Early Signing Day has come and gone and the Wisconsin Badgers have put together quite the class for 2020. Between this year and last year, Paul Chryst has signed the two highest rated classes that Wisconsin has seen during the online recruiting rankings era. The only way to compete with the Ohio States of the world is to have high-end talent and lots of it.
Hopefully with these two classes the Badgers are on the way to stockpiling 4-star players on both sides of the ball. But, that’s all stuff to worry about later...let’s talk about the class of 2020!
Wisconsin signed 19 scholarship players and two walk-ons on Wednesday and still have room in the class for one or two more scholarship players. A running back is probably high on everyone’s wish list come February.
Here is what Bob, Tyler, Belz and Kevin thought about Wisconsin’s Early Signing Day performance.
What was the biggest surprise on Early Signing Day? (Yes, you can all just shout KADEN JOHNSON and be done with this question.)
Kevin: What a get for the Badgers! It always feels good signing a player of Johnson’s caliber, but to beat out fellow Big Ten West rivals Nebraska and Minnesota for him was just the cherry on top.
Bob: KADEN JOHNSON!
Tyler: KADEN JOHNSON! Huge. I remember watching his high school tape and thinking he would be great to have at UW and a nightmare for UW if he went elsewhere. Huge get.
Belz: Johnson...Kaden Johnson. His signature is crucial for this class. Not only because of his talents, but also because he is the top player in Minnesota. Wisconsin also has the top player in the 2021 class with Riley Mahlman, an ever important way to dominate the Axe rivalry.
Who has a chance to be a multi-year starter on offense?
Kevin: I’ll go with tight end Cam Large. One look at his list of offers (Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, LSU, Notre Dame, and many more) will tell you that he has immense potential and could become a difference maker for the Badgers. Starting tight end Jake Ferguson has two years of eligibility left, but I could see Large contributing early on and eventually becoming a two-year starter later in his college career.
Bob: KADEN JOHNSON. Wait, he’s on defense. I will go with Trey Wedig, the top recruit in the class. He’s the closest to a sure thing in this class, and I expect him to be a significant contributor very soon. It will be interesting to see if how they shift things around if Wedig indeed earns playing time within the next two years.
#Badgers coach Paul Chryst said he likes athletic ability/versatility of five OL signees. I think I detected drool when he talked about tackles Jack Nelson/Trey Wedig: "Jack, both him and Trey, that’s kind of how you want to draw up tackles."— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) December 18, 2019
Tyler: I think Trey Wedig and Jack Nelson will both be solid pieces of a line for years to come. Obviously Wisconsin turns out great lineman after great lineman and I expect them to mold both of those guys into the system well. I think you have to be excited about both of those guys being part of a dominating line with Logan Brown and others from 2019.
Belz: I think both Cam Large and Trey Wedig are great answers, but I will go with Jack Nelson. Another top flight offensive tackle, Nelson will be enrolling early, which should give him a leg up on developing quicker. Already possessing a special blend of athleticism and size, I expect him to use the added time in the weight room and practice field to continue to improve. The battle between him Wedig, and Logan Brown for playing time will be something to watch. IF they all unlock the potential they have, one of them will undoubtedly have to shift inside, but those three could be absolute maulers on the line together.
Same question, but on defense?
Kevin: It’s gotta be either Kaden Johnson or Nick Herbig. I suspect both will eventually work their way into the starting lineup during their Wisconsin careers and I can’t wait to see how both players develop under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and outside linebackers coach Bobby April.
Bob: KADEN JOHNSON. Well, the combo of Johnson and Nick Herbig opposite each other is going to be another epic addition to this run of outside linebackers at UW.
Tyler: I’m going to go with Jordan Turner. Guy hits. Hard. He’s really physical and looks like he’s going to be a grit guy for Wisconsin. That can get you on the field early. Johnson is another name I expect to be out there early simply because of the departures at that outside linebacker position.
Belz: I agree with Kevin and Bob on the outside linebackers, but for the sake of deviation I will say Mailk Reed or Jordan Turner. Both players can really run and look physically ready for the Big Ten on film. They will probably not leapfrog Leo Chenal and Jack Sanborn for immediate starting time, but I think one of them could get into the two-deep from the jump depending on how Maema Njongmeta’s developed. After Sanborn is gone, one of these guys will be primed to be a starter for two or three seasons.
Who are you most excited to see on the field in this class?
Kevin: It’s not the flashiest pick but I’ll go with Trey Wedig. For one, he’s Wisconsin’s highest ranked player in the class and a likely multi-year starter. Two, Wedig checks in at 6-foot-8 and 320 pounds as a high school senior. I am very excited to see the in-state product maul defensive linemen in the coming years.
Bob: I am extremely excited for Cam Large, who is probably the most under-starred recruit in Wisconsin’s class. I love how he can run block and has a huge catch radius. He will be a great asset.
Tyler: Copy and past Kevin’s answer because he said exactly what I was ready to fire off.
Belz: Nick Herbig. He is supremely athletic and talented as a pass rusher. Coming in from one of the top high schools in the country for developing talent, he has played some of the best teams across the nation, and shined. I think he is the most surefire prospect that Wisconsin nabbed in the process, and I think he will be an absolute force in the Badgers 3-4 scheme.
Anyone you see contributing early as a true freshman?
Kevin: Looking at the roster, it might be difficult for most of this class to see the field as true freshmen. However, I’d bet on one of either Kaden Johnson or Nick Herbig to break through and see some snaps next season.
Bob: Based on the depth chart and Zach Baun’s graduation, probably the linebackers Kaden Johnson or Nick Herbig.
The reigning #Cover2 Defensive Player of the Year is ‘proud to be a Badger’ - @StLouisHawaii linebacker @nickherbig_ makes commitment to #Wisconsin official on Signing Day #OnWisconsin @BadgerFootball @nate_herbig // https://t.co/9oZimTtTXJ pic.twitter.com/q1sM6TBxrF— Rob DeMello (@RobDeMelloKHON) December 19, 2019
Tyler: I think Johnson or Herbig given the position depth as already mentioned. Everyone else I think needs grooming but you never know. Some kids develop faster than expected, some need more time. Obviously any early enrolled players have a leg up but I wouldn’t expect to see a ton from this class next year.
Belz: I think the inside and outside linebacker spots are the most likely destinations for potential snaps on the defense Aaron Witt and Nick Herbig are both enrolling early, so they could potentially throw their hat in the ring. I won’t sleep on Cam Large as well at tight end, but I think the position that actually has the best chance hasn’t even been signed. Running back. With Jonathan Taylor leaving early, snaps are their for the taking. If Wisconsin can land a highly rated back, they will definitely have a chance to contribute.
Biggest sleeper in the class?
Kevin: I’ll go with outside linebacker Aaron Witt. Johnson, Herbig, and even Malik Reed have deservedly gotten most of the shine of the incoming linebacker class, but I just have a gut feeling Witt will turn into one heck of a player.
Bob: Being one of the lowest-rated recruits in the class, I think James Thompson Jr. could turn into a strong player. He is similar to Cade McDonald -- both defensive ends who (from what I can tell on paper) might still be growing into their bodies. I don’t see either starting in the next several years, but they could get some run on special teams.
Tyler: I’ll go with Max Lofy. He’s the only DB in the class right now and that usually means the staff is pretty confident in his ability. Plus he’s athletic and got really good speed and size. Lastly, Jim Leonard is a guru with DB’s so I’m excited to see what they can put together.
Belz: I will go with Devin Chandler. His senior film is really impressive. He earned a lot of Power-Five offers late in the process for good reason, as he does a really nice job of creating separation and catching the ball away from his body. At 6-foot-2, he will need to add some weight, but he is already very good at catching contested balls, something that translates really well to the Big Ten.