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Roundtable: What do we make of Wisconsin’s 2017 recruiting class?

A look at the good, bad and unknown of the Badgers’ Class of 2017.

81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Western Michigan v Wisconsin Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

What are your general impressions of the Wisconsin Badgers’ Class of 2017?

Owen Riese: It’s a very Wisconsin class. A few solid linemen and some developmental projects at the skill positions. The Badgers remedied their inability to get a running back from last year. Overall, it’s a good class considering the numbers. Plus, Paul Chryst got another quarterback to work with.

Jake Kocorowski: It’s a small class due to the number of scholarships available, but Chryst and his staff reeled in some significant talent like Jack Coan, Jonathan Taylor and Kayden Lyles. As Owen noted, I’m not sure there are many of the 16 signees who will immediately contribute, but those who push through will be needed at key positions (see outside linebacker and longsnapper). It will be interesting to see how they progress in Chryst’s offense, but I also like how the Badgers added numbers on the offensive line. Defensively, they have some intriguing talent at outside linebacker with Izayah Green-May and JUCO transfer Andrew Van Ginkel. The former could bud into a big-time presence and the latter could contribute immediately.

A fun aspect is the number (10) of walk-ons who committed as well.

NOTE: The article 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.

Joe Brown: First things first: When forming an opinion on this class, please ignore the class rankings posted by recruiting sites. Rankings based off of the number of stars in a class will not reflect the impact that the 2017 class will have in Madison.

First impression: This is a Paul Chryst/Wisconsin Badgers class if I’ve ever seen one! Solidify the offensive line, bring in a physical specimen at running back, a high-upside tight end and a pro-style quarterback (who has evaluators raving about his mental and physical skills). Chryst and co., did a nice job adding high upside athletes that fill depth needs who can develop into contributors down the road. Another interesting aspect of this class is the emphasis on walk-ons the Badgers are bringing in a large number, including a couple who are turning down scholarship money at other schools.

Kevin O’Connell: The offensive linemen in this class jump out to me and as Owen said, it’s very Wisconsin with all four hailing from the state. Lyles and Tyler Beach have a chance to be standouts at guard and tackle respectively, while Logan Bruss and Alex Fenton project to be solid offensive linemen. The Badgers also signed a pair of Texas wide receivers in Emmet Perry and Cade Green who have the potential to be impact playmakers down the line. It may take three to four years before this class really shines as a whole, but there are plenty of difference-makers in this 16-man class.

Which player will make the most immediate impact and why?

Owen: Van Ginkel will be one of the few guys in this class to play immediately, so it slims the choices down. He’ll be in the immediate rotation at outside linebacker.

Jake: Owen has a great point with Van Ginkel due to the fact he’s played college ball and the lack of proven players at outside linebacker. With T.J. Watt forgoing his final year of eligibility, the only two players with consistent playing time at the position are Garret Dooley and Zack Baun.

My vote goes to *insert fire and alarm emojis* long-snapper Adam Bay. An Under Armour All-American, Bay is rated the best prep long-snapper in the nation and, well, Wisconsin doesn’t have a true dedicated player at that position for 2016. Gone will be Connor Udelhoven, and Zander Neuville was listed as the back-up on Wisconsin’s depth chart last season. He should get the opportunity right away to prove himself at the Division I level.

Joe: There is a great chance Bay is the Day 1 starter. Van Ginkel being a couple of years removed from high school and playing a position vacated by two starters bodes well for him as well.

I’ll throw a curveball here: Coan gets my vote. A “top of the board” target, Coan was the QB Wisconsin wanted to add in 2017. An early enrollee, he’ll have a chance to submerse himself into the playbook early and compete for reps in spring ball. Keep in mind, the backup QB is only one hit away from starting, Alex Hornibrook was only a part-time starter in 2016 with plenty to prove and QB is a position with depth issues.

Kevin: Van Ginkel is a great choice as he is likely to play plenty of snaps next season, but there is always one surprise true freshman in every class like we saw last season with Quintez Cephus. In 2017, that player could be Green-May, an athletic, high-motor edge rusher like Van Ginkel. With the departures of Vince Biegel and Watt, the outside linebacker position is in need of depth and playmakers (moving Jack Cichy back outside is an option). Green-May needs to put on some weight but he could see some time opposite Van Ginkel or Garret Dooley in passing situations or, god forbid, the injury bug bites Wisconsin’s linebacker corps again.

Which player will make the greatest impact in his career and why?

Owen: Taylor. He's the best back UW has recruited since Corey Clement and he's gonna cook. Taylor is gonna be a good one.

Jake: Coan and Lyles could provide significant impact. Both enrolled early to get a jump start on learning Chryst’s offense and also could provide stability at keys positions. Coan has essentially Alex Hornibrook and Kayden’s brother, Karé, as scholarship quarterbacks on the roster and has a winning pedigree in being Long Island’s career leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He also worked with former NFL great and current CBS analyst Phil Simms (say what you will about Simms’s broadcasting style, but he could sling it back in the day). Lyles is one of the nation’s top guards, and with the Badgers rebuilding that position group, they found a good one (and a UW legacy) who’s starting his career early.

Joe: The late commitment of Danny Davis is a game changer for the Badgers’ 2017 recruiting class. Davis, Wisconsin’s highest-rated wide receiver in eight years, may or may not make an immediate impact as a true freshman but his talents are undeniable. On his Hudl film, the four-star out of Ohio (who played both running back and wide receiver) showed the ability to score from anywhere on the field.

The other player who will have a big impact in Madison is Lyles. One of the top prospects in Arizona two years ago (if you recall, he and Garrett Rand committed the same day) Lyles transferred to Middleton last year and continued to dominate, becoming the top-rated prospect in the state. Barring injury, I see Lyles as a multi-year starter who will be highly effective opening up holes for Taylor and keeping Coan/Hornibrook clean in the pocket.

Kevin: Taylor and Lyles are the blue-chip commits of this class and will likely have long and successful careers in Madison. But I’ll change it up and go with Beach. One of the top players in Wisconsin, Beach held big-time offers from Notre Dame, Michigan, Missouri and Arkansas, but chose to stay in-state and play for the Badgers. At 6’6, 280 pounds, Beach has the ideal size and tools to become an All-Big Ten offensive tackle for Wisconsin in two to three years.

What was the biggest surprise or area of need the Badgers' coaching staff addressed?

Owen: Obviously a fourth of the class is offensive linemen, so that was pretty clearly an area of concern. This class is weird due to the lack of numbers.

Jake: Going back to long-snapper on this. Udelhoven is exhausting his eligibility and when you offer a scholarship to specialists (like Wisconsin did with punter Anthony Lotti last year and kicker Rafael Gaglianone a few years ago) the expectation is for them to contribute or fight for playing time immediately.

Long-snapping is one of the most underrated positions on the field. What used to be reserved for a backup player has become specialized (like former Badgers and NFL vets Mike Schneck and Matt Katula). They don’t get noticed unless they screw up. Ask former UW punter Sam Veit about 1991, when future team captain and starting linebacker Eric Unverzagt was the long-snapper and was erratic that season.

#SpecialistsArePeopleToo, and Bay, the No. 1-ranked long snapper in the nation per Kohl’s Kicking Camp, should solidify a key position for the next four years.

Joe: A case could be made that using a scholarship on a long-snapper is a stretch, but ultimately it was a need and, as Jake described, Bay is highly regarded at the position. One position not addressed that’s confused me some is nose tackle, a key to the success of the 3-4 defense. Wisconsin will continue to rely heavily on Olive Sagapolu but didn’t add future depth at the position in 2017.

Kevin: The coaching staff did a great job in the secondary. Chryst and co., added two high-upside cornerbacks in Faion Hicks and Madison Cone and secured a late commitment from Detroit safety Scott Nelson. The Badgers will be without Sojourn Shelton and Leo Musso next year and are set to lose Derrick Tindal, Natrell Jamerson, Lubern Figaro and D’Cota Dixon to graduation in 2018. It’s encouraging to see an emphasis on the secondary in Chryst’s last two classes, as the Badgers will need plenty of reinforcements in the back end of the defense in the coming years.

Is there a sleeper in this year’s class who could surprise people?

Owen: Bruss. He's gonna crush souls at guard. Look for him to replace Benzschawel in two years at right guard.

Jake: Two, in my opinion. Hicks, whom prep teammate and five-star cornerback Stanford Samuels praised in late December, enrolled early and will be under the tutelage of secondary coach Jim Leonhard. A shoulder injury in the spring may have led to fewer offers from other programs, but it appears this kid could be another in a long line of Florida natives manning the defensive backfield in cardinal and white.

I’ll also go with Green. His film shows he can make contested catches and has some breakaway speed, but he also committed himself in two other areas that should help him see the field often. All Wisconsin wide receivers need to block and based off of his Hudl highlights and speaking with Lake Travis head coach Hank Carter, Green is relentless in that area of his game. On special teams, Green added a dimension to his game as a punt returner. He returned at least two punts for touchdowns last season, with Carter noting there would have been three more if not for penalties.

Two true freshmen found time at wide receiver last year in Cephus and A.J. Taylor. I think Green could be physically ready, but the big question is how fast he’ll pick up a non-spread offense.

Joe: Green-May is a high-upside prospect who at 6’5 could give Big Ten tackles fits as he uses his athleticism and size to disrupt. He’ll need to add weight as he’s currently hovering around 200 pounds; if he can while maintaining his explosiveness, he could have a big impact down the road.

Kevin: I’ll go with Madison’s own Jake Ferguson. The three-star tight end commit looks impressive on tape and will compete with Kyle Penniston to be Wisconsin’s tight end of the future after Troy Fumagalli graduates. He is a versatile prospect having also played linebacker at Madison Memorial and has a great chance to be an impact player at either position for the Badgers.