The biggest buzz for the Wisconsin Badgers’ class of 2018 isn’t coming today, National Signing Day.
No, it already came back on Dec. 20, when Wisconsin officially signed 20 scholarship players and seven walk-ons as part of college football’s early signing period.
The lone scholarship commitment that signed on Wednesday is Miami (Northwestern) cornerback Rachad Wildgoose, Jr., who picked Wisconsin over the likes of Central Florida, NC State, and Pitt.
Here is the full breakdown of this recruiting cycle’s class:
Wisconsin’s 2018 Scholarship Signees
Quarterback (1): Chase Wolf (B5Q signee profile)
Running back (1): Nakia Watson (B5Q signee profile)
Wide receiver (2): A.J. Abbott (B5Q signee profile), Taj Mustapha (early enrollee; B5Q signee profile)
Tight end (2): Jaylan Franklin (B5Q signee profile), Cormac Sampson (B5Q signee profile)
Offensive line (1): Michael Furtney (B5Q signee profile)
Defensive line (3): Bryson Williams (early enrollee; B5Q signee profile), Isaiah Mullens (B5Q signee profile), Boyd Dietzen (B5Q signee profile)
Inside linebacker (1): Jack Sanborn (B5Q signee profile)
Outside linebacker (2): C.J. Goetz (B5Q signee profile), Mason Platter (B5Q signee profile)
Cornerback (4): Donte Burton (early enrollee; B5Q signee profile), Travian Blaylock (B5Q signee profile), Alexander Smith (B5Q signee profile), Rachad Wildgoose, Jr. (B5Q signee profile)
Safety (1): Reggie Pearson (early enrollee; B5Q signee profile)
Athletes (2): Aron Cruickshank (early enrollee; B5Q signee profile), Isaac Guerendo (B5Q signee profile)
Wisconsin’s 2018 Walk-ons
Quarterback: Nate Carter
Running back: Brady Schipper
Tight end: Jack Eschenbach
Offensive line: Andrew Lyons
Inside linebacker: John Chenal
Outside linebacker: Marty Strey
Athlete: Mike Gregoire
Note: On Tuesday night, athlete/safety John Torchio verbally committed as a walk-on, though Wisconsin has not yet confirmed his National Letter of Intent.
Big welcome to our midyears who arrived in Madison today. @reggiepearson21 @brysonjw_18 @taj_m22 @burton_donte @aron_ehall2018 pic.twitter.com/oA5wdDuAxT— Coach Marlatt (@CoachMarlatt) January 16, 2018
The Early Enrollees
Five players from this class—Burton, Cruickshank, Mustapha, Pearson, and Williams—are already enrolled at the university and participating in Wisconsin’s winter conditioning.
It should be interesting to watch during fall camp how these players develop and possibly position themselves for contributing roles on this team.
Prepare to win.— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) January 26, 2018
Expect to win.#OnWisconsin pic.twitter.com/ZfZfPVxQuQ
Who Could Contribute Early?
Last year, Jonathan Taylor, Danny Davis, Adam Bay, and Madison Cone all found time on the field in Wisconsin’s 13–1 season. Who could be called upon for 2018?
Granted, my thoughts here are completely based on the projected positions of need.
Bryson Williams—defensive line: We covered Williams in our roundtable back in December, but I really think Williams—if he can adapt to the college game quickly—has an opportunity to provide depth at nose tackle. Looking at pictures and speaking with him about his lifting routine late last year, he appears physically ready to take on the responsibilities of a two-gap lineman.
Who steps up on the defensive line is a big question considering that Wisconsin loses three senior defensive ends in Chikwe Obasih, the NFL Combine-snubbed Alec James, and Conor Sheehy. Nose tackle Olive Sagapolu is the only returning starter, and presumably (OK, definitely) Isaiahh Loudermilk will fill one of the end positions. Does would-be junior Garrett Rand swing out to end, where he may be better despite holding his own with his strength and being around 270 pounds?
If Williams, who enrolled early and will take advantage of those 15 spring practices starting in March, can show that he can take on those early responsibilities (still a lot to ask for a first-year player), I believe that could allow defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield flexibility and one more player to use while searching for the best combination of linemen next season.
Cornerbacks: With Nick Nelson and Derrick Tindal gone, Wisconsin’s starters at that position for 2018 will be would-be redshirt sophomore Dontye Carriere-Williams and one other defensive back. That could include the likes of Madison Cone, Faion Hicks, or Caesar Williams in a group that lacks significant playing experience on defense outside of Carriere-Williams, the third cornerback in Wisconsin’s nickel package last season.
Could the next four cornerbacks in this class—Burton, Blaylock, Smith, and Wildgoose, Jr.—push for playing time and land themselves in the two-deep? As mentioned earlier, Burton enrolled early and could get a jump start.