Every so often, I like to go through the prospects Wisconsin has left and give a completely personal ranking of the Badgers' Big Board. It doesn't mean they're going to get half of these guys. After all, the Badgers have seven spots remaining -- at most -- and this board is 15 deep. There may also be a positional take that might not make this big board, because the Badgers do like upside.
1. OLB Osa Masina
6'4, 230 lbs.
Salt Lake City, Utah
It was a little bit of an upset victory when the Badgers made Masina's top five. But Gary Andersen has put in work for this prospect probably since before Utah State almost took out Auburn at Jordan Hare. As it is, Masina is a top-notch athlete who could well prove to be a highly dominant pass-rusher. Wisconsin would have to beat out Arizona State, Michigan, UCLA, and USC to get him. It's a long shot, but the Badgers definitely have one.
2. RB Chris Warren III
6'2, 232 lbs.
In terms of those who grade these prospects with numbers and stars, Warren is the best running back available. He's a big, quick thumper with good bloodlines. Texas is recruiting him hard, and when you have a Texas running back that's being recruited hard by the Longhorns, obviously that's going to be a challenge to overcome. Add in Stanford, and you'll see that a team that enjoys running is a team he's interested in. If Wisconsin beats Texas, though, it would be an absolute coup.
3. WR A.J. Alexander
6'4, 220 lbs.
This is the No. 1 receiving prospect for UW and the top guy you have to figure the Badgers are the favorite on. Every other school sees him and is looking at him as a tight end. Ohio State also made a recent offer to a receiver of a similar build and skill set in Lawrence Cager, and is also looking at him as a tight end. North Carolina is also in play, and has some elements that could be interesting to Alexander, but Wisconsin has the edge.
4. RB Jordan Stevenson
5'8, 185 lbs.
Usually I would say that if a back with the skill level of Chris Warren goes to a school like Texas, it makes it easier to flip him. But you know what? If Stevenson leaves his Texas commitment, it's not going to be on the lone fact that Texas has too many backs. Truth be told, he has such athleticism that he could be the lightning in any sort of thunder-and-lightning tag team of backs. He's still looking to take an official to Wisconsin, and as we all know, that's the secret weapon.
5. OT Kevin Estes
6'6, 275 lbs.
San Marcos, Calif.
You look at Kevin Estes' Hudl profile and see the athleticism is undeniable. On the second play below, he's the convoy on a screen pass, keeps up with the running back and tags two higher-level defenders on the run.
The conventional wisdom lists Wisconsin as a favorite here and there's definitely reason to be excited. Sure, he has offers from good West Coast programs (Arizona, Arizona State, BYU and Boise State) as well as Duke and Miami. But the Badgers were in before people realized Estes was good. They're the favorites and he is a definite take.
6. OG Semisi Uluave
6'5 326 lbs
A big man from the Big Island, Uluave presented a little bit of a surprise when he announced the Badgers were in his top five. But if you think about it, it makes sense. Here's a big road-grading offensive lineman who's agile enough to play fullback and can run people over in the trenches. He probably doesn't have the speed to hang out on the blind side on a consistent basis, but he could well be another one of those Badger guards who comes out of the blocks ready to run-block in the NFL on day one. He also is going to spend the next two seasons on a mission trip, so for all intents and purposes whomever between Wisconsin, Oregon, Texas Tech, UCLA and Vanderbilt grabs him will get a leg up for the class of 2017.
7. CB Isaac James
5'11, 180 lbs.
On pure athleticism, he's a definite take. I mean, any cornerback with a laser-tested 4.4-second 40-yard dash time and 36-inch vertical leap is going to be someone who belongs on a major-college roster. As it goes, this is another prospect the Badgers are currently the favorites for. Of course, there's also the possibility that some dastardly school goes after him as a receiver or something. But, in a battle between Wisconsin, Indiana and Northwestern, the Badgers hold the best offer.
8. WR David Dowell
6'1, 180 lbs.
There are many schools that are looking to recruit the former Northwestern commit as a safety. Wisconsin has other ideas for the quick four-star athlete from Ohio. The Badgers see his size and quickness, and look at him as a receiver. Looking at his Hudl profile, Dowell does have the hands to work with that athleticism. As it stands, Wisconsin is going to go toe-to-toe with Kentucky or Vanderbilt for this four-star prospect.
9. RB Andrew Dowell
6'0, 195 lbs.
The other Dowell offer the Badgers made on Saturday, Andrew, worked as the Matt Forte-type of guy on St. Catherine's offense. He's a sort of one-cut runner who runs with good vision and quickness, and attacks the hole with good power. He doesn't have the top-end speed of some other prospects along the way, but like his brother, a commitment from Andrew Dowell is a commitment that allows for some positional versatility.
10. MLB Christian Folau
6'1, 215 lbs.
Salt Lake City, Utah
As it stands, Folau is a prospect who's been very open and honest about his academic situation. He's committed to Stanford, but he needs to get his ACT score up for admission. Wisconsin is the safety school, but the Badgers are recruiting a prospect that Gary Andersen's been after for a while and rightfully so. He's a strong tackler with good instincts and awareness to make plays beyond merely stuffing the run. It shows that the Badgers are in on some real good prospects since Folau's falling to 10th here.
11. ATH Javarius Davis
5'9, 173 lbs.
I know he's likely higher on the Badgers' actual board, just thinking along the lines of how they won't stop going after the spectacular athlete and wavering North Carolina commit. But Florida's going after him hard, and so is USC. They're both coming with promises of playing offense, and that is usually something that does the trick in getting prospects to flip their commitments. Davis' most recent top five, despite all the efforts they've made, does not include the Badgers.
12. RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn
5'10, 210 lbs.
I'm a sucker for versatile backs. Give me a back that can run with power and has good speed and good hands, and I'm in -- even before that you find out that he has a "Red Mamba" moniker. He's a good back and he wants to take an official visit or two before his planned commitment date, Sept. 26. That being said, he's a Nashville prospect who's academically strong enough for Vanderbilt. That's a hurdle.
13. CB T.J. Griffin
5'9, 180 lbs.
Virginia Beach, Va.
This could also be Rashard Causey, or Chuck Davis, or a possible defensive tackle or safety take. The Badgers were an early favorite, but then had some potential game-changing offers cause some wavering. Oregon's in play, and of course, Griffin is a prospect from the 757 with a Virginia offer. But he's a small, quick and aggressive cornerback who has a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash and good hands. He's on the board for a good reason.
14. ILB Jordan Griffin
6'0, 207 lbs.
It seems like the Badgers are in a situation where it's a matter of when, and not if Griffin commits. If Christian Folau commits, if Osa Masina commits, heck, if they flip Jahovni Simmons? They're going to get Jordan Griffin. The only issue is that he's kind of smallish. He does have that fast and aggressive attack that UW has been building toward. It seems as if there needs to be some semblance of disaster for the Badgers to not get Griffin.
15. WR Gary Jennings
6'2, 190 lbs.
This is yet another case where Wisconsin's looking to go down to the wire with Vanderbilt for a prospect. Jennings is one of those tall, quick and rangy dudes the Badgers are going after with gusto at receiver. Now, perhaps if the Badgers end up with both Alexander and/or David Dowell, there would be no mind paid toward whatever happened to Jennings. That being said, if Jennings becomes a Badger, on athleticism alone, he's no consolation prize.
So I can figure you're wondering, "Where's the defensive tackle?" It's simple. If the Badgers are going to take a defensive tackle, he's going to be one of those classic upside guys. It could be an Elu Aydon or an Olive Sagapolu, maybe even a Kevin Thurmon. Also, when you consider that Antonyo Solongo or Mykelti Williams are in play at safety, and with D'Cota Dixon moving up to linebacker (thereby leaving Derrick Tindal as the only cornerback from a class that needed corners), there could be multiple takes that fall off this board.