Nolan Rucci returned to Madison this past weekend as his recruiting process continues to heat up—not just as a family member tagging along with his older brother.
While tight end Hayden signed as a member of the Wisconsin Badgers in December, interest in Nolan has started to soar as a member of the 2021 class. Taking in the sights and sounds of UW once again for a second time, this time as a recruit, the offensive lineman spent time with the 2019 signees but also met a couple of others in his recruiting cycle.
“I got to meet [Wisconsin commit J.P. Benzschawel] and some of the other [2021 recruits] that were up that weekend, and we had a good time, talked a little bit, got to interact with them,” Rucci told B5Q on Sunday as the family drove through a mid-April snowstorm. “All around, it was just an awesome trip talking with the coaches. Coach Rudolph is just an awesome guy. Really down to earth and I love the way he teaches his guys.”
The entire Rucci family came up for the trip, arriving in Madison around 2 p.m. CT on Friday just in time for Nolan to sit in on some team meetings.
To Rucci, one aspect of the visit that stood out included the the attention Wisconsin offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph gave him during the weekend.
“It was really amazing to see just how much time out of the day,” Rucci said. “He went over some schemes with me, just talking o-line stuff. We actually sat in his office for about 45 minutes just one-on-one, just kind of talking man-to-man about ethics, school, and everything in between, so I would say Coach Rudolph is definitely one of the things that stood out this weekend for me.”
The relationship between Rucci and Rudolph started even before his older brother committed to Wisconsin. As Nolan traveled to Madison when Hayden started his process of finding a collegiate program to play for, Rudolph found time to chat with the young lineman.
“I think on our first visit, we were in the tight ends room talking with coach [Mickey] Turner, and coach Rudolph came in and pulled me into his office,” Rucci said. “Not even as a recruit, but we just talked about for 45 minutes just one-on-one, talked about sports and everything in between. It was a great conversation between me and him. I think just from there, our relationship has grown a lot as we’ve taken some more visits up here.
“As we got to talk a little more, Coach Rudolph seems like a really down to earth guy. I love how he coaches his o-linemen. I think they got something pretty special going on in Madison.”
With Hayden signed as a member of the 2019 class, and a significant group of those players showed up on Saturday to watch Wisconsin’s open practice. Nolan has also befriended those future Badgers.
“They’re all pretty supportive, and it really feels like just like you’re talking to another one of your buddies,” Rucci said. “I can’t say enough about them—they’re just awesome guys. Especially Joe [Tippmann], I spent the most time with him this weekend. From lineman to lineman, I think we got a pretty great connection so it was a great all around time talking with those guys.”
Listed at 6’8 and 268 pounds on his Hudl profile, Rucci admitted his early recruiting process has picked up quicker than he thought with the early offers received starting last season as a high school sophomore. According to Rivals, he already holds 14 before even entering his junior season.
Penn State, the school both his father and mother played at for football and field hockey, respectively, is pursuing him. Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Texas and others all have presented opportunities to him to play college football as well.
Rucci has now seen these college visits through two lenses—one through the eyes of a family member when Hayden worked through his process, and now him becoming the focal point of coaches and programs. The Rucci family confirmed to B5Q that they have already traveled to Michigan, Maryland, Notre Dame, Penn State and Wisconsin, as Rivals reports in their profile of Nolan. At the end of April, they will make a trip out to Ann Arbor and Columbus, and another potential one to South Bend could be in store as well in May.
Rucci noted that his trips to those programs have been “amazing,” though he stated there are no favorites currently. However, he is also not ruling out any one school.
“Right now, I’m just trying to keep a level head as far as any decisions have gone,” Rucci said. “I’m still in the information gathering process. Right now, we’re not eliminating any schools from contention, but Wisconsin is definitely on the list.”
247Sports already ranks Rucci as a four-star recruit—the No. 30 player overall and No. 6 offensive tackle in the country for the 2021 class—though he continues to try to maintain an even keel on what could lie ahead.
“I realize that I have a lot of potential but it doesn’t mean very much until you get on the field,” Rucci said. “I think just working on developing technique, strength, I think it all starts in the weight room and the classroom as well. That’s probably one of the most important things is just keeping a level head and not getting too big for your shoes and making sure you’re still studying in the classroom and getting in the weight room after school, so those are probably the biggest things—staying down to earth and not getting a big head about everything that’s been going on.”
Of course, big brother Hayden likely would not mind seeing Nolan in cardinal and white, but the family is encouraging of whatever decision is best for the lineman.
“I think he knows exactly where he wants me to go, but my parents, they’d be happy wherever I went,” Rucci said. “They’re extremely supportive in my decision regardless of where it is, so it’s been a great process overall.”