I know. I've been quiet on this front.
In fairness, you can't really discuss the human chess of the class of 2017 with almost 17 months until post time and most of the recruiting news has been basketball-related between touted class of 2017 prospect Kobe King's commitment to Wisconsin, and the visits of Jaquori McLaughlin and class of 2018 prospect Jordan McCabe this week. But, once the Badgers get past Troy and Abed in the Morning on Sept. 19, expect the buzz around the class of 2016 to ramp back up.
It's in this spirit that we're going to start on a Hot List: the 10 targets the Badgers would be most excited to sign. Now, if you remember correctly, the Badgers currently stand at 18 commitments. There's definitely space to work with beyond the standard-issue 25 scholarships, and for the sake of roundness, we're going with 10. Wisconsin won't get all 10. Heck, possibly not even four. But it's time to check the state of play for the top 10.
1. DT Garrett Rand
6'3, 275 lbs.
The four-star Rand is the last true blue-chipper the Badgers are looking at in the class. And the Badgers are definitely in strong contention for him. In fact, it seems as if Rand is looking to be one of the prospects set to be on campus for the humongous recruiting weekend against Hawaii ($). I'll talk more about this as we move closer to next week, but suffice it to say the Badgers are receiving visits from star commits Antonio Williams, A.J. Taylor, Cole Van Lanen and Kare' Lyles.
I wouldn't call this a visit that closes the commitment for the Badgers, as he seems to be in for enjoying the process and taking all five official visits. But this is an official visit that puts the best foot forward for a blue-chipper, and if you can't be the closer, best to be the leader in the clubhouse and hope a school like Arizona State or UCLA doesn't retake the lead.
2. S Eric Burrell
5'11, 170 lbs.
Owings Mills, Md.
The situation looks like it's down to two for the fourstar prospect right now. Nebraska hosted Burrell for a quality visit last weekend, and the Huskers are going to be in the race to the end. I mean, unless you see a new offer from a upper-echelon university or the 247Sports crystal balls start to break in another direction, this is a race that's going until at least Thanksgiving week, and with the Badgers having last ups, it's definitely a chance to land a great prospect.
3. WR Lil'Jordan Humphrey
6'5, 199 lbs.
The three-star, giant-sized running back that's set to be a receiver at the next level will make a visit that could help clear up his recruitment. The Southlake product is set to be in Austin this weekend ($) for the California-Texas game. Most reports have the Badgers running in the top three with the Golden Bears and the Longhorns, but to pull Humphrey the Badgers, are likely going to need to beat three visits to Austin since Aug. 1. The Badgers are still in play, but it's going to be a battle.
4. OG Michael Alves
6'5, 320 lbs.
San Diego, Calif.
Wisconsin's offensive line board is down to two at this juncture, and if it wasn't for the incessant need for cornerbacks, I would have Detroit offensive tackle Alaric Jackson listed as well. But, we're talking Alves. And while the Badgers have a foothold in the top five for the guard, it seems like Oregon's going to get a chance to close as they are the first of the top five to get an official visit. We'll see if Alves is still in play in a month, but the Badgers aren't quite doomed right now.
5. S Craig Watts
6'0, 180 lbs.
St. Petersburg, Fla.
The four-star safety might not have been ready to commit completely to Wisconsin back in June, but that doesn't mean the Badgers are out for him. In fact as it stands right now, Watts has the Badgers as a favorite. The talent that made the commitment so exciting remains for Watts, and if this was solely a question of best offer, Watts is likely a prospect that's coming back into the fold for National Signing Day. Arizona does loom; he has a scheduled official visit out west on Oct. 24, and there is likely no reason as to why the Wildcats wouldn't be able to take a commitment from a talent like Watts.
6. DE Thomas Schaffer
6'7, 285 lbs.
Lake Forest, Ill.
The Austrian native and man-sized 3-4 defensive end has the Badgers firmly in his top three. In a video interview with BadgerBlitz.com's Jon McNamara, Schaffer says he has Wisconsin on the same level with Oregon and Stanford. The video also shows Schaffer as a prospect who's going to play his senior season out before he starts the process. Oregon is set for the weekend of Nov. 7; Stanford is set for the weekend after. That does give Wisconsin a chance to play closer or get first ups, but Oregon is the favorite here.
7. CB K.J. Sails
5'10, 170 lbs.
There are two cornerback prospects Wisconsin is set to get on campus for the Hawaii game next week, and there's definitely a chance for the Badgers to finally (finally!) get a cornerback commitment. The three-star Sails looks like he's down to Wisconsin and Iowa, and the Hawkeyes will get Sails on campus for the Pittsburgh game ($) this weekend. It's a situation where the 247Sports crystal balls favor the Badgers, and on what's setting up to be a good recruiting weekend, they could land their top cornerback target.
8. CB Hussein Howe
5'9, 170 lbs.
Honestly, this is a situation where I'm invoking a point of personal privilege, as Howe is a cornerback that fit the initial plans for the Dave Aranda defense as a dynamic athlete with an aggressive streak. Also, I think there are inroads to be made on Howe's behalf, but more on that in three sentences. Howe has kind of slid under the radar for the Badgers, but he's got himself a strong offer sheet (Georgia Tech, Louisville, Mississippi State and West Virginia round out his top five). He's a stealthily interesting prospect and someone who could pay big dividends down the road.
9. CB Ke'Shan Pennamon
5'10, 170 lbs.
Right now, you look at this Jacksonville (University Christian) product and teammate of Howe, and you see someone who looks ready to join the Badgers. Having one school in the lead and one official visit scheduled for next weekend tends to do that. The three-star prospect has the same sort of dynamic athleticism as his teammate, but he's more defensively inclined. If he's the first commitment, he's definitely a high-upside choice.
10. WR Anthony Julmisse
6'1, 186 lbs.
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
It seems as if the only question right now is whether the Badgers can get Julmisse or Malik Harrison to be the other potential receiver in the class. Personally, and this may be that I am a bit of a sucker for the more versatile player, I like Julmisse a little bit better. On best offer, the Badgers stand in first place for Julmisse, But Colorado gets the advantage of the first official visit scheduled, and the Buffs have South Plantation teammate Johnny Huntley as their top commit. Huntley does have a listed 6'3 height and if Malik Harrison hesitates too long, a Badgers offer might come Huntley's way to team with Julmisse in Madison.
Like I said up top, this is my best guess on the top 10 with a little bit of personal privilege. A cornerback like Armunz Matthews, recent offer A'Shon Higgins or Lorenzo Burns could easily be on the list and there would be no outright complaints. And as I've mentioned, Alaric Jackson and Malik Harrison are both prospects to keep watch for. It's going to be a very interesting stretch.
And that's without mentioning poaching season or the run-up to Signing Day. It's about to ramp back up. Let's do this.