The University of Wisconsin football program landed one of the top class of 2007 prospects in the nation regardless of position Thursday night, when St. Francis (Wis.) High School offensive tackle Josh Oglesby gave his verbal commitment to Badger head coach Bret Bielema.
“Josh called me late last night and told me that he had called Coach Bielema and committed,” St. Francis head coach Doug Sarver said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon.
Oglesby, who stands 6-foot-8, 312 pounds, is a five-star prospect according to Scout.com. He is expected to be among the top offensive line recruits in the country when Scout’s national rankings are released, and he is regarded as one of the top overall players in the nation. The only five-star recruit UW had in its past three recruiting classes was former Oak Creek (Wis.) High School All-American Travis Beckum.
“I think (Oglesby) just was at a point where he wanted to get the process over,” Sarver said. “He knew where he wanted to go and he didn’t want to get into a situation where people were coming in to see him and he had no intention of going there, after he had decided.”
Oglesby’s scholarship offer sheet reads like a who’s who of college football, including major-conference programs such as Wisconsin, Florida State, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida, Oklahoma, LSU, Minnesota, Miami, Illinois, Notre Dame, Stanford, Louisville, Nebraska, Tennessee, Arkansas and USC.
This week USC, Notre Dame, Michigan, Florida State, Ohio State and Illinois all made spring-evaluation-period stops at St. Francis.
“I think he finally got his family’s blessing to go ahead and make the verbal commitment,” Sarver said.
“I assume that he’s been leaning Wisconsin,” Sarver added. “Some of these other schools have done a great job. Just basically it comes down to a kid who wants to follow his dream and be a Badger.”
Oglesby will be a three-year starter on the Mariners’ offensive line this fall. As a junior last fall, he was named all-state by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association, second-team all-state by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and honorable mention all-state by the Associated Press.
He has, “great potential,” Sarver said. “He is somebody that is going to get better at the next level because he’s going to be playing against players that are… his own size. It’s difficult for someone his size to play against people so much smaller. A lot of people won’t understand that, but it really can make him look awkward at times. But he does a great job and does the best he can with it.”
At 6-8 Oglesby usually towers over his competition.
“You’ve got guys diving at your ankles and knees all the time,” Sarver said. “It’s hard to play that type of football for someone that big.”
Oglesby is projected to play left tackle in college.
“That’s what some of the coaches tell me right now,” Sarver said. “But you know he is going to have to go out there and earn that.”
The Badgers have had great fortune recruiting top-notch in-state offensive lineman in recent classes. The 2003 class brought Brookfield Central’s Joe Thomas, an All-American who will be a three-year starter this fall. The 2004 class included just one lineman, but it was Hudson’s Kraig Urbik, who was a freshman All-American while starting at right tackle last season. The 2005 class included two linemen, each of whom is expected to start as a sophomore this fall: Menasha’s Andy Kemp and Hudson’s Eric Vanden Heuvel. The 2006 class includes two offensive tackles who received high school All-American acclaim in Sturgeon Bay’s Jake Bscherer and Monona Grove’s Gabe Carimi. Three other offensive linemen signed in 2006 — Mequon Homestead’s Brad Thorson; Hudson, Ohio product Bill Nagy; and John Moffitt of Guilford, Conn. (who could also play on the defensive line).
Sarver credited Oglesby’s youth football coach, John Voelz, with giving him a leg up heading into high school.
“Josh, coming in, he had a football background,” Sarver said. “He played youth football in Milwaukee for his youth coach, John Voelz, who really became close to him and he got some good coaching down there.
“So when we got him he had played a lot of football already…
“It was just a matter of now learning our system and just getting better each week. And he needs to get better yet. He’ll continue to get better this year and as he goes into college.”
In addition to his offensive line exploits, Oglesby rotated in at defensive end early last season, and he played both ways fulltime in the Mariners’ last four games of the campaign.
“Some of the tapes that I sent out after the season, some of the most impressive stuff that he did was on the defensive side of the ball,” Sarver said.
Sarver, though, said unequivocally that Oglesby’s “future is on offense.”
According to the Journal Sentinel St. Francis ran for 2,987 yards last season, with Oglesby leading the way for tailbacks James Thomas (165 carries for 1,283 yards and 18 touchdowns) and Jason McClelland (199 carries for 1,121 yards and seven touchdowns).
Thomas, a 5-8, 220-pound class of 2007 prospect, is receiving serious interest from Mid-American Conference programs such as Northern Illinois and Ball State. He is also receiving letters from Minnesota and interest from Division I-AA Illinois State.
“James is starting to get some attention now that his grades have got better,” Sarver said. “Some of the MAC schools are coming in this week to see me about him. And we’re sending out film on him now. Colleges are starting to call about him….
“He’s an inside runner, very powerful. Very quick. He’s going to break a lot of tackles, turn things that don’t look so good into large gains.”
With his powerful build, it is easy to look at Thomas as a between-the-tackles bowling ball, but Sarver said that inclination is not on target.
“People think that when they look at him, but he is very athletic,” Sarver said. “He is quicker and faster than a lot of people might think. I did not see him get caught from behind last year at all.”