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A look at Wisconsin football’s current class of 2018 and what’s to come

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A roundtable discussion on the big buzz with Badgers’ ‘crootin.

Travian Blaylock
Could Texas product Travian Blaylock be one of the next high school recruits to commit to Wisconsin?
Student Sports

Wisconsin now has 13 commits in the class of 2018. Currently, which recruit intrigues you the most to fill their positions of need? (note: we’re not asking you to predict their future)

Andrew Rosin: I’m probably one of the early members of the Nakia Watson bandwagon, but I’m actually going to go in a different direction. Reggie Pearson, while a tad undersized at 5’10 and 180 pounds, feels like a complete safety. He can play center field, he can cover, and he can tackle with enough force to separate a receiver from the play he wants to make. There are mighty good safeties on the roster, but I think Pearson’s got multi-year starter skills.

Joe Brown: Badgers fans fondly refer to Wisconsin as “RBU” because it routinely churns out 1,000-yard backs. Armed with a modest offer list and a rating from the recruiting services on the lower side (as a three-star), the Badgers accepting Watson’s verbal commitment may appear to be a bit of a head scratcher on the surface.

After a few minutes of Watson’s Hudl tape, you quickly see that he possess the tools necessary to be a Big Ten running back: Quick feet, good balance, plenty of power, decisive decision making, and enough speed to break off long runs while competing against some of Texas high school's top competition. At 5’11 and 212 pounds, Watson looks the part of a Wisconsin tailback with an intriguing blend of size and athleticism.

Jake Kocorowski: Three defensive linemen (Chikwe Obasih, Alec James, Conor Sheehy) are exhausting their eligibility after the 2017 season. Currently, Wisconsin has three in this class with three-star recruits Isaiah Mullens, Cormac Sampson and Boyd Dietzen (though it appears Sampson could play multiple positions). Dietzen in particular is intriguing to me due to the fact of his possible versatility. Kimberly head coach Steve Jones told B5Q earlier this year that he could be a defensive end, but also maybe as an outside linebacker or a tight end. How he develops in his time in Madison will be worth watching, especially if he can grow out hair like his older cousin, current left guard and mullet enthusiast, Jon Dietzen.

Though the position group is stacked at Wisconsin, four-star inside linebacker Jack Sanborn is the No. 9 ILB in the country per 247 (not composite but standalone), No. 11 by Rivals and No. 12 per Scout. The Lake Zurich, Ill. product is the lone Illinois commit currently but could make an impact down the road.

Based off of where the Badgers have received commitments or targeting prospects, which states do you see the coaching staff emphasizing?

Andrew: Obviously, Michigan is the big surprise point of emphasis. Before the Badgers were able to sign David Moorman, they had one commit for the entirety of the century previous. As of now, they have as many scholarship commits this season with the addition of Jaylan Franklin as they have had since 2002. With them leading for wide receiver A.J. Abbott and in strong contention for his West Bloomfield teammate, wide receiver Taj Mustapha (ed. note: who was offered this past weekend and placed UW in his top five on Wednesday), it’s not unreasonable to think that the Badgers could get a literal handful of commitments from the mitten.

Joe: Once again the Badgers have success in “building a wall” around the state of Wisconsin. With five of their 13 verbally committed athletes being in-state prospects, it's clear the Badgers value Wisconsin standouts.

Beyond the Badger State, seeing the staff find success in states such as Michigan and Texas is both encouraging and noteworthy as they look to create in-roads in each state in 2018 and beyond.

Jake: As Andrew and Joe mentioned, the Wolverine State has been a focus. It’s incredible to see Wisconsin head in there and have the success the coaching staff has had.

Let’s talk about Texas, though. In the past few years, UW has plucked the likes of inside linebacker Chris Orr (2015), cornerback Caesar Williams (2016), and wide receivers Emmet Perry and Cade Green (2017) out of the Lone Star State. Wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore knows how to recruit down south, and UW found the potential sleeper of the class of 2018 in Watson in May.

With other talented players like cornerback Travian Blaylock--son of a former NFL running back--among others looking at UW, the program is rebuilding in-roads into Texas that will bear watching for years to come.

Which positions are still of need for this class of 2018, and which players could fill those roles?

Andrew: At this point? There’s three. I’m going to go with the position that concerns me that they haven’t found much of anything in terms of interest, because right now, the Badgers do not have a scholarship sophomore or freshman on the depth chart at nose guard. It’s necessary for them to get at least one guy up to speed for 2020 when a lot of the depth the Badgers have waves bye-bye. And right now, the Badgers are the best offer that Norcross, Ga. defensive tackle Nazir Sy has as well as being early in the process for Kapolei, Hawaii defensive tackle Aaron Faumui.

It’s not an “everybody freak out and panic” situation quite yet, but they need to find themselves a nose guard, and they don’t have anything near as close as they do at cornerback or wide receiver.

Joe: As Andrew mentioned, there is a big hole that needs filled at nose guard in the Badgers’ defense. While I expect that position to be addressed yet, it wouldn't be all that surprising to see a position change help in filling this position of need. With the late night addition at cornerback of Alexander Smith, the one position that needs to be addressed yet is wide receiver.

A position that's received a ton of attention with nearly 50 offers across the country but has yet to land a verbal commitment. Persistence has been key here for wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore, as Wisconsin has or soon could host several very interesting prospects this summer: the previously mentioned Mustapha and Abbott, Aron Cruickshank, Cameron O’Neil and Jalen Nailor.

Another name to keep an eye out for is Alec Pierce, a prospect from Illinois. While he hasn't been offered at this point, his test results are impressive, and he has family ties in Wisconsin. Pierce could be a sleeper at receiver.

Jake: Andrew again brings up a great point at nose guard. I’ll still say cornerback, though, even with the Badgers locking up Smith from Culver City, Calif. last night. Wisconsin will lose seniors Derrick Tindal and Lubern Figaro after 2017 at that position group and will need to reload there.

There are some 2018 prospects that appear to be on Wisconsin’s radar still in this position group with Blaylock, along with Florida prospects Tanner Ingle and Marquis Williams (both who I feel have outstanding Hudl film, especially the former).

Blaylock just visited this past week with a positive reception to his time in Madison ($). Ingle named UW as one of his Top 10 schools on Tuesday, and Williams—nephew of former Minnesota Gopher and 11-year NFL vet Tyrone Carter—appears to be highly interested in the Badgers (as seen per Rivals and Scout. 247Sports has UW as his “favorite” with Crystal Ball predictions in the program’s favor).

Needless to say, there’s plenty of intrigue with projected limited spots in this next recruiting cycle. Though it may not be the most pressing need currently for Wisconsin now, it is now the most interesting position to keep tabs on.