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3 key questions facing Wisconsin football after losing its top recruiter to a Big Ten foe

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A collection of the most interesting quotes and thoughts from Badgers players and coaches during spring practices.

There never was going to be an easy time for Saeed Khalif to leave the University of Wisconsin football program.

But Khalif, who’s been the Badgers’ director of player personnel for nearly five years, did pick a doozy of a moment to move on to a similar job on the Michigan State staff. Khalif’s departure came hours before the NCAA’s ban on in-person recruiting was lifted and days before the Badgers were slated to host a bevy of top-of-the-board recruits on campus.

An offseason in which the Badgers’ coaching staff got a facelift now will see UW bring in fresh faces on the recruiting staff as well, with Khalif and on-campus recruiting coordinator Mackenzie Zanow leaving over the past three weeks.

So what happens now? Let’s take a look at what these moves mean for the Badgers.

Who takes over?

Khalif was leader of the Badgers’ recruiting efforts during his tenure, efforts that netted three consecutive years of program record-high ratings from 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN.com. UW’s 2021 class, which ranked in the mid-teens nationally, was its highest rated in the internet era and set the program mark with six four-star-or-better prospects.

Jensen Gebhardt, who is entering his fourth season with the program, is the only staff member left whose full-time focus is recruiting, and he’s been handling engaging recruits on social media and leading UW’s efforts in the interim.

Special teams coordinator Chris Haering — one of the program’s lead recruiters, especially for in-state prospects — also will be adding to his workload. UW is hosting official visits this weekend for four in-state prospects who are ranked as four-star prospects, along with other high-value targets like four-star running back Nicholas Singleton.

As of Thursday morning, UW-Madison’s jobs site doesn’t have Khalif’s former job posted.

How does this affect June recruit visits?

In short, we don’t know yet.

No UW prospect has publicly canceled his visit to Madison since Khalif left, but Khalif and his staff were instrumental in securing those visits and keeping in contact with recruits. UW’s position coaches have been assuming those duties as they usually do during the summertime.

Losing a familiar face with whom a recruit can connect with early on a visit isn’t ideal. But the additions to the on-campus visits that Khalif ushered in and the video packages that the recruiting staff has used both in virtual and in-person recruiting still will be used, so the impact of Khalif’s departure might not be felt as severely in the short term.

Badgers coach Paul Chryst was not available for comment for this story.

Why did Khalif leave?

With the recruiting success that UW has had under Khalif, it wasn’t surprising that another program came after him. Khalif’s ability to elevate the level of recruit the Badgers have landed in his time with the program was being noticed, and UW knew he’d be in demand sooner or later.

Losing him to a conference rival in the Spartans wasn’t as expected, but Michigan State needed to replace its director of player personnel, Scott Aligo, after he accepted a job on Lance Leipold’s new staff at Kansas.

Money likely played a factor in Khalif’s decision as well. His annual salary at UW was just over $100,000, topping out at just more than $104,000 last year. Aligo’s salary was reported to be $85,000 at Michigan State, but Spartans coach Mel Tucker already has shown he’s willing to spend to get someone he wants.

Michigan State tight ends coach Ted Gilmore — formerly the wide receivers coach at UW — was being paid about $419,000 with the Badgers, but he made $500,000 last year. A source familiar with Khalif’s agreement with Michigan State said he’ll make “substantially more.”

Khalif’s hire hasn’t been made official by Michigan State yet, so his compensation is not yet public record. An email to Khalif for comment hasn’t been returned.


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