Wisconsin has had great success in Florida in recent years, most notably at St. Thomas Aquinas High School of Fort Lauderdale. The first Badger drafted last weekend, Dezmen Southward (I know, right?), hails from STA. You know who else does? New New England Patriots running back James White. And just when you thought maybe the pipeline had dried up, a quick look at last year's roster shows that linebacker Conor O'Neill also played there! With all three of these guys gone to the NFL (hopefully, in O'Neill's case) the Badgers were looking to get back into the fertile recruiting grounds of southeastern Florida and Broward County.
Checking in with...
Brandon Wilson: We mentioned in our offer lightning round last week that the Badgers were interested in Wilson, and it appears that interest is mutual. Wilson told Badger247 ($) that he was "surprised" by the Badgers offer and that he "was going to get to know more about them." While UCF and Mississippi State still are in the lead, Wilson said he'd have to take a visit to Madison before he would know for sure if the Badgers are a good fit. The defensive end said he'd probably commit by July. If random retweets and favorites are any indication of interest, though, I'd say Wisconsin is in pretty good shape.
Andre James: Clocking in at No. 7 on Rosin's Post-Spring Big Board, James was always a bit of a reach for UW, and the touted offensive lineman offered his top six schools on Twitter this week and the Badgers did not make the cut.
Top 6 (No order) Ohio St. Oklahoma Oregon UCLA USC Utah Thank you to all the schools and coaches for recruiting me. Very grateful— Andre James (@AndreJames75) May 14, 2014
As they say in the 'crootin business, "what are ya gonna do?" Note: I do not know if anyone says this about anything.
Jalen Merrick: In typical Alabama fashion, the Crimson Tide came in a day after Wisconsin offered with an offer of their own. Always riding our coattails, huh Saban? That offer joins a long list of others for the rapidly rising offensive tackle ($) from New Smyrna Beach, who only picked up football two years ago. With seemingly every school in the SEC and Big Ten offering Merrick, Wisconsin does have a secret weapon in D'Cota Dixon, Merrick's cousin. It will be tough for the Badgers to beat out the likes of 'Bama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Ohio State, but they are definitely in the mix for the player Dixon says will be the "biggest thing to come out of [New Smyrna Beach]."
Let's talk new offers
The quartet of players that the Badgers have offered at St. Thomas Aquinas includes two Florida Atlantic commits, cornerback Rashard Causey and running back Jordan Scarlett (earlier offer). Scarlett is a four-star prospect according to 247, and while committed to FAU, offers from traditional powers are singing their siren songs. Scarlett is compact, has a bit of a mean streak (check out the beginning of this video), and can juke fools in a phone booth. A similar story ($) seems to be playing out with Causey, the three-star corner: yes, he's committed to FAU; no, he's not going to stop looking around. Wisconsin could have a leg up in this race because Causey is cousins with James White and friends with Devin Gaulden and Sojourn Shelton. Gaulden is already doing a little recruiting on the Badgers behalf.
The other two STA players to be offered by Wisconsin are Chris Hart and Damon Arnette. After offering Hart on Monday, the Badgers instantly shot to the top of his list ($). Measuring at 6'3 and 225 pounds, Hart is already built like a Big Ten linebacker, and his highlight video shows a fluidity and ferocity that will have opposing ball carriers fearing for their yardage totals. He also has offers from Pitt, Illinois, Mississippi State, Kentucky and South Florida. Arnette has great size for a corner (6'2, 185 pounds) and is unafraid to step up and make a tackle. He's currently high on Florida State, South Carolina and Kentucky, but he mentioned that Wisconsin is a school ($) he could see himself really liking.
The Badgers are hoping that the combination of proven success with players from STA as well as prior relationships will help move them to the top of these players' lists. In the rough-and-tumble world of recruiting in Florida, any little advantage helps.
Continuing their spate of recent Florida offers, the Badgers also offered a troika of prospects from Mainland High School (Daytona Beach). Arthur Westbrook, Meiko Dotson and Marcus Brunson are the three unheralded players Wisconsin looked at, and none of them are currently rated by 247. Westbrook, a safety, has offers from Duke and Cincinnati among others; Dotson, a corner, has a few from Western Michigan and South Florida among others; while Brunson, an undersized outside linebacker, has just the Wisconsin offer.
Offer List Lightning Round
Wisconsin has been offering recruits so quickly, it can be tough to keep up. Here is a quick roundup of some of the most recent offers.
Ben Cleveland: This is a pretty big deal, you guys. Cleveland is the second-rated offensive tackle, and sixth-best player, in the country. THE WHOLE COUNTRY! The 6'7, 322-pound shiny building of a man received his Wisconsin offer Monday night to add to his list of Auburn, Georgia, Alabama, Michigan, South Carolina, Florida, Clemson and Texas. The Toccoa, Georgia, native is leaning toward UGA and Auburn right now, but plans on doing some research on UW ($) before naming favorites. Landing Cleveland would put Gary Andersen and Wisconsin squarely on the recruiting map.
Kevin Thomas: Thomas is a lanky (6'2, 175 pounds) receiver out of DeSoto, Texas. He seems to be leaning toward Clemson right now, but also sports offers from fellow Big Ten teams Maryland and Indiana. The Badgers are always on the lookout for talent and athleticism at receiver, and Thomas brings both to the table.
Michael Howard: A fast-rising offensive tackle, Howard has received offers from UW, Florida and Tennessee already this week. The 6'6 tackle is only tipping the scales at 248 pounds right now, but obviously has the frame to tack on mass. Hopefully it goes better than when others try to do it.
T.J. Simmons: When you have a nickname like "Speedie," there are certain expectations that need to be met and boy howdy, does Simmons deliver. In some of his highlights, the cameraman can barely keep him in frame. The three-star running back from Lakeland, Florida, has offers from Notre Dame, UCF, Florida, Ohio State, Louisville, Clemson and Auburn, among many others. The Badgers may be a long shot, but earlier in April Simmons said he was expecting an offer from UW ($), so he obviously has Wisconsin on his radar.
Looking ahead, because it's never too early
Dredrick Snelson: The 2016 four-star receiver from American Heritage High School (Fort Lauderdale) has an impressive, though small, offer list so far featuring USC, Nebraska, Clemson and the favorite, Miami. His Hudl profile includes blocking highlights *swoons*.
And last, but not least, Rivals has a cool video of Wisconsin target Josh Sromovsky from their recent camp in Chicago. The 6'3 receiver looks really fast and uses his height well to go up and get balls that shorter corners can't reach. Wisconsin has yet to offer the in-state kid from Oregon, but could be looking at him a little bit longer after his performance in Chicago. Minnesota and Iowa State have also shown interest.