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Wisconsin football recruiting: Where the Badgers stand going into the summer

Too many talented prospects for too few spots.

Salem, N.J., running back Jonathan Taylor at the Nike Football The Opening Regional in New York in May.
Salem, N.J., running back Jonathan Taylor at the Nike Football The Opening Regional in New York in May.
Student Sports

It’s gone quietish on the recruiting trail. It’s an NCAA officially-licensed quiet period where the biggest upcoming news will be which scholarship athletes decided to find opportunities in something other than being on the Wisconsin football team. When the news breaks, we’ll post on that, but as it stands now, the Badgers have two official spots left for 2017. With there potentially being room for more, though, there’s an interesting fluidity to where the Badgers stand.

That said, we’re in a spot where you can see where the Badgers are ready and have their board finished. Unless there’s some kind of disaster on the old recruiting trail, the Badgers are locked in at quarterback, tight end and offensive line, and likely do not have the space to add one more defensive lineman. There’s a good mix of flat-out talent and upside at these positions. I’m knocking on every sort of wood as I type this, but the Badgers are good here.

What remains are multiple positions with the possibility of an additional prospect. The Badgers don’t need two at any position, and at some, they could probably get away without adding one. There’s some chop to these waters, but it’s the fun kind.

Running back: With former Pittsburgh running back Chris James officially in the fold, the Badgers have a real interesting battle unfolding for who will get the lions share of the carries. But with Corey Clement, Dare Ogbunwale and potentially Leon Jacobs as running backs that would be on their last year of eligibility, the Badgers are still looking to add another running back.

Three-star Atlanta running back Deon Jackson has been a top target on the Badgers' radar since he was offered on April 15. While they still like him, they are looking for a complement to James and other options were needed. Recent offers went out to four-star backs Devan Barrett and Kennedy Brooks, though it remains to be seen if the Badgers get traction there.

Interestingly, the Badgers found traction with a commitment from a Big Ten commit, as their third recent offer went out to Rutgers commit from Salem, N.J., Jonathan Taylor. A big performance in The Opening, punctuated with a 4.42 40-yard dash time, led schools to inquire about Taylor, with the Badgers offering on May 26.

Looking at his Hudl profile, the 5’11, 211-pound Taylor has the goods to surpass a three-star rating. He has quick feet, and the balance to find the hole and make himself hard to get a clean shot on. While he’s a little straight-lineish with his speed, he’s arguably the fastest high schooler in New Jersey, winning multiple state titles, most impressively in the 4x100 relay in a race where second place would have broken the state record.

The race for who gets to be the second back looks like it will travel into the fall. As such, some will panic. But if it’s Deon Jackson or Jonathan Taylor, the Badgers will be in good shape.

Wide receiver: There has been a string of recent offers that would lead one to believe that a receiver to join Lake Travis, Texas, three-star prospect Cade Green is going to be a priority, and while commitments elsewhere have taken several off the board, the two most interesting names currently on the board right now are Kenedy Snell and Shamond Greenwood. Snell is the small speedster that can run a sub-10.5 100-yard dash, and Greenwood is the three-star 6’3 prospect that has the 4.43 40-yard dash time and blocking skills to be real intriguing.

Linebacker: It’s going to be the James Houston show starring James Houston (who recently received a Crystal Ball prediction to Wisconsin from 247Sports insider Ryan Bartow) at linebacker until the day he commits or the day some of his other offers come and allegedly say, "We’re sorry, James Houston. Despite being a three-star prospect from American Heritage in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., we were ready to have you commit from day one and the money is with our friend Mr. Mountcastle and it will be transferred into your account." If the allegedly direct quote happens and Houston goes elsewhere, you can look for the Badgers to work harder at getting Buford, Ga., three-star Juwuan Jones back into the fold. Beyond that, a recent offer to K’Jakyre Daley seems to have been too little too late, though an undersized (6’1 190 lbs.) three-star talent from Montvale, N.J., in Louis Acceus would probably be in the Badgers' plans if they don’t make another offer.

Also, the Badgers are only supposed to lose one linebacker in Vince Biegel from the upcoming class of 2017 and have Izayah Green-May in tow. With spots being so tight as they are, if Houston finds his place elsewhere in college football, the Badgers might not need to land any more prospects at the position if they feel like they have to get a signee at another spot.

Cornerback: With the 6’3 Deron Harrell and the 6’0 Hawaii transfer Nick Nelson coming to Madison starting in 2017, getting a tall-guy cornerback to team with the 5’8.5 Madison Cone isn’t absolutely necessary. But right now, they’re in great shape for a three-star cornerback out of Delray Beach, Fla., Joshua Turner. The six-footer has the athleticism and aggressiveness to be a really good player when he leaves his college of choice.

If Turner starts getting offers from every Florida school and the entirety of the SEC West, the Badgers still have options. Ambry Thomas had a good visit, and they will probably take a moment to see if further elbow grease can’t get them in a race for the star recruit. Randall Haynie still has a mutual interest in Wisconsin even after Turner gained in stature, and of course, there’s always a yet-to-be-offered prospect that could earn the last spot. Remember, Caesar Williams was offered in January last season. This is a position where they could find a sleeper if it doesn’t work out.

Safety: Safety is the Jonathan Sutherland show. The Alexandria, Va,, prospect by way of Ottawa four-star safety has his top five and a planned summer decision with Wisconsin firmly ensconced. Is he a talent that could play quickly if the Badgers land his services? Absolutely. Is there a Plan B if the Badgers don’t land him? While the Badgers did make a run at Detroit three-star safety Scott Nelson, he’s a Michigan prospect with a Michigan State offer (and three unofficial visits to East Lansing). So my expectation is Sutherland, or they’ll have to make do with one or two of last year's three safety commits catching the redshirt.

Special Teams: If and when top-ranked kicker Adam Stack is ready to commit to Wisconsin, he is a take. I know spots are tight. I know that this might lead to him taking a spot where they could stumble upon a sleeper. But there’s a beautiful thump when the Honolulu (Kamehameha), Hawaii, prospect connects foot to ball. His familial connection to Madison (his brother, Ryan. is a Wisconsin swimmer) leads one to believe that he could easily be a day-one starter at kicker in 2018.