Editor's Note: As we were about to hit Publish on this, Jordan Stevenson committed to Wisconsin. Obviously, that changes things!
When I started talking the recruiting, I always called this the capricious whims of teenagers. Because honestly, it's something that tends to have a lot more bad news than good, and there are plenty of reasons why a commitment would go anywhere. Unfortunately, the capricious whims of coaches always tend to throw recruiting classes into stark relief.
So, what we're doing here is we're going to break down some Wisconsin recruits and targets that have made their opinions known and see who we can feel good about, and who might cause us to root for Oregon even after the whole Heisman thing.
2015 QB commit Austin Kafentzis: He's pretty solid as a Badger. Like most current Wisconsin commits, the three-star quarterback is going to have a wait-and-see response to the situation. His biggest concern at this juncture is if the Badgers' new coach will accept him as a quarterback. Spoiler alert: The new coach not honoring the scholarship would be a real good way to get off on a bad foot.
"Is he committed to Wisconsin? Absolutely." Loves the town and the people. But he's not committing if the coach doesn't see him as a QB.— Matthew Piper (@matthew_piper) December 11, 2014
2016 RB commit Antonio Williams: You want a little more hope for Wisconsin's most-hyped prospect in a long time, the 2016 commit from New London, N.C.? So long as the offense doesn't turn into some kind of Washington State, Williams is solid.
2015 OT commit Jon Dietzen: No need to worry about the top in-state offensive tackle prospect from Seymour.
2015 WR commit Andrew James: The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., three-star return specialist had a little bit of a star-crossed senior season, but as the coaching staff didn't even think of letting James go elsewhere, it's engendered patience from him. He's in, depending on who the next coach is.
2015 WR commit Brandyn Lee: The three-star receiver from West Hills, Calif., is still a Badger.
2015 OT commit Sam Madden: The four-star offensive tackle out of Barnegat, N.J., also seems solid. Remember, he's cousins with former Badger John Moffitt, so this was never one that was about committing to the staff.
2015 TE commit Kyle Penniston: It's gonna be interesting here. There were a lot of schools who have offered Kyle Penniston in recent weeks. And like the [bitter comment redacted because I'm clearly a hater] he is, Urban Meyer attempted to swoop in quickly to get a flip from Penniston.
Also, Penniston is clearly a fan of current Wisconsin tight ends coach Jeff Genyk:
Really hoping the new coach keeps Coach Genyk...— KP (@kyle_penniston) December 11, 2014
2015 LB commit Jordan Griffin: The Armwood, Fla., three-star inside linebacker prospect isn't decommitting, but if there's an enterprising team, he currently looks flippable.
Armwood LB Jordan Griffin "Right now I am still committed to the University of Wisconsin but I will be opening my recruitment back up."— Nick Williams (@NickWilliamsTBO) December 11, 2014
2015 LB commit Nick Thomas: The three-star potential early entrant and linebacker from the IMG Academy is wavering.
I am still committed as of now but I will be opening up my recruitment and looking at my other options.— Nicholas Thomas (@nickbeach_) December 10, 2014
Haha but the fact I first found out from a coach of another staff....— Jake Pickard (@JakePickard2015) December 10, 2014
2015 DE/LB commit Nate Howard: The high three-star defensive end prospect from Saint Louis was going through the entirety of the recruiting process before Andersen left. At this juncture, Missouri looks like a real threat to come in late and get the flip here.
2015 LB commit Dominic Sheppard: The three-star prospect from Gulliver Prep in Miami also had official visits scheduled to Louisville and Vanderbilt. There aren't any reports of wavering quite yet, but he's definitely someone who you have to watch for as a possible flip.
2015 DT commit Olive Sagapolu: No official word for the other Mater Dei, Calif. prospect, but if you're looking at the subtext. There's reason to think he won't waver.
2015 LB target Christian Folau: The four-star linebacker prospect had the Badgers as favorites going into this week, but a part of it was that defensive linebcoach Chad Ka'hua'aha'a was working so hard. The Badgers have fallen off here.
2015 ATH/WR target Isaac James: Speaking of top targets that the Badgers just might have lost out on, here's Isaac James. The three-star athlete from Carmel, Ind., who the Badgers were recruiting as a cornerback was coming off an "awesome" visit to Northwestern while Andersen was scheduling a tour of where they filmed Night Visitors while Ohio State was playing football. And now that Andersen will see where Faith Ford hid that alien, the conventional wisdom is that Northwestern gets James to commit.
So that's what we know, as it stands right now. Sure, there are a couple of sad spots. But for the most part, the sky isn't falling for the class of 2015. That said, I'll leave you with a couple of things to look out for.
1. The California kids
Sure, Kyle Penniston has family in Wisconsin, and it's probable that the Badgers won't lose him. And some of the more firm prospects are recruiting Olive Sagapolu in an attempt to keep him in the fold, but as it stands right now, OT commit Kevin Estes is a complete unknown. The San Marcos four-star prospect is a tailor made left tackle and possibly the best lineman in this great class. Keeping him will be as huge as keeping Penniston.
2. Who jumps in for Jordan Stevenson?
There was a little bit of fire to the circumstances surrounding Jordan Stevenson's decommitment from Texas and its timing with Melvin Gordon going pro. As it stands, the state rules say there has to be a two-week waiting period between the time Wisconsin's job opening gets posted and the time that a hire can be announced. This close to the endgame, there's ample opportunity for a school to swoop in and get a four-star running back like Stevenson for themselves.
3. Could the state help with the decommits?
We've made mention of how the Badgers really went national this year in recruiting. Only three of 24 prospects this year were from the Badger State. Looking at the list, you'll notice the positions where the Badgers seem most likely to have attrition are along the defensive front seven. There are ways this can be helped. Defensive tackle Robert Windsor out of Fond Du Lac had a big senior season and has offers from Purdue, Illinois, Iowa State and Vanderbilt. Wausau West's Jake Whalen is a three-star inside linebacker who seemed to slip through the cracks of the recruiting process this season. Heck, Andrew Ruzek has already accepted a preferred walk-on offer.
Nothing's guaranteed; this is me thinking out loud. But it's most definitely less of a scramble if you can get help from inside your borders.