We're in the official recruiting dead period. No one can go out. No calls. No letters. It's all sorts of speculation. A veritable station of it. But you know me. I like speculation. I like debate. Hell, in text form, I might argue with you.
But here's the thing. With a new administration, there will be good things that come down the pike. Sure, it seems like the Badgers could lose their line coaches, but a Paul Chryst-led offense and a Dave Aranda-led defense is a highly possible thing. This is not a bad thing.
For the class of 2015 and beyond, there are definitely good tidings coming. It's unlikely the Badgers' class is going to escape this transition unscathed, but we're not going to see a mass exodus. Breathe in. Breathe out. Let's deep dive position by position.
I wouldn't get too worried about Austin Kafentzis taking an official visit to Oregon State. It feels more like a case of due diligence than real wavering, and there's nothing wrong with taking a look at where the coach you've been committed to for two years ended up. Let's be honest, there would have been a lot more post-visit chatter about it if there was reason to be worried.
Paul Chryst Returns
Paul Chryst Returns
Yes, there's always the possibility Kafentzis decides he's a Gary Andersen guy. But Paul Chryst has a history. A history that quarterbacks find enticing. And unless Chryst makes a move that recruiting fans would deem boneheaded, there isn't going to be a problem here.
And if disaster strikes? While most would expect the Badgers to move on to Ashwaubenon, Wis., quarterback and Bowling Green commit James Morgan, don't be so quick to think so. While Chryst did give a look at Morgan, he offered and received a commitment from in-state (Philadelphia) Malvern Prep quarterback Alex Horninbrook.
Sure, it could be an in-state metagame consideration thing there. But if he doesn't cotton to Kafentzis, which would likely be a mistake, don't automatically look in-state here.
If there was any smoother sailing at this position, it would be backed by a Michael McDonald track. Jordan Stevenson committed, Davon Crookshank hasn't been publicly jockeying for a new spot and somehow Ty'Son Williams is still trending toward Wisconsin.
And even then, the Badgers aren't without strong options should something go off the rails. They might have lost some ground with former UAB running back Jordan Howard, but he's not out of play yet. Pitt also has a four-star running back in Youngstown (Fitch), Ohio's Darrin Hall. The Badgers could come here quickly if there came to be a problem.
It's hilarious that the most unsettled position for the cycle got pretty well hashed-out when there was no head coach. Oh, and Antonio Williams is doing some subtweety Kyle Penniston things, too, for 2016. This is a position where the Badgers are good. So good.
The good news: Nothing's changed, and it seems likely that it's more a matter of when and not if Fort Lauderdale, Fla., wide receiver Marvin Robinson joins the fray. A tall guy who's quick and can leap and goes after the ball is never a bad thing.
Is there an instant answer in this class? Hard to say. But you have one (Brandyn Lee) and potentially two good prospects here who can develop into somebody. If something should go wrong, the Badgers could look at a Tre Tipton for possible poaching from Pitt, though Gary Jennings would be a higher priority here.
Kyle Penniston had moments of doubt before the Paul Chryst hiring became official, but he came back around. It's not to say the Badgers are out of the woods, as the coach who got the commit in Jeff Genyk is likely gone because Joe Rudolph could be following Chryst to UW. The relationship could not work.
The only news of a new offer to Kevin Estes is from Penn State, which is generally a good offer, but year one of Herb Hand running the offensive line was enough of a mess that Christian Hackenberg went from top pick to Penn State's answer to Joel Stave. Plus, more distance is never as much of a thing to worry about; the talent level is definitively different. As Estes was the lone straggler that we would worry about, that's very good news.
Add the possibility of Bob Bostad returning, and the position seems pretty great overall. Pitt has three offensive line commitments, but the Badgers won't make the dirty poaching business at this position, even if they have to move on to a possible Bart Miller return.
Jake Pickard will be visiting Syracuse the next possible open recruiting weekend. Sure, that would be mid-January in Syracuse, but truth be told, it would be his third visit to Syracuse. It's not enough to worry yet, but it absolutely warrants mentioning.
Nate Howard is also still definitely flippable. As it stands, the Badgers might take a look at three-star Philadelphia defensive end Shareef Miller. He's 6'5, 220 pounds and took an official visit to Pitt. He already took an official visit to Rutgers and will spend the first two visitable weekends at Arizona State and Penn State, respectively. If it came down to it, I'm sure Chryst gets on the phone as soon as possible. He may have already called. He would get some of what Nate Howard did done.
There are ways the Badgers can go if there's attrition here. If they stay at a 3-4, they'll need to keep Olive Sagapolu and Elu Aydon. Sagapolu seems solid -- Illinois is trying to poach him, but isn't close to the second-best offer here. Aydon is up in the air. Pago Pago is a long distance away from Madison, and he has offers from Colorado, Hawaii and Nevada. Obviously, a 315-pound prospect with high upside is a prospect that would be missed, but if he goes, the Badgers have options.
Dayton (Archbishop Kettering), Ohio's Kraig Howe is a defensive tackle that has that sort of high-motor game and 6'3, 255-pound frame that makes comparisons to David Pfaff appropriate. Robert Windsor's big senior year got him late offers from Purdue and Vanderbilt, but Paul Chryst went to Fond du Lac to scout him personally. If a hole opens, expect there to be a call made quickly.
Here's why the likelihood of Dave Aranda staying in Madison could be absolutely huge: this is the position where the Badgers could have to scramble to replace depth. Chris Orr is a firm Badger, but TCU just might be going around and sniffing after Nick Orr's brother. It's a legitimate decision that would have to be made if the Horned Frogs offer.
In an interview with SB Nation's Bud Elliott, Jordan Griffin mentions getting looks from Arizona, Northwestern, Vanderbilt and USF. Jim McElwain's could really give the Seffner (Armwood), Fla., prospect a decision to make with a Florida offer, too. Dominic Sheppard already has other visits scheduled, and Virginia coming in with a late offer. Nick Thomas also already visited Nebraska.
Those are the scenarios that would empty the class of 2015, with Zack Baun excluded, of course. Pitt has no committed linebackers, but a couple of top prospects in Anthony McKee and Saleem Brightwell who already hold Badgers offers, and of course Wausau West's Jake Whalen would likely be an insta-commit to fill a spot if any bad dominoes fell. Even if the Badgers hit all three, and Gary Andersen for some reason didn't recruit the kid from Columbus, Ohio very hard (McKee), shooting the moon is getting in camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle level difficult. They would need another body to replace the losses.
That means a scramble. You know what happens when you scramble? You have a bad time.
With Isaac James going to Indiana and the Badgers looking like they would be needing one more cornerback, Chryst probably already has a call into Jordan Whitehead. The Monaca, Pa., native is a tremendous athlete with good cover skills. But he has one official visit left, and the Badgers would have to pluck him from Ohio State, Penn State and West Virginia. Worth due diligence, at least.
Otherwise, Hallandale, Florida's Malik Henderson is the Pitt commit worth watching. He has the frame (6'1, 175 pounds) to contend against larger receivers, and his Hudl profile shows a Sparq-verified 4.46-second 40-yard dash. He's aggressive without forgetting to look back for the ball, which will make some of the wags in the comment section absolutely thrilled, and if there comes a possible poaching, he's not a bad candidate. Wisconsin could also double back to Rashard Causey or Chuck Davis if need be.
Lubern Figaro and Austin Hudson look ready to wreck shop next year. This wasn't a position of need before this point, and I don't think it's going to be one later in this class.
Long story short? What this is, is something that's at the very least a "could be worse situation." If there's damage from the transition, it's mostly limited to one spot, and there are plenty of good options to replace the rumored coaches that are following Andersen up to the small-town values in Chad Kahua'aha'a and T.J. Woods. Yeah, perhaps we might be talking ourselves into a random linebacker along the way, but Wisconsin's class is in much better shape than it was two years ago.
And heck, if the Badgers can keep Dave Aranda, that limits the linebacker damage. I know for sure Jordan Griffin and his tackling of everything firms up (seriously, watch the video).
The Badgers might have Chryst running the offense, Aranda running the defense and most, if not all of the recruiting class of 2015, a.k.a. the supposed best class ever.
It's not going to be a bad day to be a Badger. Not today, anyway.