As national signing day gets further and further in to the rearview mirror we continue our series on the last decade of Badgers football recruiting.
While we all love to talk about the amazing tradition at running back, none of it is possible without the big guys up front. Talk to any running back and they’ll gush about what the offensive line does for them.
Talk to any NFL scout or general manager and they’d likely take anyone with a Wisconsin after their name on the draft board if given the choice. After all, it is the position that is the most drafted of any from UW over the course of the last few years.
So, let us tackle the most difficult position to break down, if for no other reason than the large numbers of successful players UW has produced in the past decade.
5. Josh Oglesby (2007)
Recruiting Info: 5-star, No. 14 nationally, No. 1 OT, No. 1 in Wisconsin
Accolades: 1st team All-Big Ten (2011)
Few in-state players have come to the University of Wisconsin with as much hype and promise as Oglesby did. After all, it isn’t too often that a 5-star player is in the state of Wisconsin at all, whether in high school or college.
However, his career didn’t quite pan out like 5-star careers should. That was in large part due to a series of knee injuries that saw him have to have six surgeries and left him without cartilage in either knee by the time he left UW.
Still, when he was on the field, few were better at right tackle than Oglesby was. He was cerebral and found a way to use his mammoth frame to his advantage when his athleticism was limited due to injuries.
Oglesby saved his best for last, starting 13 of 14 games in his senior season and dominating in that season.
One is left with the feeling of what might have been had injuries not played a significant role in his career. Still, he was one of the best we’ve seen over the past decade of recruits at Wisconsin.
4. Kevin Zeitler (2008)
Recruiting Info: No. 694 nationally, No. 51 OG, No. 4 in Wisconsin
Accolades: Honorable Mention All-Big Ten (2010); Consensus 1st team All-Big Ten, 1st team All-American (AFCA & Pro Football Weekly) (2011)
Kevin Zeitler wasn’t exactly the end-all, be-all of Wisconsin’s 2008 recruiting class but it didn’t take him long to establish himself as a future star. After redshirting his first year on campus, Zeitler was able to establish himself as a starter for the next three years for the most part.
He would go on to start 36 games at right guard and play in 40 career appearances. He was part of perhaps the single greatest offensive line in UW history in 2010. That offensive line featured names like Gabe Carimi (who won the Outland Trophy that year), John Moffitt, Bill Nagy, Ricky Wagner and Zeitler. All of them went on to be drafted in the NFL, and that is to say nothing of the sixth man in the lineup named Peter Konz, who also would be drafted in to the NFL.
As an individual player, there were few more athletic guards at UW in the last decade nor few who were as sturdy in both the run and pass protections as him. It all added up to a rare interior lineman that was easily a player ready to make the early leap to the NFL.
Since leaving UW after his junior season, Zeitler has gone on to become one of the top offensive guards in the NFL and could be the hottest free agent interior lineman on the market this offseason.
3. Ryan Ramczyk (2013)
Recruiting Info: No stars, No rating at OT, No rating in Wisconsin
Accolades: 1st team All-Big Ten
Few Badgers fans will realize that Ramczyk was actually a recruit that signed with the Badgers back in 2013. Something about a coaching change and playing time led him to go the D3 route that time. A different coaching change led him back to the Badgers football program and arguably there hasn’t been a left tackle that has had a better single season than Ramczyk has had in this past decade.
He was an easy pick for 1st team All-Big Ten honors . It all has added up to the craziest story for a player who NFL.com rates as the No. 1 offensive tackle in this draft class and will be yet another first round offensive lineman for the Badgers to put in their recruiting material.
In one year he managed to establish himself as perhaps the best left tackle Wisconsin has seen since the days of Joe Thomas, and that is saying a lot.
Perhaps there is a case for Ramczyk to top this list, but longevity also matters and the next two guys have that and the talent to back it up too.
2. Rob Havenstein (2010)
Recruiting Info: No. 679 nationally, No. 33 OG, No. 18 player in Maryland
Accolades: 2nd team All-Big Ten (2013, media); Consensus 1st team All-Big Ten, 1st team All-American (AFCA)
Few players have dwarfed their competition along Wisconsin’s offensive line the way Rob Havenstein did while at UW. He came in at 6-8, 350 pounds and stayed right there if not a little slimmer by the end of his career.
Yet, he was one of the more athletic right tackles Wisconsin has seen in some time and became one of the most dependable players on the offensive line as well. Following the impressive 2010 offensive line, Havenstein took over right where they left off in 2011, playing in 12 games. He wouldn’t miss a start the rest of his career, coming out with the first team offense for 42 of his career 54 appearances in a Badgers uniform.
Havenstein was one of the driving forces behind record-setting rushing attacks and held up well in the passing game as well.
By the end of it all he had become one of the top right tackles in college football and became a 2nd round pick of the then St. Louis Rams. He’s gone on to become the face of the Los Angeles Rams offense and perhaps one of the most underrated right tackles in the NFL today.
1. Travis Frederick (2009)
Recruiting Info: NR nationally, No. 88 OT, No. 7 in Wisconsin
Accolades: 1st team All-Big Ten (2012, media)
I believe a few programs missed the mark when it came to recruiting Travis Frederick. When it came time to choose a school, only Air Force, Navy, North Dakota State and Wisconsin had the stones to put an offer in writing for him. The choice for the Badger-state native was an easy one.
UW was lucky from the get-go, with Frederick becoming the first true freshman offensive lineman to ever start a season opener. He did that in 2009 against Northern Illinois and would go on to win two Big Ten championship games as well as three overall Big Ten titles (although he was a redshirt for the 2010 season).
His freshman season was cut a bit short though, as he only played in five games total due to an ankle injury. That injury and the log-jam along the offensive line allowed the coaching staff to sit Frederick for the 2010 season. However, once back in the lineup he wasn’t going anywhere.
Originally a tweener inside, Frederick eventually settled in as the starting center following Peter Konz’s departure for the NFL in 2012. That 2012 college football season proved to be Frederick’s best and he parlayed that in to an early departure for the NFL, becoming a 1st round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys.
He’s now the anchor to what many consider one of, if not the best offensive line in the pro game today.
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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