I decided to start a new thread because the post would have been obnoxiously long as a response.
I have often wondered about Wisonsin's lack of recruiting prowess myself (both for basketball and football). Barry never had huge recruting classes either, and his teams seemed to do pretty well, which begs several questions:
1. How much cheating is involved in recruiting, and does Bret refuse to do it?
2. How hard is it to crack into the ranks of OSU, Mich, Miami, USC, Florida, etc. recruiting wise?
3. Is it more important to find players that fit your system rather than going after the top rated players in the country?
4. How important is a players performance in HS vs. how much better you think they might get, and is there a way to predict this?
I think that the answer to questions 1 and 2 are likely related. There is no doubt that (at least historically) the marquee programs used a combination of reputation and booster cash to bring in blue-chippers. As such, I think that Wisconsin hast had comparatively less leverage in recruiting in both areas. I don't think that there is any way of knowing if "Bucky-bucks" change hands in the recruiting process, but I feel that we would be getting better recruits if they were.
For Wisconsin, at least, the answer to question 3 is yes. (I especially believe this is true for Bo Ryan, but I'll save that for a different post.) I think that Barry had a very good idea as to what type of players he wanted in his program, and they weren't necesarily the ones that were considered 5-star prospects. He also recruited this way out of necessity, especially at the beginning. This recruting method is why Wisconsin has won 3 Rose Bowls and several other big bowls without the big recruiting classes. A combination of excellent coaching and smart recruiting can lead to very good football (but probably never BCS Championship class).
The last question may be hardest to answer. Nobody would have predicted that Jim Leonard would be an All-American and Marcus Randle-El would only be useful to get other teams plaers kicked out of games. This may be where Wisconsin has been most successful, and is probably a product of knowing which kids have some potential, are hard workers, and are coachable. Hopefully Bielema will be as good at finding those kids as Barry was, otherwise the #42 recruiting class in the country is pretty meaningless. Also, until we find a way to break into the top 10 to 15 in recruiting we will probably never win the BCS championship, excellent coaching only gets you so far.