Carson Hinzman laughed a bit at the question, knowing there was some truth to it.

The four-star offensive line prospect from St. Croix Central High School in Hammond has spent countless hours on Zoom calls with college coaches hoping to secure his commitment in their 2022 recruiting classes.

"I guess I wouldn't use the word sick, but there's a lot," Hinzman said when asked if he's sick of digital recruiting. "A lot of coaches, obviously they're doing their job. They're recruiting hard, which (means you've) got to love them, respect them. It's definitely a good amount. You've got to ... manage your time well with them just because a lot of times they can get really overwhelming."

The University of Wisconsin is one of the teams in pursuit of Hinzman, hoping he could be one of the centerpieces of a class the Badgers have gotten off to a slow start filling.

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At this time last year, the Badgers had eight prospects orally committed to the 2021 class, including prizes such as four-star linemen JP Benzschawel and Riley Mahlman, and four-star safety Hunter Wohler. The program has one recruit orally committed to the 2022 class — three-star quarterback Myles Burkett of Franklin — but would have had two if Fond du Lac's Braelon Allen had not reclassified to the 2021 class.

The NCAA's ban on in-person recruiting runs through May 31. If it's extended again, that could mean another summer without on-campus camps — environments in which the Badgers historically have made offers.

The Badgers don't seem to be in a rush to lock down commitments for the 2022 class after achieving a top-20 recruiting class nationally in 2021.

"If things clear up, the '23 class would be the one that really gets the concentration," UW's director of player personnel Saeed Khalif said this winter. "But the '22 class, you're going to really be careful in your vetting and what you're getting, not going off with just statistics and old film."

Going in blind

Khalif, who is entering his fifth season with the program, said recruiting prospects in the class of 2022 has been a difficult task.

"You have no look. Some didn't play at all (this fall), some may have a spring schedule coming up. So most of what you liked about (them) was early tape, sophomore tape," Khalif said in December.

But a lack of game tape isn't the only thing class of 2022 prospects were deprived of. Combines, camps and other showcases throughout the country were canceled last summer due to the pandemic, so prospects couldn't participate in head-to-head competition.

Many high schools also haven't been allowed to hold in-person athletic training for offseason sports, so football players have had to work out and run drills on their own for nearly a year in some cases.

"And then you had the question marks. ... I don't know that enough activity has happened, that you answer those questions. Because nothing, no activity is out here," Khalif said. "So all the list providers and all the information that's coming out, a lot of it is still based on whatever they did as a younger player. You don't know body development, how big (they are), you haven't seen them. ... You can't measure their growth from season to season."

The Badgers brought in 21 scholarship recruits in the 2021 class, the highest-ranked class in the internet rankings era for UW, ranked 15th in the nation by ESPN and Rivals, and 16th on 247Sports. While continuing that momentum is important for the future of the program, UW has been selective in this cycle to ensure it brings in the right players.

Authentic offers

One reason the Badgers haven't gotten commitments from many 2022 recruits is they simply haven't extended many offers.

According to a count by Rivals.com last month, UW ranks 61st out of the 65 Power 5 programs with 60 scholarship offers to 2022 recruits. Penn State (322) and Nebraska (322) have the most in the Big Ten, and are third and fourth, respectively, in the country on Rivals' list. The Badgers were busy offering players in February and now sit at 70 offers, but that only would move them up a few spots on Rivals' list.

UW coach Paul Chryst said his program doesn't operate in the same way as others. The Badgers mean it when they offer a scholarship.

"They'll say, 'Well coach, is this a committable offer?' And we say, 'Absolutely it is, that's why we're offering it,'" Chryst said. "It kind of shed some light to me on even how an offer is perceived, maybe by some. I want to know that when we offer someone that we've done our work."

Hinzman isn't the only high-level prospect in the state the Badgers have their eyes on.

Three other four-star linemen — Joe Brunner (OT, Whitefish Bay, Milwaukee), Isaac Hamm (DE, Sun Prairie) and Billy Schrauth (OT/DT, St. Mary's Springs, Fond du Lac) — are high on the program's board and hold offers from UW.

All four have other big-name programs in pursuit but haven't been able to take trips to campuses.

Hinzman says he speaks with UW coaches at least a couple times per week, and he's planning to visit as soon as the in-person ban is lifted.

"It's definitely every week, like, every other day, every couple days, we keep in touch," Hinzman said. "Either coach (Chris) Haering or coach (Joe) Rudolph, those guys do a great job."

UW has been a bit more patient about its 2022 class than some of its Big Ten Conference counterparts.

The Badgers are one of five teams in the conference to have one or fewer 2022 recruits orally committed; Illinois has one — Arrowhead's Joey Okla — while Indiana, Nebraska and Northwestern have none. Seven conference teams have three or more.

Ohio State, which lost in the College Football Playoff national championship in January, leads the conference with 11 committed recruits. The Buckeyes landed Quinn Ewers, the No. 1 quarterback and top-ranked recruit in the nation in the 2022 class, after he decommitted from Texas.

Maryland, Penn State and Rutgers are just behind Ohio State with seven commitments. Penn State was able to sway Milwaukee's Jerry Cross, a four-star tight end/wide receiver whom the Badgers also offered a scholarship.

Landing in-state talent like Hinzman would help the Badgers build the base of the recruiting class. UW has been successful keeping the state's best players close to home over the years, and doing so this cycle would continue to bolster the offensive and defensive lines.

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