Although he looked around and took officials to two other schools with coaches close to his heart, Sun Prairie defensive tackle Craig Evans just couldn't see himself leaving or playing away from home.
Unsure of his decision until he took an official visit to Wisconsin in mid-December, Evans re-affirmed his commitment to the University of Wisconsin's 2014 recruiting class to BadgerNation on Tuesday, before announcing his decision after the Offense-Defense Bowl in Orlando.
"It came down to the coaches," Evans told us. "When I sat down and had that breakfast with Coach Andersen (on my official), he said some things that really touched my heart. He wanted to be that mentor in my life. He wanted to get by my side and help me. I'm not saying that Coach Dantonio didn't, but I felt like he started getting close to me a little bit late, where Coach Andersen has been keeping in touch from the start.
"At breakfast, we had a heart to heart. He said he wanted to be that dad figure to me, guide me in life, make sure I'm on the right path and there ain't nothing wrong with that. When your head coach wants to be like that, I'm with it. My girlfriend had a little to do with it, but overall it's just being at home. Coach Andersen is a great guy. I want to learn from that guy."
Evans's decision gives Wisconsin 25 firm verbal commits in the 2014 class and fortifies its top-20 placement in the Scout.com national team rankings. Evans is currently a four-star recruit ranked the No.14 defensive tackle in the country.
Having been committed off and on to Wisconsin for 15 months, dealing with the coaching change that effected Wisconsin in December 2012, it always seemed from the outside world that Evans was going to end up with the Badgers. Evans said that wasn't the case, as he became infatuated with the Spartans on his official visit the first week of December and came close to committing.
"I was looking at committing to Michigan State on my official," said Evans, who also took an official visit to Arkansas. "It felt home to me. All the guys were cool, down to earth. Coach Dantonio did a lot for me. It hurt a little bit that I couldn't go play for him because he did stuff for me that he didn't do for any other recruit. It was hard, very hard, and I came very close to committing.
"They have great coaches and I would have learned a lot from them, but being close to home was important to me. I got a love base here, a fan base here, so I wanted to stick with it instead of trying something new."
Evans' final decision boosts a Wisconsin defensive line that loses its four top players following the 34-24 loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl, including senior nose tackle Beau Allen. While senior-to-be Warren Herring is expecting to be the starter, Evans and incoming recruit Jeremy Patterson are expected to compete for playing time with senior Bryce Gilbert.
"Most definitely I see a spot," said Evans. "Michigan State said I had a guaranteed spot, so I wasn't going to give that up (laughing). With Beau gone and some other guys gone, I feel my athleticism, my quickness and my use of hands will be able to help them. Coach Chad (Kauha'aha'a) and I had a one-on-one and he said if I get a couple things taken care of I'll be able to start right away. That's something I liked to hear. I definitely feel like I can come to Wisconsin and have a big say in the defense next year."