As expected, this was a wildly successful weekend for Wisconsin football recruiting. It's early -- a sports fan's favorite caveat -- but every indication is that the Badgers have developed the basis for their best-ever recruiting class, and one with which Gary Andersen can really make his imprint in Madison.
The class now stands 13 deep after the commitments of linebackers Nick Thomas and Chris Orr, defensive end Nate Howard, offensive tackle Sam Madden and wide receiver Brandyn Lee. Those all came between Thursday and Sunday, as Thomas got the ball rolling ahead of the weekend's two camps.
The results? Wisconsin's class of 2015 now sits 17th in 247 Sports' composite rankings and second in the Big Ten, behind only Penn State and ahead of teams such as Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.
|2015 BIG TEN RECRUITING RANKINGS (Data as of June 15, via 247 Sports)|
Again, it's early... but that's a fine place to stand entering the real heart of the summer. Things will likely slow down until recruits can begin taking official visits in September, and chances are good that the next few Wisconsin commits will be of the under-the-radar variety. That jibes with the Badgers' apparent approach to this class: land a solid chunk of the class early, including smaller-name recruits that chose Wisconsin by virtue of the program's early interest. Then, once visits resume in the fall, the staff can focus on the bigger names (Michael Weber, David Edwards, A.J. Alexander, etc.) and then fill in the remainder of the class knowing a bulk of the hard work has already been done.
One area the Badgers seem likely to target in the short-term is the secondary, frequently a bane of the defense over the past few seasons. Wisconsin landed two prospects June 6 that can hold them over there: Dallas (South Oak Cliff) cornerbacks Takadrae Williams and X'zaviae Ausborne. Titus Booker, a running back/cornerback prospect from Grayslake, Illinois, also received an offer after a strong camp this weekend. The Badgers apparently do like the 5'11 Booker at corner, and with Wisconsin being his highest-profile offer to date, he's a name to watch.
LB Nick Thomas
Bradenton (IMG Academy), Fla.
6'2, 222 lbs.
Thomas, who was born and raised in Kansas, started the weekend's run with his commitment on Thursday. He's expected to enroll early, and could be an under-the-radar prospect to grab early playing time. His 40-yard dash has been clocked around 4.62 seconds, which is pretty solid for a linebacker of his size. Wisconsin and Hawaii were his only two offers, though that was about to change very quickly as schools like Baylor, Miami and Oklahoma began paying more attention.
LB Chris Orr
6'0, 215 lbs.
Orr is another Texas prospect who should further open access for Wisconsin in the area, as DeSoto is one of the state's top high schools. The Badgers had also went six years without landing a recruit from Texas before this cycle. That alone would be a small win, but Orr, who committed on Saturday, is a feisty-looking linebacker -- he's certainly not the tallest, though he's been clocked with a 40 time of 4.6 seconds and already weights 215 pounds. Again, Wisconsin was in early on this prospect; Nevada and North Texas were Orr's only other offers, though Arkansas and Baylor had expressed interest. Orr reportedly was hoping for an Arkansas offer, so here again lies the benefit of getting these recruits on campus early in the process. Orr's teammate, wide receiver Kevin Thomas, also recently named Wisconsin in his top five.
OL Sam Madden
6'7, 345 lbs.
The Badgers don't necessarily need to go out-of-state to land a 6'7, 345-pound lineman, but Madden was one they definitely wanted. According to 247Composite, Madden is the No. 37 tackle in the country and the No. 7 player from New Jersey. The composite ranking as him as a three-star, though 247's own rankings give him a fourth. At his size, Madden's a natural downhill blocker who should fit nicely into Wisconsin's rushing attack. He has long arms and also moves surprisingly well. Schools like Iowa, Louisville, Miami, Nebraska, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and West Virginia also offered Madden, so Wisconsin can count a nice victory here. Madden joins Jon Dietzen and David Moorman as tackles in UW's 2015 class.
DE/OLB Nate Howard
Saint Louis (Ladue Horton Watkins), Mo.
6'5, 220 lbs.
Howard's commitment kind of crept out of nowhere; he barely had profiles on any of the major scouting services, yet now he's a four-star recruit in 247's composite rankings. Regardless, Howard's an explosive defender with a great first step who seems like he could be a versatile piece in Wisconsin's 3-4 base system. He also picked up an offer from Oklahoma this week. Early talk has Howard as more of a linebacker at Wisconsin, which means the Badgers probably have one spot remaining at the position, ideally for Osa Masina or Porter Gustin.
WR Brandyn Lee
West Hills (Chaminade), Calif.
6'0, 175 lbs.
Lee's another sleeper prospect in that he entered the weekend unranked on many scouting sites, though the Badgers made clear that they wanted the speedy West Coast receiver. Defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a utilized his connections from that region of the country. Wide receiver will continue to be a major target for Wisconsin, which lost Jared Abbrederis to graduation and has zero proven replacements on the roster. At least in Lee and soft 2015 commit Andrew James, the Badgers have two skilled athletes lying in wait.