UPDATE, 1:58 p.m. CT: Antonio Williams has decommitted from Wisconsin and reopened his recruitment. Read more here.
With the news of Eric Burrell's commitment firmly landing Wisconsin's 2016 recruiting class within most scouting services' top 25s, the Badgers' momentum on the trail is like a runaway freight train.
You have to wonder: why is Paul Chryst so popular? More on that to come.
Some of you, having read certain recruiting whipsers, might be instead wondering, "Panic? We should panic. Why are you not panicking? You're one of them, aren't you!?!"
The answer: We're, uhh, not so sure. Things are getting very interesting regarding Wisconsin's first commit for the 2016 recruiting class, so let's dive right in.
Antonio Williams to visit Ohio State
According to multiple reports, Wisconsin running back commit Antonio Williams will visit Ohio State this weekend. Williams was UW's first commit for 2016 way back last December, and despite some very understandable yet brief waffling after Gary Andersen left for Oregon State, Williams has not only remained verbally committed to Wisconsin, but been perhaps the most active recruiter of other UW targets for the program.
Alas, given some potential upheaval in Ohio State's recruiting class, Williams's offer from the Buckeyes has apparently grown in allure.
Can confirm that #Badgers 4-star RB commit Antonio Williams is visiting Ohio State this weekend after telling UW staff he wasn't going to— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) October 14, 2015
Confirming 4* RB Antonio Williams is visiting #OhioState this weekend, he tells me its an unofficial visit.— Marc Givler (@MarcGivlerBG) October 14, 2015
ESPN300 Wisconsin RB commit Antonio Williams is taking an unofficial visit to Ohio State this weekend. Arrives Saturday, leaves Sunday night— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) October 14, 2015
I asked RB Antonio Williams what happens after this Ohio State visit and he said "The visit Saturday will determine what happens next."— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) October 14, 2015
So Williams is Columbus-bound. As mentioned above, Williams reportedly told Wisconsin's staff he wouldn't be entertaining any other visit opportunities, as he recommitted to the Badgers once Paul Chryst was hired -- even canceling a previously scheduled visit to Alabama.
So what's the deal? Essentially, Ohio State -- which offered Williams last November -- seems unsure of its current situation at running back for 2016. At the forefront is Kareem Walker, the four-star running back from Wayne (De Paul Catholic), N.J., who is widely considered the top back in the country for 2016. He committed to Ohio State back in January, but apparently rankled OSU's staff after he took an official visit to Michigan last weekend. Afterward, Williams said the trip was enjoyable and that he will take additional visits to other schools, but didn't name them or the dates of the trips.
From there, where Walker currently stands with Ohio State is the stuff of recruiting message boards and that sort of scuttlebutt. What's important is that the Buckeyes have two other commits at running back for 2016: a pair of four-star Ohio prospects in Demario McCall and George Hill. Hill, the first commit in Ohio State's 2016 class, took two recent visits to Michigan State and had to reaffirm his commitment to the Buckeyes last week. Yet another example of the capricious nature of recruiting.
So, considering this murkiness, communication between Ohio State and Williams apparently picked up. Again, as mentioned above, he's visiting on an unofficial basis and seems to be entering the trip without any foregone conclusions. It seams reasonable to expect an update on Sunday or Monday after the trip is done, but for now we'll limit any speculation to the below three reasons as to why Williams decommitting from Wisconsin and to the Buckeyes remains unlikely.
1. Williams might not be that high on Ohio State's board.
Big surprise: Ohio State has had a good year on the recruiting trail. Walker, Hill and McCall all have have higher star pedigree than Williams.
Yes, Walker has officially visited Michigan, and Hill has made two stops at Michigan State. Still, there's no movement of any of those players away from the Buckeyes. That's a big roadblock.
Furthermore, there are other targets Ohio State is in contact with right now. Ann Arbor, Mich., native and decommit from all-that-at-USC Daelin Hayes is the up-to-the-second current follow for OSU running backs coach Tony Alford. Alford also recently followed Mount Holly, N.C., running back Robert Washington. He has not, as I write this, followed Williams. Not to say he won't, but Ohio State has talented options to replace a wavering back that would give the Buckeyes less fight on the trail right now.
2. Wisconsin hasn't made any sort of moves toward replacing Williams.
If we're looking for a scenario where a domino would fall fastest, it would be here. While there's been chatter, there's also been nothing serious about a tag-team partner for Williams. For the Badgers, he's still first, last and total in the backfield.
3. Williams's Twitter.
"But... but, Mr. Rosin," you might stammer, "Williams's Twitter account is what has us worried!" Yeah, as ElevenWarriors.com pointed out, there was a streak of follows toward Ohio State talents.
I'll take you back to February. Previous Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Brown helped salvage a quality recruiting class after Gary Andersen left, but then he went off to Georgia. Williams wavered, scheduling a visit to Alabama and taking all mentions of his commitment to Wisconsin off his profile page. Eventually, however, he reaffirmed his commitment.
As I write this, he's still going from the 704 to the 608. He's still following a metric ton of Wisconsin people. Will that change? Maybe, but he's still the only back the Badgers seem to currently be looking at and most of the two-deep is going to have starter's experience on the offensive line.
I'm not going to tell you to remain calm. Williams paying his own way to Columbus makes this situation a lot more fluid, although there are still dominoes yet to fall. So do like Wisconsin commit Patrick Johnson says:
Athletes can never enjoy their recruiting process if people are watching their every move and criticizing every little thing they do— Patrick Johnson II (@PjohnsonII) October 14, 2015
It's their recruiting process! So let them have the free will they deserve and enjoy it!— Patrick Johnson II (@PjohnsonII) October 14, 2015
K.J. Sails names top three
The Gibsonton, Fla., cornerback is likely the No. 1 uncommitted prospect the Badgers are currently recruiting, and it looks like they're in it to the end for Sails, who was recently given a fourth star by 247Sports. He named his top three on Saturday:
I appreciate every school that has been recruiting me it is a blessing. my top Three Is Cincinnati Wisconsin And Iowa— KJ Sails Jr 9⃣‼️ (@KJ2LiVE) October 10, 2015
Cincinnati is a surprise here, as his 247Sports interest list had South Florida in his top three. Iowa and Wisconsin were the expected other two, and while one might expect the Badgers to have ground to make up due to all that happened in the Iowa game -- one week after Sails visited Madison -- you would be wrong. I'm not going to call the Badgers the prohibitive favorites -- heck, Sails could always throw out a tweet that says, "Fire Up, Hawkguys" in a day or two. Right now, though, Wisconsin is in a good spot for a prospect who's finishing his high school career optimally.
OnWisconsin— KJ Sails Jr 9⃣‼️ (@KJ2LiVE) October 12, 2015
WR Quintez Cephus
Macon (Stratford Academy), Ga.
Furman's basketball history is based around a 10-year stretch in which the Paladins went 1-7 in the NCAA tournament from 1971-80. They almost beat Bobby Knight and shocked South Carolina in 1974.
Why am I telling you this? Because before Wisconsin football came calling, Quintez Cephus was all set to play Furman Paladins basketball and get that quality Furman education.
UW wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore, however, saw something in this high-volume scorer's speed and athleticism. Earlier this month, the Badgers offered him a chance to play wide receiver next season. While the entirety of the route tree is still something Cephus needs to learn, according to the Hudl profile, his athleticism absolutely translates and the passes caught aren't body-assisted either. He's a sleeper to be sure.
The way Cephus plays gives him a chance to make an impact in the Big Ten. He's planning to visit Madison this weekend for the Purdue game, and while we're not calling a commit alert, Cephus has a chance to be a fast flip for Wisconsin in a talent-rich state.