National Signing Day is in the books, but it is never too late to look back at the past decade of Wisconsin Badgers recruiting. After all, the past can predict the future.
What does the past tell us about Wisconsin’s ability to be a player on the Big Ten and national scale? It tells us that despite recruiting rankings suggesting mediocrity, the Badgers program has been one of the most consistent in the nation.
So, who are the recruits that turned in to home runs? Let us look at the top 5 defensive ends over the past decade.
5.Warren Herring (2010)
Recruiting Info: 3-star, No. 58 WDE, No. 22 in Illinois
Career Wisconsin Stats: 56 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks
Few players in recent history had as interesting a playing career as a Badger as Warren Herring had. He played half of his career under Bret Bielema and half under Gary Andersen. It was that switch that likely made him a more impactful player than he would’ve been in the old system.
Herring put up eight of his 10 tackles for loss and four of his 4.5 sacks as Dave Aranda took over and switched things to the 3-4 defense. For a player that was an after-thought in a huge recruiting class, he certainly had a big impact on the Badgers once he was being put in the best position to use his talents.
While his name may not come to mind as quick as others, few were as productive immediately upon Aranda’s arrival as Herring was. Had injuries not limited him to eight games in 2014, Herring may have been in line for much more notoriety amongst Badger fans.
4. David Gilbert (2009)
Recruiting Info: 3-star, No. 507 nationally, No. 20 WDE, No. 71 in Florida
Career Wisconsin Stats: 79 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
Many Badgers fans will be left wondering exactly what could’ve been for a player like Gilbert as the Badgers made the switch to the 3-4 defense. Gilbert didn’t stick around to find out, but as one of the most dynamic pass rushers in recent UW history he still has a place on this list.
It is hard to say that he didn’t live up to the recruiting hype, despite only seeing the field for three seasons in Madison.
Most will remember him as a pass-rushing dynamo, but Gilbert also had a knack for making big plays on the edge in the run game as well. He was the perfect complement to JJ Watt early in his career and shined big time in his final season in a Badgers uniform.
3. Louis Nzegwu (2007)
Recruiting Info: 3-star, No. 697 nationally, No. 40 SDE, No. 4 in Wisconsin
Career Wisconsin Stats: 100 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 7 passes defensed
The hallmark of Wisconsin’s run to three-straight Rose Bowl appearances was its defense, and Nzegwu was one of the most consistent players on those teams. He was also one of the most versatile players on UW’s defense under Bret Bielema.
Whether it was holding the edge on rushing plays, heading up field on a blitz or dropping in to coverage, Nzegwu was often making the right play at the right time. Nzegwu won’t show up on the career stat sheets for the Badgers, but he was a master at doing all the little things right.
For a player most thought was a developmental prospect at best, Nzegwu proved to be a key component after a few years waiting in the wings.
No defensive end has perhaps a better lasting final memory than Nzegwu, who returned an Oregon fumble 33 yards for a touchdown and a 28-21 Wisconsin lead in the second quarter. Sadly the Badgers lost, but not for a lack of a great game by Nzegwu.
2. Chikwe Obasih (2013)
Recruiting Info: 3-stat, No. 344 nationally, No. 13 WDE, No. 2 in Wisconsin
Career Wisconsin Stats: 84 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks
Wisconsin’s switch to the 3-4 defense has de-emphasized the stats a defensive end is going to rack up. However, few player have been as productive or important to the success of those around him as Obasih has in his first three years of his career at UW.
Obasih rarely comes off the field and it is hardly a coincidence that the right outside linebacker has been successful no matter who was there. Wether it was Conor O’Neill, Joe Schobert, Jack Cichy or T.J. Watt, they’ve all had success and it certainly has helped that they’ve had a player like Obasih to take pressure off them up front.
Don’t think of him as just a space-eater either, as Obasih became more of a playmaker with Justin Wilcox in charge of the defense this past season. It will be interesting to see how the change to Jim Leonhard as defensive coordinator changes things for Obasih and the other defensive ends.
1. J.J. Watt (2008)
Recruiting Info: walk-on
Career Wisconsin Stats: 106 tackles, 36.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks
Maybe a bit of a cheat, but Watt was a transfer who decided to technically walk-on at Wisconsin rather than be converted to an offensive lineman at Central Michigan in 2008. The rest is history, as they say.
Watt went on to use the redshirt year in 2008 to put on another 25 pounds and was 6-5, 290 pounds as a redshirt sophomore in 2009. He flew on to the radar that year with 44 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
The legend of Watt only grew stronger in his junior season as he continued to terrorize opponent backfields and ended the year with a ridiculous 21 tackles for loss to go along with 7.0 sacks. It was a performance that gave him a 1st round draft status, and in just two years time at Wisconsin the status as perhaps the greatest defensive end in school history.
It was only the tip of the iceberg, as Watt has gone on to become a household name in the NFL and earned Defensive MVP three times in his career already. It’s safe to say no defensive end has had the impact on UW that Watt did in his short time in Madison.
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.
Badgers get commitment from 2020 OLB Cole Dakovich
The 209 football recruiting cycle hasn’t technically ended and already things are heating up quickly for the 2020 Wisconsin Badgers recruiting class.
A day after accepting a verbal pledge from in-state wide receiver Chimere Dike, the Badgers now have their 6th member of the 2020 class with Waukesha (Wis.) Catholic outside linebacker Cole Dakovich announcing his pledge on Twitter on Friday morning.
This was another quick recruiting life cycle, as UW offered on Saturday during their first junior day and Dakovich jumped on the offer a week later.
He is another under the radar recruit, with the Badgers offer being his only to date. However, that is more likely because Dakovich has played only one year of football since the 7th grade and it was a productive year at that.
In his first year back to playing football, Dakovich racked up 105 tackles, 18 for loss, 2.0 sacks, two interceptions, and three forced fumbles. He also had 16 receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown on the offensive side of the ball.
Wisconsin has a long and storied history of identifying these types of prospects and having them turn out well over their time in Madison.
He is not ranked by any of the scouting services out there, that’s how little football he has played to date.
The Badgers are now 11th nationally in the 2020 team recruiting rankings after some movement around the country yesterday.
In-state 2020 WR picks Badgers
Just a month after the Wisconsin Badgers got the 2019 football class signed, they got their fifth verbal pledge to their 2020 class.
Following an offer at junior day on Saturday, Waukesha (Wis.) West wide receiver Chimere Dike jumped at the chance to follow the team he’s been a fan of all of his life.
Getting this commitment gives UW five players in the mix, but also their first non-offensive lineman commit in the class.
Wisconsin is getting a player they found early in his football playing days and only competed with Iowa State for a scholarship offer to date.
This past season Dike caught 79 passes for 1,091 yards and 12 touchdowns. At 6-1, 170 pounds, Dike gives UW a nice frame to work with and his production says there is potential here.
It has led to him being rated a 3-star prospect by 247sports and the No. 6 ranked player in the state. He’s also the No. 99 ranked wide receiver in the 2020 class.
Wisconsin had him near the top of their board and getting him to verbally commit this quickly has to make the coaching staff very happy.
It also means the Badgers continue to keep a very high national ranking for this class. Wisconsin is ranked No. 10 in the country and No. 2 in the Big Ten right now. They also have a crazy .890 average player rating for the class so far.
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