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What 2 out-of-state football recruits like about Wisconsin football

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2024 ILB recruit Kari Jackson

2024 linebacker Kari Jackson inside Camp Randall Stadium during his unofficial visit to the University of Wisconsin on November 5.

Anelu Lafaele announced an offer from the University of Wisconsin this summer, but he finally got to see the Badgers’ defense — and someone he knows well — in person nearly two weeks ago.

“I thought they were on fire. I really like their defense,” Lafaele said. “I like their outside backers because that's where I play, and that's where one of my friends plays, Nick Herbig. So I really look up to him as a person, as a player.”

UW continues to host high school players during home games as it looks at who could become the future faces of the program after athletic director Chris McIntosh fired Paul Chryst and installed defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard as interim coach. 

Lafaele and another 2024 recruit, Kari Jackson, recently made their first trips to Madison to attend UW’s game against Maryland. Lafaele plays at Saint Louis School in Honolulu, the same program that produced current Badgers Herbig and safety Kamo’i Latu.

He said UW currently looks at him as an outside linebacker, and he referenced the team’s lineage of production from that group as a reason he decided to take an unofficial visit even with an interim coach in place.

“Just ever since I was growing up, it's just a great program for that linebacker position,” Lafaele said. “From (T.J.) Watt, from Herbig, and how they send kids to the league from that position.”

Jackson, a four-star projected inside linebacker by Rivals and 247Sports composite rankings, plays at West Bloomfield High School in Michigan.

“That doesn't matter about the current state or what’s going on,” Jackson said. “People get fired, and people get hired and stuff like that in this college world, so that really doesn't affect anything for me. I know the tradition at Wisconsin as a football program and as a school, and even more in-depth at the linebacker position. So it’s a great history and tradition.

“They're producing great linebackers and great football players as a whole at the school. So I knew a lot was going on at the school and things like that, but I know the culture and the foundation of the school is still there to stay.”

Jackson met Leonhard during his unofficial visit, and he knows the coach’s journey from former All-American at UW to 10-year NFL veteran.

“I wanted to be able to go down there, and I saw the changes and the different things … that he has done already in his time as interim head coach, so I like what he's doing,” Jackson said. “I talked to people there. The players, they like him and like what he's doing with the program, and I'm excited to see what happens the rest of this year and obviously going into next year.”

2024 offensive line Nathan Roy talks about his recruiting journey and relationship with Wisconsin after Mukwonago's 27-14 win over Muskego Friday night.

Jackson told BadgerExtra the contact with UW started approximately two weeks before he attended the Maryland game, and he texts with UW’s coaches at least once or twice a week with a call normally taking place mid to late week. Assistant Mark D’Onofrio and recruiting assistant Billy Lewis have become the main Badgers contacts with the Michigan native, who previously played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and the staff projects to play inside linebacker. 

He has visited Cincinnati, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Tennessee this season, and he loved the environment and his experience in Madison while taking in the campus and coaching staff for the first time.

“I would just say just the fans and the culture that they have there is kind of different,” Jackson said. “I just kind of learned more about it, and how their fans have been fans of Wisconsin for a long time. They have a deep fan base and people that have been supporting the school for a while. And I can see that on that Maryland trip. 

“It was rainy, it was windy, it was cold. But all the fans still came out in a lot of numbers. They still came out and supported the team even though it was some bad weather, but they came out and were still cheering them on and stayed the whole entire game for the team. So that's something that was different, especially to see just how diehard the fans were and how invested they were in the program.”

Lafaele’s recruiting journey has heated up this year. He tweeted offers from Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon State, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah, UW and Washington State since the spring. He holds 13 in all and said the Huskers, Wildcats, Utes, Aztecs and Badgers are recruiting him the hardest. 

Lafaele, who made the trip with his parents, gave positive marks about his time at UW.

“I thought it was amazing. I really liked it,” Lafaele said. “The atmosphere, the people and everything about Wisconsin football is amazing. I like the facilities. I've never seen something like that before because from Hawaii, we don't really have that stuff.”

He also was able to connect with Herbig and Latu during his visit.

“They said it's not gonna get any better if you want to play with a family,” Lafaele said. “They said I'm not gonna get that anywhere else.”

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Jackson said he received a scholarship offer during his visit, which brings his offers total to 17. He said Penn State, Ohio State, Cincinnati and UW are recruiting him the hardest. 

“It's really a special place surrounding the area of football in that city and in that state,” Jackson said about UW. “So I really like that, and learning more about the history and the tradition of the football team was great to hear and see how many people that actually came through Wisconsin and done big things in the NFL and different football leagues.”

Breaking down Badgers commits and key targets

Check out BadgerExtra's breakdowns of 2023 Wisconsin commits, and coming soon, some key recruiting targets in the 2024 class.

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Tyler Jansey said: “I'd definitely say I'm extremely versatile just because of my speed. I really get out to the flats on those guys. … I'm a pretty good run stopper.”

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Corey Smith has shown why recruiting services have labeled him a four-star recruit. Here's why Wisconsin needs to keep him in his home state.

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Justin Taylor stood out in a must-win regular-season finale with a playoff berth on the line. He delivered in multiple ways and showed why the Badgers recruited him.

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The 2024 Middleton linebacker displayed an all-around game during the WIAA Level 2 state playoff matchup against Waunakee, demonstrating why the Badgers are targeting him at the next level.

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Waunakee tight end Rob Booker II came through in the clutch during last week's playoff matchup. Power Five teams are taking more notice of the 2024 recruit.

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Nathan Roy and Mukwonago churned up yardage in a WIAA Level 3 state playoff win over powerhouse Muskego Friday. He showed why the Badgers and other programs are coveting him.

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