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National Signing Day 2017: Wisconsin lands small but very interesting class

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The Badgers were slowed multiple times on the trail but nonetheless landed a high-upside group.

The expectations for the Wisconsin Badgers going into the 2017 recruiting cycle was that they weren’t going to make a major splash in terms of numbers. The Badgers had 12 seniors on scholarship to start the year, so to be frank, they weren’t going to get to 25 unless there was a complete disaster.

For a small class, the Badgers landed themselves a a surprising amount and a strong group of newcomers.

In terms of pure numbers, the state of Wisconsin was chock-a-block with 2017 offensive-line talent, and that was before Kayden Lyles moved to Middleton. While Lyles is the only consensus four-star guard who kept that rating from when he committed to when he signed, the other three offensive linemen from Wisconsin have plenty of skills to bring to the table.

MOBILE USERS: The story continues after the table below.

Wisconsin’s Class of 2017

Name Position Hometown (Last School) Height Weight 247Sports Composite Ranking
Name Position Hometown (Last School) Height Weight 247Sports Composite Ranking
Kayden Lyles C/G Madison, Wis. (Middleton) 6'3 315 0.9171 (Four stars)
Danny Davis III WR Springfield, Ohio (Springfield) 6'3 180 0.9121 (Four stars)
Jake Ferguson TE Madison, Wis. (Madison Memorial) 6'5 220 0.8875 (Three stars)
Jonathan Taylor RB Salem, N.J. (Salem) 5'11 215 0.8854 (Three stars)
Tyler Beach OT Grafton, Wis. (Port Washington) 6'6 280 0.8804 (Three stars)
Andrew Van Ginkel OLB Rock Valley, Iowa (Iowa Western C.C.) 6'4 230 0.8777 (Three stars)
Jack Coan QB Sayville, N.Y. (Sayville) 6'3 200 0.8714 (Three stars)
Izayah Green-May OLB Bolingbrook, Ill. (Bolingbrook) 6'6 210 0.8684 (Three stars)
Logan Bruss OL Appleton, Wis. (Kimberly) 6'5 270 0.8656 (Three stars)
Aaron Vopal DT De Pere, Wis. (De Pere) 6'7 290 0.8599 (Three stars)
Scott Nelson S Detroit, Mich. (University of Detroit Jesuit) 6'2 190 0.8516 (Three stars)
Cade Green WR Austin, Texas (Lake Travis) 6'0 190 0.8464 (Three stars)
Alex Fenton OL Menomonie, Wis. (Menomonie) 6'5 290 0.8335 (Three stars)
Madison Cone CB Kernersville, N.C. (East Forsyth) 5'9 175 0.8333 (Three stars)
Emmet Perry WR Grand Prairie, Texas (DeSoto) 6'2 175 0.8299 (Three stars)
Faion Hicks ATH Miami, Fla. (Flanagan) 5'11 185 0.8258 (Three stars)
Deron Harrell (Grayshirt) WR Denver, Colo. (East) 6'3 178 0.8000 (Three stars)
Adam Bay LS Mesa, Ariz. (Desert Ridge) 6'1 225 0.7838 (Two stars)
Danny Vanden Boom QB Kimberly, Wis. (Kimberly) 6'5 200 ---
Michael Balistreri (Walk-on) DE Grafton, Wis. (University School of Milwaukee) 6'4 280 ---
Ethan Cesarz (Walk-on) ILB Delavan, Wis. (Delavan-Darien) 6'1 220 ---
Jake Collinsworth (Walk-on) ILB Merrill, Wis. (Merrill) 6'1 225 ---
Sam DeLany (Walk-on) WR Delafield, Wis. (Kettle Moraine) 5'11 170 ---
Matt Henningsen (Walk-on) DE Menomonee Falls, Wis. (Menomonee Falls) 6'4 260 0.7667 (Two stars)
Hunter Johnson (Walk-on) RB Darlington, Wis. (Darlington) 6'1 205 ---
Collin Larsh (Walk-on) K Marshall, Wis. (Monona Grove) 6'0 180 ---
Josh Seltzner (Walk-on) OT Columbus, Wis. (Columbus) 6'5 310 ---
Blake Smithback (Walk-on) OG Waunakee, Wis. (Waunakee) 6'3 290 ---
Coy Wanner (Walk-on) ATH Green Bay, Wis. (Preble) 6'3 238 ---
All information listed as provided by UW.

Port Washington has a tailor-made offensive tackle in Tyler Beach. Kimberly brings Logan Bruss, a guard who just blew the defenders he faced off the defensive line. Menominee gives the Badgers Alex Fenton who, while not as pure an offensive lineman as the other three, is a 283-pound prospect athletic enough to be listed as a tight end. The Badgers tend to make a professional-level offensive lineman every year; this class might give them multiple.

At quarterback, the Badgers went to Sayville, N.Y., to get strong-armed, dual-sport superstar Jack Coan. Coan put a ride to Notre Dame in lacrosse on the back burner to focus on football, and while the question of competition level is there, Coan provides a Bart Houston-level of mobility and a highlight reel that shows him hitting all the throws. It’s always hard for a true freshman to start from day one, but Coan is on campus and there’s an opening for him to make a big splash.

Running back isn’t exactly wide-open for carries, but the Badgers landed a potentially special prospect in Jonathan Taylor. The Salem, N.J., prospect scored 33 touchdowns and rushed for 2,635 yards, averaging 13 yards per carry. There’s also a level of competition question among the recruiting experts, but Salem is in the same conference as Corey Clement’s high school. Clement’s skills translated, and with good health, the one-cut speed and power of Taylor should too.

When Madison Memorial tight end Jake Ferguson committed on March 31, the salty had to assume that there was some nepotism. After all, he was known as Barry Alvarez’s grandson. But after a summer where Ferguson got invited to Oregon for The Opening finals and a season that made him the 122nd-best player in the nation according to 247Sports coming into the offseason, the Badgers landed a move tight end who gets time to develop due to the current quality at the position.

Before the Badgers found out just how deep in contention they were with four-star Springfield, Ohio, wide receiver Danny Davis, their class at the position was one that lacked star pedigree but was rich in upside. Ted Gilmore has a type he likes, and DeSoto, Texas, three-star prospect Emmet Perry has the height and athleticism to fit the archetype. He stood toe to toe with a top-notch cornerback on national television when Desoto took on South Grand Prarie and didn’t blink. He’s still relatively raw in terms of reps, but if the Badgers can develop him, look out.

When Lake Travis, Texas, three-star Cade Green committed to the Badgers on March 31, B5Q’s Owen Riese threw out an Alex Erickson comparison. Before you talk about the lazy racial stereotypes, you have a playmaker in the slot with a good burst of speed once he gets the ball and the hands to make friends with whomever throws the ball his way.

Oh, and the Badgers landed their most highly-regarded wide receiver prospect in nearly a decade in... Danny Davis. Davis is an explosive athlete with the hands to win in traffic. He also stands 6’3, which means his triangle numbers are pretty sweet. The expectations will be high, but he’ll get every chance to meet them.

The defensive line was always going to be more of a priority for 2018 than 2017 considering that there was no seniors or first round upsides at the position. That doesn’t mean Wisconsin didn’t get an interesting commit at defensive end. When DePere, Wis., three-star Aaron Vopal committed to the Badgers, he was 6’7, 245 pounds, but he was rangy and athletic with the frame to add on good weight. Now? Vopal comes to Wisconsin listed at 290 pounds, and he kept his athleticism. The 3-4 defensive end is tailor-made for what Vopal can do, and while 2017 isn’t likely his time, he’s one to watch.

Another one is Izayah Green-May. While his exact college position is yet to be determined, he’s an athletic terror on the pass rush and with a 6’5 height, the three-star prospect from Bolingbrook, Ill., is going to bat down his share of passes.

The linebacker most likely to land playing time quickly is Iowa Western C.C. three-star Andrew Van Ginkel. Van Ginkel was one of the most dominant freshmen (18 tackles for loss, nine sacks) at the FCS level and went the junior-college route after South Dakota changed up its coaching staff. Wisconsin may be rewarded for it.

At cornerback, Madison Cone is certain to be popular on last name alone. While the three-star prospect from Kernersville, N.C., is only listed at 5’8.5, he is a playmaker in the secondary. He doesn’t make false steps in coverage and was able to shut the field down on his side of the ball in high school. His three-star tag-team partner from Pembroke Pines, Fla., Faion Hicks, has the athleticism and leaping ability to make plays in the secondary. There’s definitely a chance that Hicks slipped through the cracks.

Michigan has never been a state where the Badgers could just come in and grab any prospect they want. When he’s a player with Big Ten interest? It’s always a battle. But Detroit University three-star prospect Scott Nelson was willing to wait until the Badgers and Malik Zaire finished their dance, and instead, they landed a 6’2 safety athletic enough—and with quality-enough hands—that Northwestern had interest in him at wide receiver. The Badgers have a lot of bodies at safety, so his final position could be moved if the quantity of safeties blocks him. As free safeties go, the skill set means he could easily see the field.

As for long-snapper Adam Bay, the Badgers were going to be without a long-snapper this season if they didn’t get one to commit. As inspirational a story a walk-on finding his way to a scholarship through long-snapping would be, the Mesa, Ariz., two-star was the best freshman whom it was feasible to get. So the Badgers got the commit.

As I said at the top, Wisconsin had 12 graduating seniors going into the 2016 season, so if the class didn’t shake out as well as it did, there would be more than a reminder that the Badgers landed three transfers who have a path to making an impact. I would expect former Pittsburgh running back Chris James and former Hawaii cornerback Nick Nelson to see the field. Former Alabama outside linebacker Christian Bell is also physically gifted enough to start games.

Long story longer, while the Badgers didn’t have many exciting battles that they won this year and there were some prospects whose star ratings got squeezed in transit, this is a class of freshmen with several possibilities of providing impact from day one with a set of offensive triplets that you can build a dream on.