Let's take a look at Wisconsin's minimum recruiting needs for the class of 2013. Remember, these are the minimum needs. The rest is up to the discretion of the coaches. Things like quality of talent in a given year as compared to the following year are considered by the coaches and are often the explanation for taking more than the needed minimum.
This page will be dynamic to reflect changes in the plan, including position switches. Please remember that this is an estimation and will become more accurate as the season progresses and likely attrition is determined.
Attrition consists of, but is not limited to: early departures for the NFL, failing out of school, transferring to another school for more playing time, career-ending injuries, disciplinary departures and players electing to end their eligibility to pursue a career in something other than sports. Obviously, some of these situations are difficult to predict.
Quarterback: Wisconsin could technically return four quarterbacks in 2013, but realistically, attrition of one may occur. We already saw it prior to the 2012 season as Joe Brennan suffered a drop on the depth chart behind redshirt freshman and former walk-on QB Joel "Sunshine" Stave.
For the 2013 class, Wisconsin targeted a few dual-threat QBs, but lost out to other programs. This was a little surprising to me as I thought the "Russell Wilson" factor would make an immediate impact on recruiting those types of QBs to Madison. If only...sigh.
Wisconsin has not received a verbal from a QB for the 2013 class as yet, but with Stave, Danny O'Brien, Jon Budmayr (health is a major issue), Bart Houston coming back next season, I think taking a QB is a possibility, but certainly not a necessity at this point. Plus, heralded recruit QB Chance Stewart has already committed for the 2014 class.
Skill (RB/WR/TE): The minimum here is generally considered to be 20 on an active roster. Wisconsin will technically return 18 here and it would be reasonable to expect additional attrition of at least three. Thus, a minimum of five skill recruits should be brought on. But within this, a look at specific positions is also needed. Wisconsin needs to have at least six running/fullbacks, four tight ends and ten receivers for its pro-style offense. That's something to keep an eye on.
Running Back: With the departure of Montee Ball, the Badgers will still retain James White, Melvin Gordon, Jeff Lewis, Vonte Jackson and Leo Musso. Gordon looks like the next up-and-coming star at Wisconsin. With five backs, most schools would be comfortable with that number. But at Wisconsin, the ground game is the foundation and Bielema is still trying to recruit Corey Clement, David Williams and Alex Collins for 2013. It's tough to see any of these three commit given the multitude of talent ahead of them already at Wisconsin. They can certainly jump a few of these players on the depth chart, but they could start as freshmen elsewhere.
Wide Receiver: The saving grace for this season is knowing that the Badgers will return everyone at the WR position in 2013. It's a position in which Wisconsin needs a deep threat to stretch the field so opposing defenses do not crowd the box to stop the run. Wisconsin has already received verbal commitments from Jazz Peavy and Rob Wheelwright from under Ohio State (take that, Meyer!). With all the current players returning and these two recruits coming in, Wisconsin will likely not target anyone else, especially in the system they run using 2 tight ends and an H-back.
Tight End: Wisconsin should be solid again at this position with the return of Jacob Pedersen, Brian Wozniak, Sam Arneson and Brock DeCicco. Wisconsin has received verbal commitments from T.J. Watt and Troy Fumagalli. With the tight number of scholarships for 2013, look for Bielema to focus on recruiting other positions from now on.
Offensive Line: 15 is the minimum here under most circumstances. Outland Trophy candidate Ricky Wagner will be playing on Sundays next season. It's possible that junior C Travis Frederick could jump to the NFL, though his passion for computer engineering and completing that degree leads me to believe he will come back in 2013. Wisconsin will return at least 10 linemen and is already bringing in Matt Miller, Jack Keeler and Hayden Biegel in 2013. Look for the Badgers to go hard after other linemen including David Knevel, adding a potential fourth lineman to the class.
Defensive Line: 15 is the minimum here in a 4-3 defense, and within that, at least seven ends and tackles. Wisconsin will return about 10 defensive linemen, and I am not sure that any attrition should be expected. Wisconsin needs to bring in a minimum of five defensive linemen. At least three of the five need to be defensive ends
I'm really excited about the defensive linemen Wisconsin is bringing in already -- DT Darius Latham, DT Sam Raridon, DE Chickwe Obasih and DE Alec James. They are big, strong, physical and fast -- attributes that the Wisconsin defense sorely needs. It's not crucial to add another scholarship player on the line, but it's an area the Badgers really need to address going forward. Look for Wisconsin to add more defensive linemen as signing day approaches.
Linebacker: The minimum here is generally eight in a 4-3 defense. Wisconsin will technically return six linebackers, and attrition of one should be expected. Unfortunately, Wisconsin will lose one of the best LBs in the conference in Mike Taylor. Wisconsin will need to bring in 1-2 linebackers in 2013. It looks like Garret Dooley is the only LB in the class, but others from the 2012 class should be able step up, like AJ Fenton. Again, look for Wisconsin to target more LBs in this class.
Defensive Back: A minimum of 14 defensive backs is typically desired. Wisconsin will technically return 12, and attrition of three is expected at this spot. Wisconsin will need to bring in four defensive backs. Wisconsin received a verbal from CB Keelon Brookins, and is very much in the mix for CB Sojourn Shelton and S Marcus Ball -- both highly touted defensive backs.
Losing a couple starters in CB Marcus Cromartie and CB Devin Smith to graduation along with senior SS Shelton Johnson to injury for 6-8 weeks puts Wisconsin in a position where it needs to develop the secondary very quickly. Should Johnson be out for a longer period of time, it's possible he could take a medical redshirt and be granted an extra year of eligibility. For recruiting purposes, getting Shelton and Ball to sign will be huge for the Badgers.
Special Teams: Wisconsin typically wants to have a kicker and punter on scholarship. Unfortunately, the Badgers are looking at two non-scholarship players at those positions: PK Jack Russell and P Drew Meyer. The good news is they are playing fairly well given that they are only freshmen, have tremendous upside and should be a mainstay at Wisconsin for four years. No real needs at this point and don't look for Wisconsin to use whatever scholarships they have left on these positions.
Recap Of Minimum Needs (Including Targets):
The Badgers will lose only 5-6 starters total, so going into the 2013 seasons, the Badgers should be loaded on both sides of the ball. That is why the 2013 recruiting class will be small yet again and why there aren't a significant number of needs at most positions.
QB (Optional): Not likely unless a highly touted recruit comes knocking.
Running Back (Need): Alex Collins, 4-Star; 5-foot-11, 180 pounds
Running Back (Need): David Williams, 4-Star; 6-foot-1, 192 pounds
Running Back (Need): Corey Clement, 3-Star; 5-foot-11, 205 pounds
Running Back (Optional): Wisconsin is going after all three RBs hard, hoping one will commit. If not either of these three, look for David Yancey to receive an offer.
Wide Receiver (Optional): Not likely with the two commits who already gave a verbal.
Tight End (Optional): Again, not likely with the two commits and limited scholarships.
Offensive Line (Need): David Knevel, 3-Star; 6-foot-8, 290 pounds
Offensive Line (Optional): Wisconsin prides itself on the "boys up front" so they could add another scholarship offensive lineman to the 2013 class.
Defensive Line (Need): With an already strong 2013 class at the defensive line position, look for the Badgers to add 1-2 more scholarship players at DT or DE.
Linebacker (Need): Same as the defensive line, look for the Badgers to add a scholarship LB to the 2013 class, though they should be strong at that position for the next couple seasons.
Defensive Back (Need): Sojourn Shelton, 3-Star; 5-foot-10, 150 pounds
Defensive Back (Need): Marcus Ball, 3-Star; 6-foot-3, 205 pounds
Defensive Back (Optional): If the Badgers can't sign both Shelton and Ball, or only one of them, then they will certainly add 1-2 more scholarship players in the secondary.
Check back in tomorrow for my WISCruiting Weekly update!