Saturday’s Ohio State game will be a game with tons of potential promise for Wisconsin for this season and beyond. It isn’t unreasonable to think that so long as this game doesn’t turn into some kind of abject disaster, the Badgers should be adding at least one and probably two commitments to the class of 2017. While there will be some tremendous talents for the future that will see what the Badgers can do against a great team, I’m here to talk to you about the five most likely candidates to be Badgers when National Signing Day comes around.
So yes, there will be prospects with whom the Badgers have an outside chance of having an official visit turn into something that gets exciting. And yes, there will be higher-starred prospects that do have an interest that are less likely to land here. Considering that the Badgers currently have three spots at most and at least one is likely to be filled after Saturday, we’re going to keep the number at five.
So here we go. The five most likely Badgers to commit for the class of 2017.
CB Faion Hicks
One of the places the Badgers have made their bones is in finding that one prospect who seems to have slid through the cracks who can be developed. Considering how well Jim Leonhard has been doing with the current class of cornerback, Faion Hicks is another who presents exciting traits.
The 5’11, 180-pound, three-star corner from Hollywood, Fla., missed spring practice and testing season due to a shoulder injury, but when you look at someone who had a 4.57 40-yard dash and a 36.9 inch vertical jump when tested before his junior season, the shoulder isn’t going to sap those kind of traits. He can stay step for step with receivers, and he definitely can make a play on the ball when he has to.
As it goes, the Badgers have the edge from 247Sports’ crystal balls, as well as the edge in terms of the best offer. Hicks has Power Five offers from Illinois and Iowa State, and 247Sports lists him as warm with Western Kentucky. With Christian Cumber set to visit for the Nebraska game, it’s pretty safe to say as I type this that Hicks should be a Badger between the his official visit for Ohio State this weekend and Oct. 28.
RB Jonathan Taylor
As a track star who is undoubtedly the fastest athlete in New Jersey, the 5’11, 211-pound, three-star prospect from Salem, N.J., has a running style that doesn’t fit the archetype. The Rutgers commit has skill between the tackles and runs with balance and power that makes him a dangerous threat from distance because he can make his own moments of green grass and opportunity for six.
With Kennedy Brooks joining up with Oklahoma, Taylor is the first, last and everything for the Badgers at running back going into this weekend’s official visit. He’s almost the platonic ideal for what the Badgers would like at the position, and while he is committed to his home state school, the Badgers offer much less of a rebuild as well as a commitment to the run.
S Scott Nelson
It’s rare for Wisconsin to go into Michigan and grab a prospect for football. The Badgers have received two more commitments from the state in this decade than the average reader of this post. Knowing this, I’ve been relatively dolorous about just how strong exactly the Badgers’ chances are for the 6’2, 190-pound safety from Detroit (Jesuit)... but there’s a twist. The team the Badgers have to battle is Iowa.
Sure, Michigan State is considered warm. If you’re looking at who leads, it’s Iowa. With the Badgers adding someone who’s more of a tackler than a centerfielder in Reggie Pearson for 2018, if they add a safety this year, it’s likely going to be someone who’s tall, can tackle and was recruited by Northwestern at wide receiver.
CB Christian Cumber
A part of the reason why you can feel safe the Badgers will land at least one prospect from this weekend is that Cumber, a 6’0, 190-pound three-star prospect from Denver, (Mullen) Colo., is set to visit Wisconsin on Oct. 28 for Nebraska weekend.
Even if Hicks commits, the Badgers could still accept a commitment from Cumber. He has experience playing free safety as a junior, the sort of centerfield play the Badgers have a need for in this class. That’s not to say he isn’t a quality press corner and doesn’t have that athleticism to stay with receivers in man coverage, because he does. He just also shows a willingness to stick his head in and make a tackle, with previous experience playing centerfield. Michigan State has held the 247Sports crystal ball lead for a while, and despite the Spartans’ start to the season, they built a relationship that seems like it will take this into November and beyond.
WR R.J. Sneed
With the Badgers having true freshmen who haven’t seemed completely overwhelmed by the speed of the college game, there isn’t an abject need for them to grab a wide receiver in 2017. Yet as you’ll see in this final section, they most certainly are going to try. Their current best shot is with Sneed, a fringe four-star, 6’2, 190-pound prospect from Cypress Ranch, Texas.
If Ted Gilmore has an archetype he likes working with, Sneed is it. He has good height with a frame to develop more strength, and he’s a tremendous athlete who can pluck the ball when it’s thrown in his general direction. The only issue is Sneed has a Power 5 suitor with a spread offense that got him to decommit from TCU after a visit. Ole Miss and its 37 passes a game is the current crystal ball leader for Sneed, but he hasn’t committed there yet, and there are more pure passing games that fall under the warm designation than what lies in Oxford. The Badgers can legitimately offer him a chance to see the field very quickly, and the gameday element in Madison is arguably unparalleled if they can swing a visit.
So yes, the Badgers do trail for Sneed. But they do it in such a manner where they would likely finish in the hat race for a recruiting announcement. If anyone can make a charge in recruiting, it’s Gilmore.
Also considered: RB A.J. Dillon, WR Kenedy Snell, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR Isaiah Hodgins, DT Brandon Pili, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell