manipulate protections where we get him and some other guys in some one-on-one situations or what we would call ‘advantage rush situations’ where he’s got a great chance to go get after the quarterback.” Scruggs and the Badgers’ staff plan to use Weber in a variety of alignments depending upon the package. That could involve lining up outside the shoulder of an offensive tackle (five-technique) or outside shoulder of an offensive guard (three-technique). Weber said he thinks he’s “pretty athletic” and possesses “good hands,” but believes the mentorship from Scruggs can mold him into “something great.” “I feel like I’m explosive,” Weber said. “I feel like I have a pretty lethal pass rush. but I feel like I play pretty smart. … And I feel like if I didn’t play offense, I think my defensive line game would go up that much more, but I feel like it kind of shows that there’s that much more improvement to go.” “I feel like there’s so much more I can learn. I’m really excited to get up there with coach Scruggs because he’s a great coach, and I was talking to all the D-linemen. There’s not a single D-lineman that doesn’t like him. And I’m really excited to learn from him.”

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