With the first national signing day just six months from now for the 2020 class there is no time like now to start getting involved with the Badgers 2021 class as well.
So, as we begin the long haul of the offseason it’s a perfect time to understand the class and where the Badgers stand on commitments, offers and names to watch.
Looking at the potential scholarship chart, one could expect a smaller class for the Badgers. But, there is a long way to go between now and December of 2021.
So, with that in mind, let us look at the offensive recruiting being done in the class.
State of the 2021 Class
Likely Scholarships Left: 14
Yes, the Badgers have gotten their first two commit in the 2021 class and there’s a name you’ll know and a surprise one in the mix so far.
The name you’ll know is JP Benzschawel, the third of the Benzschawel brothers to commit to the Badgers program. Right now, he is listed as a 3-star offensive tackle and the No. 37 ranked tackle in the country.
That’s not a bad way to start off the class.
Just this past weekend, the Badgers got pledge No. 2 from in-state as Verona running back Jackson Acker was offered and gave his verbal pledge in just a few hours following Sunday’s camp in Madison.
But, clearly there is a lot of work to do in a 15 to 17-man class. So, let’s take a look at the early offers out and the names that you should be watching for in the coming months.
Wisconsin and everyone else was hoping to nab 5-star Illinois product J.J. McCarthy, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he verbally committed to Michigan earlier this week.
Beyond that, the Badgers have clearly made the position a priority on the recruiting trail. UW has five other offers out to quarterbacks already, including four to players inside the top 200 players in the country.
Name to Watch: Ty Thompson
Wisconsin made an offer to the Gilbert (Mesquite), Arizona quarterback earlier this spring and is one of just three Power 5 offers to the 4-star quarterback. Others to offer to date are Arizona and Iowa State, but Arizona State and Colorado have been looking hard at him this spring as well.
Look for more offers to come his way, but Thompson is a player that could fit the Badgers program well. He’s a big kid — at 6-4 and 200 lbs. — and has the arm strength needed in the Madison weather.
Offers are out fast much like they are at quarterback for the 2021 running back group. To date, Wisconsin has 5 offers out to players at this position outside of Acker’s commitment, including 4 to the RB position and one “all-purpose” back according to 247Sports.
With Jonathan Taylor likely off to the NFL after the 2019 season and the Badgers slow to the gate so far in 2020’s class, finding a big name or elite athlete to play running back seems to be a priority. That’s especially true since what is on the roster behind Taylor this year is a real unknown.
UW thinks they found that in Acker, who became a “plan A” offer immediately upon seeing him at camp. Will the Badgers take a second back in such a small class? It’s possible and I wouldn’t be surprised to see UW look for a speed back to pair with Acker.
Name to Watch: Mar’Keise Irving
Right now, it appears the most likely name to land in a Badgers uniform is the 3-star running back out of the Chicagoland area. Wisconsin was Irving’s first Power 5 offer, but since then he’s added schools like Nebraska, Minnesota, Duke, Louisville and Iowa State to his list of offers.
Does Irving end up in a Badgers uniform? Obviously it is really early in the 2021 recruiting process but it wouldn’t surprise me given the unlikely nature of other already offered players landing in the Cardinal and White.
Wisconsin doesn’t often put out so-called “un-committable” offers, so let’s keep Irving in mind for the potential spot in this class. That said, don’t be surprised if Acker is the only name at running back when all is said and done in December of 2020.
This will be the intriguing part of the offensive side of the ball in the 2021 class. Wisconsin is likely in need of at least 2 or 3 wide receivers depending on the paths that Emmett Perry, Cade Green and Aron Cruickshank take — all three are expected to be seniors in 2021. Evening out the classes may be a smart move here as well.
So far, the Badgers have lined up 5 offers at the position to date. They include some big time talent in the 2021 class and some big time recruiting hotbeds like Florida, Maryland, North Carolina and Ohio. Hitting on a bigger name may be difficult but the Badgers are good at laying some groundwork and picking up talent others wouldn’t expect them thanks to wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore.
Let’s remember that UW landed 4-star prospect Danny Davis out of Ohio State’s back yard just a few short years ago as well. Overall, this could be an important group to get right given what will be lost heading in to 2022 and what is lost before they even get to campus in 2021.
Name to Watch: Micah Crowell
Wisconsin running backs coach John Settle was in his element back in North Carolina and put in an offer a few months ago to Crowell. If Kernersville or East Forsyth rings a bell to you, that’s because it is the same town and high school that current Badgers cornerback Madison Crone is from.
Does that mean the Badgers have a big advantage? Far from it, but it does mean that the coaching staff is well-known and they’ve proven to take talent and refine it well with Cone.
Right now there isn’t much movement on the recruiting trail and of the 5 offers and three 4-star offers out there this is the one that I expect to set the trend for this position group in 2021.
Technically Jake Ferguson will be senior in 2021, but I fully expect that he won’t be here much longer than the 2019 or 2020 season given his play in his redshirt freshman season.
If that is the case, it would leave just a pair of tight ends currently on the roster and UW needing to get at least one more in the mix for the 2019 class.
It also means the Badgers would like to get at least one if not two in this class as well.
So, it should come as no surprise that three offers are already out at this position in 2021. UW is in the mix for the No. 1 rated Cane Berrong and the No. 3 ranked Moliki Matavao. In addition there is Louis Hansen in the mix too.
Let’s just say I don’t see this as a very settled group as of right now.
Name to Watch: Louis Hansen
The Badgers are a program notorious for getting more from less and while its a dream to hit on one of the top recruits in the country, Hansen may fit the Badgers mold a bit more.
Right now, he’s unranked by 247Sports, but the Massachusetts native is very intriguing to watch as he fills out a good 6-4 frame. Look for UW to be a serious contender, but also for the Badgers to put out at least 2-3 more offers over the summer months.
It feels like the old, plug-and-play days at are back along the offensive line. Such is what happens when you don’t try to screw with a formula that has worked for over 20 years.
As for the 2021 class, the Badgers could be in the mix for 4-5 offensive lineman depending on the futures of players like Kayden Lyles and Tyler Beach. If either are to leave early, this could be a 6-7 person class.
So, having that first piece in the mix in Benzschawel isn’t a bad thing at all.
UW has 10 offers out at offensive tackle and another two to players classified as guards by 247Sports. Clearly this is a position of need, if for no other than sure need for bodies.
Name to Watch: Nolan Rucci
The last name is familiar if you pay attention to recruiting, as he is the younger brother of 2019 signee Hayden Rucci. Wisconsin should have an advantage in terms of knowing the family and Nolan knowing the coaching staff.
Does that mean this is a lock? Far from it, because Nolan is one of the top 50 players in the class overall and the No. 7 ranked offensive tackle in the country too. He could have his pick of the litter of college football programs.
Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Badgers win this recruitment in the end. It just won’t be as easy as some other legacy recruitments to date. If the Badgers land him, this class could be turning in to something really special.
Defense leads Badgers to win over Northwestern
It sure wasn’t pretty, but the Wisconsin Badgers took down reigning West division champions, the Northwestern Wildcats just the same.
UW’s defense came up big in the 24-15 victory. What happened, which players were the highlights and what needs to be worked on as the 4-0 Badgers go out of conference next week?
Our publisher, Andrew Coppens, comes to you with his full recap of UW’s win.
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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Northwestern Wildcats Preview
Wisconsin comes in its fourth game of the season flying high off of an early season benchmark win over Michigan. Up next are the Northwestern Wildcats – a program that has been very competitive against the Badgers over the last decade.
Given that history and how this early season has played out for both teams, what can we expect from the Badgers and Wildcats? Will it be revenge for Jack Coan or will Northwestern get back on track after a 1-2 start to the season.
Watch to find out the names to know, the stats to keep an eye on and more.
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Wisconsin vs. Northwestern: 5 Things to Know
For many fans of the Wisconsin Badgers, the high of victory over Michigan has not worn off. After all, it is just the 16th time in the history of the series that that happened.
But, we’re turning the corner and looking forward to the next game.
That next game is a home contest against the Northwestern Wildcats, also known as the reigning, defending, Big Ten West division champions. Let’s just say what we’ve seen from the Wildcats in 2019 does not resemble anything that we saw in 2018.
Northwestern comes in to this divisional contest on the heels of a 31-14 drubbing by an equally troubled Michigan State offense and sits with a 1-2 record on the early season.
But, overlooking anyone in the Big Ten is a big mistake. So, what do we need to know about this upcoming matchup? Let’s look at the 5 Things to know.
5: Wisconsin has won 5 of the last 6 meetings in Madison
One thing we can always count on in the Wisconsin-Northwestern series is the home team winning, right? After all, Wisconsin has won 5 of the last 6 games in Madison and Northwestern is the same 5 of the last six at Ryan Field in Evanston.
During those last six home games against the Wildcats, Wisconsin is averaging 35 points per game and has given up an average of 14.5 points per game.
In those last six road games in this series, UW is averaging 12 fewer points (23ppg) and has given up an average of nearly 12 more points per game (23.6).
Good thing this one is in Madison, huh?
4: Is the single-game record for pass break ups for Northwestern
Why would this be relevant? Well, that record was just tied last weekend as Greg Newsome II recorded four individual pass break ups in the loss to Michigan State. It was also his career high.
According to the stats, Newsome is averaging 2.3 pass break ups per game as well and that puts him in the national lead.
So far this year, Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan has been remarkably efficient. He’s completed over 76 percent of his passes and has zero interceptions. Newsome is likely to go after the Badgers best performer in Quintez Cephus.
Who wins this battle could be a big factor in who wins the overall game on Saturday.
3: UW leads the country in opponent third down conversion rate
While advanced stats are all the rage, some of the old-fashioned stats are equally telling. One such stat can be third down conversions. Generally speaking, the fewer you allow your opponent to convert on, the fewer chances they have to score points.
It turns out, the Wisconsin Badgers are pretty good at it, allowing opponents to convert on just 10.5 percent of their third down chances so far this season.
The Badgers have allowed opponents to convert on just 4 of 38 attempts so far this season.
For reference, Ohio State is second in the Big Ten with an average of 23 percent. Second nationally is Kansas State at 16 percent.
Northwestern’s offense hasn’t exactly been good — converting just 18 of 48 attempts (37.5 percent) to rank 11th in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin’s offense also leads the Big Ten in 3rd down conversions at 56.4 percent on the season. That mark is also 7th nationally.
Let’s just say, third down has been Wisconsin’s down most of the season.
2: Northwestern’s Joe Gaziano is 2nd in all-time sacks
Know the name Joe Gaziano, commit it to memory and don’t let him get to the quarterback.
I’m guessing that is the message being delivered by offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph this week and it is a wise move.
That’s because the senior Northwestern defensive end is on pace to become the best sacker of quarterbacks in program history. His fourth-straight season with a sack of Brian Lewerke last week put him tied with Ifeadi Odenigbo (2013-16) for second in Northwestern history with 23.5 career sacks and is now just 4.5 behind Casey Dailey’s program record of 28.
His task won’t be particularly easy on Saturday though, as UW’s offensive line has given up just five sacks in three games and that number has only gone down since the opener.
Wisconsin gave up three sacks to USF and since then has only given up one sack each to Central Michigan and Michigan.
If Northwestern can’t get pressure on Jack Coan and allows him to be comfortable in the pocket, it could be a very long day at Camp Randall for the visitors.
1: Wisconsin leads the nation in game control
What is game control, you may be asking? Well it turns out game control is the amount of time you are able to hold a 14 or more point lead during a game.
Through three games, the Badgers have been up 14 or more points for 76.6 percent of the time per SportsSource Analytics.
Yes, it has come against two bad opponents and a Michigan team that got its soul crushed by the Badgers. But, for a Wisconsin team that has been notorious for playing down to competition, this is about as good an indication of how good they have been as you will find.
Add in Northwestern’s offensive struggles and this game feels like it won’t look much like the competitive ones we’ve been accustomed to and that have some believing this game a rivalry.
Be wary of the trap against Northwestern?
It feels like the classic trap game, right? Wisconsin just dominated an opponent everyone seemed to think was better than them on paper and Northwestern is coming to Camp Randall.
I mean, Northwestern has just one win on the season and is coming off a 31-14 loss to Michigan State that wasn’t as close as the score would tell you.
Given the history of the Badgers and Wildcats this isn’t good news, right? This is your classic Admiral Ackbar moment:
Or is it?
Well, sure, you may point to the fact that Wisconsin has won five of the last six inside Camp Randall and the trouble has really been on the road, but may I remind you that Northwestern got the Badgers 13-7 in 2015 for a split of the last two games in Madison?
Let’s also remember that every year is different from the next, until it start to feel like all the others playing out right before your eyes once again.
Speaking of which, did I mention that Northwestern is notorious for slow starts to their seasons? See 2016 (1-3), 2017 (2-3) and 2018 (1-3) for reference and then see what they did the rest of those seasons.
Well, this year the Wildcats are 1-2 in games prior to their school year even starting.
It all should give Wisconsin some pause because it seems like the Wildcats are historically poised to break out.
But, there’s a big difference between most of those years and this year — in most of those years, the Wildcats were playing good football and just couldn’t find a way to win.
You can’t say that about the 2019 Wildcats to say the least and stats are our friend here.
Let’s just start with the fact that the Wildcats of 2019 have not found a way to score even if it would bite them in the backside. The passing game has just one touchdown to six interceptions, completing just 48.3 percent of its passes for 408 yards.
That’s Wisconsin 2018 levels of bad, if not worse.
Northwestern is also averaging just 15.7 points per game, dead last in the Big Ten. Even Rutgers has managed to score an average of three times a game (21.3 through 3 games).
Through the first three games of last season, Northwestern averaged 24 points per game and topped the 30 point mark in two games (a 31-27 opening game thriller over Purdue and a 34-39 loss to Akron).
In 2017, Northwestern averaged 32.3 points per game in the first three of the year and in 2016 the average points per game were nearly as bad as this year — at 17.3 points per game.
That 2016 season is one this team would like to forget, as they went just 6-6 on the regular season before winning their bowl game over Pittsburgh to eek out a winning season in the end.
On the flip side, the Northwestern defense has usually been able to be counted on. So far this year, they have given up an average of 20.6 points per game, putting them 8th in the league, but right around their averages for most of the past three years as well.
But, Northwestern has faced Stanford, UNLV and Michigan State — three offenses that have largely struggled to get going themselves this year.
Is the Wildcats stat machine an indication of a good defense or just bad offenses they have played against?
Well, we can go to the advanced stats to tell us just how different the Badgers and Wildcats have been this season. Let’s take a look at the plot chart of S&P+ for instance:
For those of you new to this type of chart and rating, the more lower and to the right you are, the better you are. The further to the left and up you are, the worse you are.
So, what you are seeing is the byproduct of just how bad Northwestern’s offense as been. They are way off to the left on this plot chart, indicating they are amongst the worst overall performing teams in the Big Ten.
When you are in the category of Rutgers, you are doing it wrong, oh so wrong.
Take a look at Michigan State, where their defensive rating is so good, but the offense has been so bad (up until last week against Northwestern ironically) that they are where they are on this chart.
Or how about Hunter Johnson, the former 5-star recruit to Clemson that transferred and was expected to be the savior of all things Northwestern’s offense in 2019.
Well, the advanced stats have him as one of the bottom 15 quarterbacks in average PPA.
On the flip side, the metrics have a love affair with Wisconsin right now.
One thing is for sure, we’re going to get an ornery Pat Fitzgerald.
Maybe Fitz will hire one of those experts to get his offense in gear? Either that or hold off for another week, because Wisconsin would like another week of you not figuring out how to advance the ball on offense.
Either way, expecting the normal Badgers vs. Wildcats craziness just shouldn’t be a thing this week. These two teams are going in very different directions and fast.
Does that mean the Badgers will take Northwestern lightly going in to Saturday? Since the majority of this team were on the field for Wisconsin’s soul-crushing loss in Evanston, you can bet they won’t be taking anything for granted on Saturday morning.
Just don’t expect this to be the classic trap game it has been for both teams in the past.
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