With Monday's commitment and early enrollment of former Pitt commit and Malvern Prep quarterback Alex Hornibrook, we've seen the first hint of the new administration's effect on recruiting. Everyone who has given a moment's notice to the Wisconsin recruiting boards in the past year knows Austin Kafentzis is supposed to be the sun and the stars and everything under center.
This isn't and shouldn't be seen as a bad move. Hornibrook makes good throws and reads defenses well for his level. Also, he's not as positively statuesque of a passer as someone with the "pocket passer" designation seems to entail. He's definitely a good prospect. And as he's enrolling early, he doesn't count against this year's class. That makes five players the Badgers have in tow who will ready themselves for an early impact -- as Kafentzis, Kyle Penniston, Jon Dietzen and Nick Thomas join Hornibrook. As it stands, the Badgers can still grab up to another three or four prospects to fill out the class, even if it doesn't go bad when the dead period emerges.
So, knowing that there are still moving parts to be filled and coaching pieces yet to be answered, I'm going to take you through the list, position by position, and talk to you about the state of play.
Quarterbacks: If the Badgers get Houston transfer John O'Korn (Ed. note -- Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston says on Instagram that O'Korn is "the next great QB at the University of Texas"), you're not likely to see the same sort of enthusiasm that showed when the Badgers were blessed with Russell Wilson and before the Danny O'Brien experience failed for everybody. And that's fine. It's hard to imagine what would happen if the O'(Willy) Korn experience came with expectations beyond he's a veteran and in 2016, there might be no experienced quarterback.
While Joel Stave didn't give reason to have you weirdos back off of him for his play, his 2014 was better than O'Korn's:
So why am I not shouting from the rooftops about just how in the hell Chryst could consider the services of a quarterback who has been statistically worse than Stave? Well, because I'm confident that this is a move that's more of a sort of firewall scenario. Bart Houston seems out of the circle of trust, and if the youth aren't ready to step up, O'Korn would keep the Badgers' passing game near a level that you know and respond rationally toward.
(Sorry, that should have been in sarcasm font. Missed that part of SB Nation training.)
Running backs: Unless something changes and things start getting weird, this is a fortified position with the right coach for the spot. There are two good prospects next year and one for 2016. "Running Back U" will still be doing that running thing. No worries. Next topic!
Wide receivers: Getting Jay Norvell is going to be integral. With the news of Chris Beatty shuffling off to Virginia, the two targets the Badgers had here (three-star prospects Gary Jennings and Marvin Robinson) were both Chris Beatty-led targets. Jennings is from Ocean Lakes, Va. He's as good as gone. Robinson might be willing to hang in with the Badgers, but with that said, it often comes with an assistant leaving that committable offers might not remain such.
If the Badgers are forced again to go down the board, expect the first new offer to go to Freddie Simmons. He's a three-star prospect from Bethlehem, Pa. He's 6'3 and shows good hands, with an agile brand of athleticism. He has offers from Central Florida, Rutgers, Cal, Purdue and Virginia, among others. The Badgers haven't offered yet, but running backs coach Thomas Brown is after him. He's a solid prospect and should develop under Norvell.
Tight ends: Penniston is on campus. David Edwards will be. The only question here is just who will end up coaching them. Either way, that coach will not have an empty cupboard.
Offensive line: No one's in danger of flipping. It's not gonna happen. The Badgers are a hoss-based economy, and it's a bull market. Chortle.
Defensive line: The danger of flipping isn't out of the woods for Elu Aydon or Nate Howard yet. But there's also a real possibility that three-star Pitt DT commit Kraig Howe becomes a Badger, and that it's only a matter of when. Hornibrook's going to make like Kafentzis and attempt a poaching.
Linebacker: Again, Anthony McKee is the No. 1 prospect to come in. He'll visit Jan. 23, and he's likely the current No. 1 target. The good news? Thomas is here. Chris Orr and Zack Baun are in, and Florida's getting pretty late in the game to flip Jordan Griffin.
That said, if we're talking about Beatty guys to worry about, Dominic Sheppard is one. And he was one that did get an offer from Virginia on Dec. 16. I'm not saying we're going to look at a flip to Virginia quite yet, but Louisville is coming after him hard as well. And with Beatty gone, there's a higher chance Sheppard will exit Madison.
Cornerback: Will T.J. Griffin reopen his recruitment? The reports on the three-star Virginia Beach (Ocean Lakes) corner have indicated that he committed because Beatty was his recruiter. Now he's gone, and he's in Griffin's home state. Like with Sheppard, Virginia does have a previous offer on the table here. If the Cavaliers make the move, you can't blame Griffin for reciprocating the interest.
There are still two targets that are in play and both are well known at this point. That said, FAU commit Rashad Causey was recruited by Beatty and Ben Strickland. We don't know if Strickland's gone, but that's another point against Causey coming here.
As for Chris Barr -- while safeties coach Bill Busch could have closed the deal with the Jacksonville cornerback if his situation was firmed up to coach the safeties long ago, Utah's assistant attrition has left him interested in flipping. A good final push and the Badgers could land him.
If not, expect there to be a renewed push toward Jessie Liptrot, an unranked cornerback from Neptune Beach, Fla., or former Purdue commit Isaac Warren. Or, get ready for the Derrick Tindal special. There's bound to be a sleeper that emerges in the final few weeks.
Safety: Odds are Tanner McEvoy will be a senior playing safety. I don't think there's going to be much of an issue or need for the Badgers to get them some safety -- unless they can quick-strike a 2016 guy, That would be neat.
So, where do the Badgers stand right now? What we have learned from this thought exercise:
1. Expect there to be late offers.
Not to say that the Badgers are really and truly behind the eight ball at any position like they were last year, but there are still some spots that could use some depth, and if you consider the possibility that the Badgers emerging unscathed from this transition has shrunk somewhat, you are likely going to see some names come up in the final weeks before signing day that you haven't heard of.
2. The class is still going to stay mostly together.
Yeah, there's a scenario where the Badgers lose four commitments in the next couple of weeks, but right now that is the absolute worst case. Odds are it's still just one or two. More likely two, but for a class that gained two commitments in the transition, this is not a bad result.
3. They better get Norvell.
Or I am going to rant about it so hard on the internet.