Spring has turned to graduation weekend at Camp Randall. That means plenty of Wisconsin Badgers football players will walk across the stage with a degree in hand. It also means coaches are out on the recruiting trail more and more when possible.
With nearly half of the 2018 recruiting class in the fold already, this summer will be all about figuring out which recruits to prioritize and which positions need the most attention. Sadly, as things stand it appears that UW’s premier position — running back — is one that will need some serious work this summer.
How is recruiting stacking up at arguably the most visible position on Wisconsin’s offense? Let’s take a look.
This shouldn’t be surprising this early in the recruiting process. Unless the Badgers have a home run in-state kid in the mix or someone who has ties to the program, getting a top running back in the fold before the summer between junior and senior seasons is a rarity.
However, Wisconsin has missed on a few of its biggest targets and may be on the outside for its biggest priority recruit heading in to the summer. That has to be a worry for a program that needs to continue to stockpile the talent at this position.
There are nice options for the next few years on the roster, but long gone are the days of three 1,000-yard backs in the same backfield.
Wisconsin’s biggest option on the board appears to be this North Carolina prospect. Others on the board have committed elsewhere and UW has cooled off on many of them. Smith
Some may argue that the No. 1 priority on the board is Ohio prospect Tavion Thomas and they could be right. However, Thomas’ recruitment has picked up nationally and Wisconsin, who was once thought of as the leader, certainly isn’t in the driver’s seat anymore.
Schools like Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Arkansas and Texas have all piled on. So too have Oregon and USC…and I think you get the point here. It would be a huge win for the Badgers if they could get the Dayton, Ohio prospect in the fold, but counting on that seems less and less likely.
If you’re looking for the most likely to commit, then Collins could be that guy. His offer was as an athlete originally, with a likely bent to the defensive side of the ball. Chryst and Co. have since switched his offer to the running back position and have intrigued the 6-0, 194-pound Detroit Jesuit product.
Having 2017 safety Scott Nelson from the same school will be a big help in this recruitment. The question is if Collins will ultimately be a running back or move elsewhere in his career should he commit. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
State of Recruiting:
The Badgers have a large stable of running backs that aren’t leaving after this season so running back has taken a bit of a backseat on the recruiting trail. One could say leading up to the 2017 class that it was becoming an issue overall for the Badgers.
However, with Bradrick Shaw, Chris James and the incoming Jonathan Taylor in the mix (not to mention the improving Sam Brodner), there hasn’t been much reason to panic just yet.
That panic button is getting close to needing to be pushed at this position for the 2018 class though. Wisconsin has reached out and went after a number of “top of the board” targets and have completely struck out. Given UW’s recent and long-term history at the position missing out on big targets is a bit surprising.
What is more troubling is the fact that UW is having trouble gaining traction with the second level of offers.
Jahmir Smith is far from a lock to become a Badger, while Collins seems to be a lean but maybe a very disappointing get considering where the Badgers were on the recruiting trail just a few months ago. Will a bigger name pop up or will Wisconsin have to “settle” for one of the easier targets on the board?
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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