Four-star running back Jordan Stevenson was denied admission by Wisconsin and will be released from his Letter of Intent, reports 247Sports' Ryan Bartow.
The loss cannot be understated for Wisconsin, as the Dallas (South Oak Cliff) rusher was Wisconsin's top running back commit for 2015. Reports of potential academic issues had persisted on message boards over the past several months, but in June, head coach Paul Chryst said he expected Stevenson to join the Badgers in the fall and be ready to possibly compete for playing time as a freshman.
The Badgers are now left with three-star Birmingham, Ala., rusher Bradrick Shaw at running back in the 2015 recruiting class.
Of course, the immediate impact isn't significant for Wisconsin: Corey Clement is entrenched as the starter and widely expected to follow in Melvin Gordon's footsteps as the next great Wisconsin running back. Redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal and converted cornerback Dare Ogunbowale are expected to be next in line behind Clement, and they hold immense talent themselves. Still, the loss of a four-star recruit -- the nation's No. 17 running back according to 247Sports' composite rankings -- undoubtedly stings.
Stevenson confirmed the reports on Twitter Thursday night.
#Badgernation Thanks for all the love also all the support through all I have been through much love— Jordanstevenson (@Jordanstevie2) July 24, 2015
With all do respect My recruitment is Offical open to any Division One program for the 2015 season....— Jordanstevenson (@Jordanstevie2) July 24, 2015
Bartow's report said Stevenson spoke with Chryst and running backs coach John Settle Thursday afternoon, at which point they informed Stevenson he had been denied admission. The 5'8, 210-pound running back will officially be released from Wisconsin on Friday, at which point he will able to sign with a new school since he is a NCAA qualifier.
Stevenson, who committed to Wisconsin over the winter in the height of the hysteria prompted by Gary Andersen's surprise decision to leave for Oregon State, chose the Badgers over scholarship offers from Oklahoma State, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisville, Ohio State, SMU, Texas, UCLA and Utah State.
Again, this loss hurts on the recruiting front, especially considering the continual inroads Wisconsin has made recruiting in Texas. But the Badgers do have depth at the position -- as always. And in B5Q's Badgers running backs preview published on Tuesday, Jim Dayton reminded us that Settle said in the spring that he did not expect Stevenson to compete for the No. 2 running back position. As a result, Jim named Deal his x-factor for the position.It's hard to determine a true X-factor for this position.
We can somewhat predict what a full season of Corey Clement will be like, and the potential downfall here all hinges on the players behind him.
Deal seems like the solution. While Ogunbowale may begin the season as the primary backup like Settle said, expect Deal to eventually claim the job. Coach talk in spring practice can be cheap, but considering Ogunbowale is by no means an established backup, Settle's positive comments toward Deal could bode well for his trajectory this fall.
While most outlets called Deal a three-star recruit, Rivals did label him a four-star. He was Maryland's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2013 after rushing for 1,200 yards and 18 touchdowns. Departed head coach Gary Andersen and former running backs coach Thomas Brown felt highly enough of Deal to list him as the No. 3 back as a true freshman, a role that didn't come to fruition because of his hand injury.
Whoever does claim the backup job will be thrust into one of Wisconsin's most important offensive roles in 2015. The Badgers have recently relied on a strong 1-2 punch, and they need to find someone who can complement Clement, especially if his nagging shoulder acts up again. Though Ogunbowale will see reps regardless because of his past experience and Kinlaw has a chance to crack the rotation, Deal is the player who offers the most upside behind Clement.