With a historically strong walk-on program, Wisconsin routinely identifies and brings in some of their most talented and influential players not on scholarship. With a reputable footprint in the state, and a lineage of success stories such as current defensive coordinator and former All-American safety Jim Leonhard, Jack Cichy, Mark Tauscher, Bradie Ewing, Chris Maragos, Donnel Thompson and J.J. Watt to name a few, Wisconsin generally has players willing to forego scholarships elsewhere to join the program.
This year is no different.
On Early Signing Day, the football team welcomed two walk-ons into the fold for next season, each of which is looking to play in in front of the Camp Randall faithful. Additionally, there are some confirmed players who will tentatively sign their letter of intents in February as walk-ons as well.
Here is a quick breakdown on the talented prospects that are part of the 2020 recruiting class without a scholarship prior to attendance:
Early Signing Day signees
A three-star offensive line prospect out of Milwaukee, Sean Timmis passed on over 20 offers from across the FBS, FCS, and Ivy Leagues to become a Badger.
At 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, the Marquette University School product demonstrates the attributes necessary to become a potential role player or starter down the role depending on his development. Timmis is one of the more impressive walk-on offensive lineman to sign with Wisconsin in some time given the other opportunities he passed up.
Another walk-on signature came from specialist Duncan McKinley on Wednesday. A four-star long snapper according to Kohl’s, McKinley will be one of the next in line for that spot after Adam Bay exhausts his eligibility next season.
Hailing from Eau Claire Memorial, he opted to stay inside the state to represent the Badgers as a long snapper. At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds he will need to continue to add some weight for the blocking needs of his position, but he is a talented athlete who participates in basketball as well at the high school level.
Committed walk-ons expected to sign in February...
A two-star offensive guard prospect, Kerry Kodanko is another offensive lineman that will left scholarship opportunities aside to pursue the chance to play and earn a degree at Wisconsin.
Hailing from De Pere, Kodanko committed to Wisconsin in the middle of September, shutting down his recruitment fairly early for a walk-on. The 6-foot-3, 275 pound offensive lineman held other offers from Air Force, Eastern Kentucky, Illinois State, North Dakota, Northern Iowa, and Western Illinois at the time.
It will undoubtedly be an uphill battle for Kodanko and Timmis to make a dent in the offensive line rotation given the five scholarship players along the offensive line that also signed early, but both players are worth keeping on eye on moving forward.
A two-star linebacker, Ross Gengler has the size and skill set to play either inside or outside linebacker at the next level. At 6-foot-3 and 206 pounds, Gengler wreaked havoc on the Southern Lakes Conference for Delavan-Darien High School, taking home the Defensive Player of the Year award for the conference as well as Honorable Mention All-State honors.
Holding myriad offers from both the FCS and Division II levels, Gengler instead opted to join the Badgers as a preferred walk-on all the way back in July. Given his size and talents, he would have certainly had the chance to garner more opportunities, but the chance to play at Wisconsin proved too much.
During his senior season Gengler had 112 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, six sacks, two fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns.
He will be another walk-on to keep an eye on moving forward, especially given the hit rate for walk-on linebackers at Wisconsin.
A two-star cornerback, Amaun Williams is a ball-hawking defensive back. As a senior he recorded six interceptions, and 32 tackles on his way to earning the Jim Leonhard Award for the best senior defensive back in the state of Wisconsin.
Junior season 2018.— Amaun williams (@amaunwilliams1) November 3, 2018
Check out my highlight - https://t.co/Llf526N4zT
Generally undersized at 5-foot-9, Williams makes up for it with his high football acumen, long wingspan and athletic ability. A tremendous jumper, Williams was a standout on the defense for Milwaukee Riverside High School where he earned First Team All-State honors.
He opted to commit to Wisconsin early in September over some lower level offers from Eastern Illinois, a host of Division II schools, as well as a preferred walk-on spot with Minnesota.
Williams is a player that should be an asset in special teams, and should have a chance to potentially find a role at Wisconsin. Check out his senior film here.
A three-star specialist, Jack Van Dyke could play any number of roles at Wisconsin. Primarily a punter and kicker, Van Dyke demonstrates a strong leg in both regards.
A first-team All-State performer, Van Dyke will add to the competition in the specialist room quickly with an outside chance to find a role immediately with some specialists exhausting their eligibility.
On the year he made all eight of his field-goal attempts, and averaged 36.3 yards per punt. He was honored with the Kevin Stemke award for the top punter or kicker in the state of Wisconsin.
He is ranked by Kohl Kicking as the No. 4 kicker and No. 20 punter in the nation for his class.
This list will no doubt increase in size as the February signing period looms closer. However, Wisconsin seems to already have a solid crop of young men who are foregoing scholarship opportunities to don the red and white.