The Wisconsin Badgers hit early July 2017 and have already knocked out the 2018 football recruiting class. With a full fall ahead of them and new regulations allowing junior visits in the spring semester, the 2019 recruiting cycle is going to heat up fast.
With that in mind, let us fast-forward to what the 2019 recruiting cycle is likely to look like for Paul Chryst and Co.
The most important part of the what the 2019 class will look like is to understand what the makeup of the roster will look like coming up to the 2018 season. So, as we look to build the 2019 class, here is a look at how the roster will look like heading in to the 2018 season.
The biggest note is that the Badgers currently sit two over the scholarship limit of 85 players.
Obviously there will need to be and likely will be some attrition on the roster between now and December 2018 or February 2019. But, we can only deal with what is in front of us today.
1. Offensive Line
This is easily the No. 1 priority, both in terms of numbers and the actual players UW will see depart the program following the 2018 season. Right now, the Badgers stand to lose four players who have started games in the 2016 season and likely will start plenty more in Beau Benzschawel, Michael Deiter, Micah Kapoi and Jacob Maxwell. That’s not mention the potential that Kevin Estes will leave the program and throw open a fifth spot somewhere along the way here.
That’s a lot of fire power to not see on the offensive line and UW is likely going to try to hit the jackpot again in the 2019 class. UW has put out seven offers at the offensive tackle position already. While it is too early for a lot to be known about interest, one name to watch early on appears to be that of Grand Rapids (East), Mich. product Logan Brown. He is the No. 12 ranked offensive tackle in the class so far and has expressed real interest in UW to date.
Once again, we see the pattern of the Badgers targeting prospects that aren’t in the Detroit area wheel house for Michigan and Michigan State. It will be an interesting Midwest battle though for Brown, with Michigan and Wisconsin battling it out early in the 247Sports crystal ball predictions.
The Badgers have also yet to really evaluate the products in the state of Wisconsin and that will really change the board. However, you can expect a very high priority on this group of players.
2. Nose Tackle
Wisconsin will still be loaded up front and has some versatile pieces to the puzzle heading in to the future. However, the loss of not one, but two nose tackles following next season make this a paramount position of need for the Badgers. UW doesn’t have a really giant man to plug up the middle, so it will be interesting to see how this group shapes up on the recruiting trail.
To that end, Wisconsin already has extended offers to five defensive tackles in the class per 247Sports. Two of them — Tru Thompson and Siaki Ika — have already committed to Florida State and BYU respectively. That means three left, with Mazi Smith, the No. 6 ranked DT on the board along with Cincinnati, Ohio product Jowon Briggs (No. 9 DT) and Wichita Falls, Texas product Lloyd Murray Jr. (No. 21).
I wouldn’t expect any of these early offers to be on the final board just yet, but Briggs and Murray are going to be interesting to follow in their respective recruitments. Briggs has 247Sports crystal ball predictions in for Notre Dame already, but it is so early in the process.
Rafael Gagilanone is the only scholarship kicker on Wisconsin’s roster right now and that is likely to stay that way through the 2018 season. The bigger question will be if the lovable kicker will get an extra year of eligibility due to his injury this past season. Either way, this is a position that should be prioritized by the Badgers coaching staff.
The numbers may be tight, but in the end getting cover in case Gaglianone doesn’t get that extra year back is good and so is having a kicker in place as a redshirt if he does get that year back. Right now the Badgers don’t have any offers out and that’s a good thing in my book. I mean, like anyone knows if a kicker that is about to enter his junior season is really good or not. This one will take some evaluating in the fall and likely through the spring to figure out, but don’t be surprised to see some offers flying out in the coming year at this position.
4. Running Back
Wisconsin is going to lose two really decent options after the 2018 season in Taiwan Deal and Bradrick Shaw. There appears to be some decent depth behind them as well, but this is a group that will need to be re-stocked and should have a high-end running back as a priority on the recruiting trail.
It will forever baffle my mind as to why a top-ranked running back wants nothing to do with the Badgers program. Of course, factors like grades and fit to the program also matter a lot, but UW hasn’t really hit a big name running back since pulling Corey Clement out of New Jersey and home-grown product Melvin Gordon from Kenosha.
Jonathan Taylor and Nakia Watson could be special backs, but I’d like to see the Badgers get a top target for a change. To that end, keep an eye on the recruitment of players like Joachim Bangda out of Washington D.C. and Miami Carol City product Nay’quan Wright. The latter of which is already a 4-star product and the No. 10 running back in the class.
It appears the Badgers are doing their homework like always and may be going under the radar early in the recruiting process here. But, they are hitting some high-traffic areas like the DMV, South Florida and Pennsylvania so far.
Top 2021 OT commits to Badgers
With the Wisconsin Badgers 2020 class nearly full to the brim, a lot of attention has been paid to the 2021 class over this summer and it has paid off big time to date.
That hot streak continued on Sunday as one of the nation’s top offensive tackle prospects committed to the Badgers. Lakeville (Minn.) South offensive tackle Ryle Mahlman made his verbal pledge on Twitter a day after witnessing the Badgers win over Michigan.
With the Badgers rushing for over 350 yards as a team, Mahlman witnessed the smash-mouth style of Wisconsin and couldn’t wait to be part of that tradition.
“The atmosphere is always good there,” Mahlman told Badger247. “In a big game, the way they played it, it brought out the best atmosphere. It was insane. It was crazy fun.
“I love how the whole city rallies around the team.”
“They played smash-mouth football,” Mahlman said.
He comes to the Badgers as the No. 27 ranked offensive tackle in the country and the No. 1 player in the state of Minnesota. He is also the second tackle in the 2021 class, joining Wisconsin native J.P. Benzschawel, who is also a 4-star prospect and the No. 21 ranked offensive tackle in the country according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Make no mistake about it, getting the best player in the state where head coach P.J. Fleck has been trying to build a wall around is a huge win as well.
Mahlman joins quarterback Deacon Hill as members of this class from outside of the state of Wisconsin.
Overall, Wisconsin has five commits in the 2021 class already and that has resulted in them ranking No. 6 in the country early on in the process.
The Badgers are getting another prototypical big-bodied, but athletic player with a lot of room to grow in to his body and with his overall technique. You can easily see his potential as just a sophomore in the film above.
According to those who have seen Minnesota high school football so far this season, he has begun to feel more comfortable in his bend and continued to show the aggression that is the trademark of Badgers offensive lineman.
You can also see that he wore the No. 86 and often was seen as a blocking tight end, which should tell you all you need to know about how athletic he really can be.
Wisconsin once again continues to hit on priority targets in the 2021 class and it will be interesting to see how things continue to shake out after the biggest recruiting weekend of the season happened.
Badgers add sleeper DE to 2020 class
It is official visit season for college football recruiting once again. All it took was the first of those weekends for the Wisconsin Badgers to add to their 2020 class.
Wisconsin was the first Power 5 offer for Thompson when they offered back in July and that recognition was very helpful in getting him on campus and eventually to verbally commit.
Navy had also offered Thompson according to his 247Sports profile.
He is the 15th name to verbally commit to the Badgers program and the second defensive end, joining Cade McDonald (Hudson, Wis.) in the mix.
Thompson’s film screams a ton of potential and a good bit of athleticism. Most importantly, he screams one of those under the radar players who the Badgers excel at identifying and getting the most out of once on campus.
At 6-5 and 255 pounds, the frame is there for him to build off of physically.
Wisconsin sits at No. 28 nationally and No. 5 in the Big Ten in the 2020 recruiting cycle and has 15 total verbal commits.
Acker becomes Badgers 2nd 2021 football commit
It didn’t take long for the Wisconsin Badgers to know that local product Jackson Acker was a kid they wanted. It also didn’t take Acker long to know he wanted to play for the Badgers.
Shortly after earning an offer at camp this weekend, the Verona running back pledged to the Badgers.
In doing so, he became the second commit in the 2021 class and the second in-state product to make his verbal pledge to the Badgers following in the footsteps of JP Benzschawel.
According to Badger247, Acker was timed at 4.63 in the 40-yard dash at camp and comes in at 6-1 and 214 pounds after his sophomore season.
Acker ran for 528 yards and seven touchdowns in his sophomore season as well.
Given UW’s history at running back, this type of an early offer indicates the coaching staff seeing something big time in the player.
You can see that on his film, as he not only uses his speed, but has a big time ability to find creases and get up field quickly when he does find him.
Perhaps the most impressive thing on film is what he does in 1-on-1 situations. Instead of slowing down to try something fancy, Acker just punishes the defender and that is something the Badgers coaching staff loves.
You can see the old-school, bruising back that the Badgers have really missed as of late in him. It could be a nice thunder-and-lightning combination at work here with Acker in the fold.
It also means that the Badgers are likely looking for a pair of running backs in the 2021 class, because they are hard after some of the bigger names as well.
No matter what happens, clearly this coaching staff wasn’t afraid to offer the in-state product and take the chance of having him commit. That’s a strong belief in what they saw in person over limited tape so far to say the least.
Badgers add in-state DE to 2020 class
Sometimes patience and hard work pay off. Such was the case for in-state defensive end Cade McDonald.
After an impressive showing at the Badgers camp this past weekend, the Hudson, Wis. native picked up an offer from the home state team. It took just a few days for McDonald to return the love and announce his commitment to the program.
On Monday, he made things official and became commitment No. 8 in the 2020 class for the Badgers according to Badger247.
Wisconsin was the only FBS offer for McDonald at the time of his commitment. Other schools that were after him included FCS schools like Illinois State, North Dakota and South Dakota.
The Badgers now have the No. 24 ranked class in the 2020 recruiting cycle per 247Sports team rankings.
McDonald becomes just the second defensive player to commit in this class as well, joining fellow in-state product Cole Dakovich on that side of the ball.
Overall, McDonald is a 2-star recruit and the No. 98 ranked defensive end in the country per 247Sports rankings.
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