It was set up to be a slow time until camp season for the Wisconsin Badgers. After landing both of their transfer targets in running back Chris James and defensive back Nick Nelson, as well as receiving the verbal pledge of cornerback Madison Cone last week, the Badgers have 10 commits and 12 scholarships used for the class of 2017. At this point, with fullback Leon Jacobs's status regarding a medical redshirt for his junior season still up in the air, you could see the Badgers really only having space for a couple, to a few more prospects before the attrition monster rears its ugly head.
This is why a new spate of offers is real interesting. Where 12 months ago there was a real concern about the pace and pedigree of just who the Badgers were recruiting, right now the Badgers are close to finished. This makes the most recent offers real interesting. I mean, they have more offers that you can consider as takes than space available.
The Wisconsin offers at cornerback have a certain stylistic similarity: three good athletes who play aggressively in man-to-man and have the elements of good centerfielders. They are also three-star prospects who have a solid frame with room to put on muscle. The differences? Those can tell you the board as to how the Badgers are looking at this juncture.
Keontae Jones: The 6'1, 175-pound, three-star prospect from Cincinnati came into his offer on May 3. Jones came onto the Badgers' radar with a quality comparison point in terms of who they think he can be. I mean, sure, he played free safety for Colerain, but upon first blush, he had a Darius Hillary comparison. As it goes, Jones is laden with offers from Louisville, West Virginia and most of the lower half of the Big Ten, among others. If the Badgers want Jones, the race is winnable.
Tariq Castro-Fields: The 6'1, 173-pound, three-star prospect from Upper Marlboro, Md., has the highest pedigree of the three offers. On May 4, the Badgers joined the race with an offer of their own. With that said, Castro-Fields has the best offer list, naming a top four of Maryland, North Carolina, Penn State and Virginia Tech. That makes sense, as he was named the Defensive Backs MVP of the Opening in Washington D.C., and plays cornerback with the hands to flip the field if he gets thrown on.
Joshua Turner: As timing goes, there absolutely is reason to believe that Turner is the cornerback the Badgers want, as the 6'0, 175-pound prospect from Delray Beach, Fla., received his offer on May 10. Or, after the Badgers were able to admit Nelson and earn the commitment from Cone. Looking at Turner's highlight reel, one can see why. He has sprinter's speed and uses it to stay step for step with receivers beyond the bump-and-run, and can pursue and chase down ball carriers with a willingness to tackle.
The offer list has him under the radar, as his best non-Wisconsin offer is either South Florida or Navy. But look at the Hudl -- Turner is definitely interesting, and with plans of coming up to Madison sometime in June ($), he's probably top of the board at the position unless another unofficial visit can change the game.
DE/LB Brad Johnson: On May 11, the Badgers threw an offer to the four-star prospect (reported by 247Sports' Ryan Bartow), and while there is reason to look at this as some kind of "Dangit, James Houston, just commit already" offer, there are reasons beyond the star rankings to look at Johnson with interest. The high school defensive end, rated four stars by 247Sports and Scout.com, was active and powerful enough that he was disrupting literally every team he faced. Now, he has an offer from South Carolina, but coming off a down year and having a coach who was (for the most part) mediocre at best at Florida and wasn't the paean for Auburn's defense last season, the odds of overcoming that are more than just a hope and a prayer as I write this.
An offer from Clemson or Georgia would be a potential game-changer, but with questions about level of competition (Pendleton had a population of 2,964 in the 2010 census), one could see them passing on the offer. On that note, the team that sees the 6'2, 230-pound prospect along the defensive line and thinks that this is a quality weak-side defensive end just might have more of a chance to make it work than the Badgers, and with recent offers from Notre Dame and Texas A&M, this is far from over.
WR Gavin Holmes: Now, considering Wisconsin's positions of need and the spaces available, the timing of this offer is strange. Receiver doesn't seem like an abject position of need, but you look at the highlight reel of Holmes and you can see why the Badgers made the move. With an electronically-timed 40-yard dash time of 4.43, the three-star from Justin, Texas, has the wheels to go over the top of most cornerbacks. On the Hudl profile, he played inside as well as outside, though listed at 5'11, 178 pounds, he's likely in the slot. He also showed a slipperiness in space and a fearlessness when a defender was bearing down at him. He's under the radar, but he's a sleeper. Per a Scout.com interview with Holmes, the offer from UW caught him off guard a bit:
"Wisconsin was kind of unexpected," Holmes admitted. "I had talked to coach Gilmore (Wisconsin wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore) a little bit last week, but then he hit me up, told me to call him (and) then he offered."
As it goes, you could argue the Badgers currently hold the best offer, though Duke also offered him on Friday, and a receiver going to a David Cutcliffe offense isn't going to have any grudges held on my account. He also has offers from Utah, BYU and San Diego State.
Visits this weekend
It's a secondary-laden visit weekend for the Badgers, according to a report from Badger247's Evan Flood. This isn't a commit-alert weekend, but there is definitely a chance that the Badgers unbelievably manage to land one more prospect for the class of 2017. But even if not, this lines up to be a potentially newsworthy weekend.
CB Ambry Thomas: I tend to avoid much discussion about Michigan prospects. After all, with two in-state public teams on the upswing, plus valid options with less travel time to Madison in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, it can be a bit of a challenge. But in a talent-rich state, moves have to be made, and when you get someone to pay their own way, it's time to talk about them.
Thomas is a cornerback good enough that you will find space for. He's 5'11.5, and has the upside to become a lockdown of ace receivers. The four-star cornerback from Martin Luther King High School in Detroit has a top four with Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, as well as Pittsburgh. If the visit is promising, I'll let you know, but the victory might just be getting a paid visit to Madison.
S Jaylen Kelly-Powell: Cass Tech in Detroit is one of those high schools the Badgers have been trying to get into for a while. While they've had moments where they got close, it's been a bridge too far. Yet when you get a versatile safety prospect like Kelly-Powell on campus, it's a good thing regardless. He has the stereotypically good Michigan prospect top four (Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame), leaving him on the same plane as Thomas.
S Reggie Pearson, Jr.: We're just under 21 months away from National Signing Day for the class of 2018, and in terms of prospects for the next wave, if the Badgers deign to offer, the River Rouge, Mich., product has an outside chance at being the first commit of the next class after the next class. If you look at what he does in the secondary, you can see them joining Iowa State, Syracuse and a host of MAC schools. He's active against the run and can hit hard. Add some good centerfielding, and he's eminently offerable.
S Jonathan Sutherland: For 2017, this is Wisconsin's most likely commit. A 247Sports composite four-star safety from Alexandria, Va., Sutherland is like a fifth linebacker in the secondary with his aggression against the run. For someone who has a Hudl profile that's got a lot of hits to it, he can also stick with a tight end. He has a top four that includes North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia Tech, as well as Wisconsin, and when Flood times his crystal ball in conjunction with the visit? Watch this space.