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Wisconsin football recruiting: Build-A-Badger (episode two)

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In the second installment, B5Q’s Matt Belz and Drew Hamm take their best guess at how the 2021 recruiting class will look come signing day.

TJ Bollers, 4-star OLB/DE
Tom Lemming

2019 has come and gone. The Wisconsin Badgers football team not only had a tremendous season on the field, resulting in a Rose Bowl berth, but Paul Chryst and company also inked one of the best recruiting classes in the program history for 2020.

Over the past two recruiting cycles, 2019 and 2020, the Badgers have elevated their recruiting status, and are already positioned with a top-10 class in the early goings for 2021. With eight current commits, and 16 scholarship seniors expected to exhaust their eligibility, the coaching staff has a tremendous start towards a projected number of 18-20 given normal attrition.

Nearly a full year from National Signing Day, we at B5Q update the state of the current recruiting class, while projecting forward what other players may join the program to become Badgers. (You can see your previous projections here)


Quarterback (1)

Deacon Hill

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Quarterback 6-foot-4 225 pounds Santa Barbara, Cal. Three-star; .8791; No. 20 QB

Matt’s take: After not taking a scholarship quarterback in the 2020 class, Deacon Hill was a huge early get for the Badgers.

A strong armed signal caller, Hill was a first time starter last year and played extremely well. He recently earned a nice rankings bump, climbing 20 spots in the quarterback rankings thanks to his junior film. I would expect his standing to potentially continue to rise after some solid showings on the camp circuit. That being said, I think the Badgers are done at the position for 2021.

Drew’s take: Like we mentioned in the first version of this post, I don’t think the Badgers will say “no” to taking a look at some great quarterback prospect but I also don’t think they’ll be particularly aggressive in looking.

Paul Chryst has his man for 2021.


Running back (2)

Jackson Acker

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Athlete 6-foot-1 215 pounds Verona, Wis. Three-star; .8722; No. 29 RB

Loyal Crawford

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Running back 6-foot 190 pounds Eau Claire, Wis. Three-star; .8721; No. 30 RB

Matt’s take: With two strong running back candidates in-state, Wisconsin closed early on Jackson Acker and Loyal Crawford. The duo are very different in terms of their size and running style, so they could compliment one another well.

Acker’s size gives him positional versatility moving forward as well, but currently the plan is for him to stay at tailback. Both players rose a spot or two in the running back rankings since our last recruiting snapshot, and as things stand they will likely be the only scholarship backs taken.

Drew’s take: One would assume that the Badgers are done in the backfield since they got these two, early, in-state commitments, but Antwan Roberts (Hendersonville, Tenn.) is a player to watch.

Who knows how mutual the interest is there, but he’s a 3-star talent with a beatable offer list and if the Badgers have a spot open...why not?


Fullback (0-1)

Matt’s take: After taking a scholarship fullback in 2019 with Quan Easterling, I doubt the Badgers take another so close in proximity. Maybe a walk-on from within the state can fill the role for depth purposes.

Drew’s take: Find a kid from central Wisconsin whose last name ends in “-ski” and throw a low 40s number on him and let him crack some skulls. Boom, fullback position recruited. I’m just going to copy and paste this part until it happens.


Wide receiver (2-3)

Jaylin Noel

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Wide receiver 5-foot-11 170 pounds Kansas City, Mo. Three-star; .8527; No. 108 WR

Kaden Dudley

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Athlete 5-foot-11 190 pounds Monument, Col. Three-star; .8416; No. 74 ATH

Markus Allen

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Wide receiver 6-foot-2 190 pounds Clayton, Ohio Three-star; .84; No. 148 WR (not rated by Composite yet)

Matt’s take: With Alvis Whitted now as the wide receivers coach, more scholarship offers will probably go out this spring and summer once recruiting opens up more.

At this time though, I will take a stab at Jaylen Noel and Kaden Dudley. Noel is a gifted slot receiver out of Missouri that is very quick. Dudley has yet to receive an offer from the staff, but he recently stepped away from his commitment with Colorado, a key state for Whitted’s recruiting efforts.

While I think three wide receivers could make sense in this class, for now I will guess that Paul Chryst takes two in the 2021 class.

Drew’s take: The Badgers have made a couple of offers to 4-star WRs this past week which are worth keeping an eye on, however, both of the players have offer lists a mile long with lots of blue bloods on them. I don’t think Wisconsin would waste their time and just offer due to star ratings, but I’m also not holding my breath that either of those players pick the Badgers.

A player I AM keen on choosing the Badgers is Ohio’s Markus Allen. He received an offer after the Badgers last Junior Day which was probably six months ago now, right? Since then, Allen’s recruitment has blown up but the Badgers are still in pretty good position with him, I’d guess.


Tight end (1-2)

Jack Pugh

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Tight end 6-foot-5 235 pounds Hilliard, Ohio Four-star; .8931; No. 14 TE

Matt’s take: I think the Badgers have circled their wagons around Jack Pugh according to our recent interview with Deacon Hill on the podcast. A prototypical tight end, he would fit nicely in Wisconsin’s offense, and probably allow Mickey Turner to only sign one tight end this year after taking two in the 2020 class.

Pugh recently released a top six that included the Badgers, and as long as Ohio State doesn’t come calling, I think they have the best chance of getting his commitment.

Drew’s take: Matt nails it. Pugh is the top guy on Wisconsin’s board at tight end and there is mutual interest. It would be nice if the Badgers could wrap him up early so that Ohio State doesn’t need him if their Plan A falls through.


Offensive line (2-3)

J.P. Benzschawel

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Offensive lineman 6-foot-7 260 pounds Grafton, Wis. Four-star; .9422; No. 16 OT

Riley Mahlman

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Offensive lineman 6-foot-8 270 pounds Lakeville, Min. Four-star; .9398; No. 17 OT

Nolan Rucci

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Offensive line 6-foot-8 295 pounds Lititz, Pa. Five-star; .9906; No. 5 OT

Matt’s take: With two of the top offensive lineman in the entire country already committed in J.P. Benzschawel and Riley Mahlman, I think the Badgers can continue to be picky along the offensive line.

The Badgers are in a good spot to get an official visit, and be one of the final teams in the mix for Nolan Rucci thanks to their tradition at his position, and having his brother Hayden on the team already. Penn State and Clemson will be tough to beat, but at this point I still like the Badgers to potentially close out on the five-star on his official this summer.

If they do not procure the commitment from Rucci, I could very easily see Joe Rudolph closing things down along the line after taking five scholarship players last season, and a really good 2022 in-state class at the position.

Drew’s take: I still don’t think the Badgers are going to be able to secure the bag, as it were, with Rucci. Penn State has been the presumptive front runner forever, and they still are, but they also just signed a 4-star/top-50 OT on Thursday and maybe, just maybe, the Badgers are still hanging around here.

Even if Wisconsin doesn’t get another offensive lineman in this cycle, the two they have are PLENTY good and this position is in good hands moving forward.


Defensive line (2-3)

Hayden Nelson

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Weak-side defensive end 6-foot-4 248 pounds Brookfield, Wis. Three-star; .8366; No. 57 WDE

Arden Walker

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Strong-side defensive end 6-foot-4 245 pounds Englewood, Col. Three-star; .8593; No. 49 SDE

Matt’s take: The Wisconsin defensive line is actually in a really good spot after finally being able to build some legitimate depth at the position based on recent recruiting efforts. The Badgers will continue to try to add to that room though in the 2021 class one would assume. Hayden Nelson is an in-state option that continues to generate more offers by the day, and if there is a summer camp could earn an offer.

Arden Walker has not really narrowed down his options yet, but new wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted is expected to his the Colorado area hard. The Badgers have done a good job in that state here recently, and Walker has the type of frame and explosiveness that would be a good fit in the 3-4 defense as a defensive end.

Drew’s take: Nelson is a smart kid (offers from Navy and a handful of Ivy League schools) who will probably earn an offer this summer if, as Matt points out, there are summer camps/evaluations/visits.

Walker is a player that could also play OLB and hopefully they’ll have a new angle in recruiting him with Whitted on board.


Outside linebacker (2-3)

Ayo Adebogun

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Weak-side defensive end 6-foot-3 205 pounds Thiensville, Wis. Three-star; .8730; No. 36 WDE

Darryl Peterson

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Outside linebacker 6-foot-3 235 pounds Akron, Ohio Three-star; .8734; No. 33 OLB

TJ Bollers

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Weak-side defensive end 6-foot-3 237 pounds Tiffin, Iowa Four-star; .9356; No. 8 WDE

Yanni Karlaftis

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Outside linebacker 6-foot-3 205 pounds West Lafayette, Ind. Four-star; .9246; No. 17 OLB

Matt’s take: After taking an amazing outside linebacker haul last year, and an early commitment from Ayo Adebogun, the Badgers can be very selective moving forward. Darryl Peterson and TJ Bollers are top of the board defensive prospects for the team, and as of right now Wisconsin has a great shot with each. Both players have the side and athleticism to play outside linebacker, but could also shift to put their hand in the ground depending on their development.

In our recent talk with Deacon Hill on Bucky's 5th Podcast, Hill specifically mentioned both players as prospects he has a strong relationship with and that they are part of the committed players group chat. Peterson and Bollers are both highly coveted across the country, but as of now I like where Wisconsin stands.

Drew’s take: I agree with everything Matt mentions above. I’ve also added Yanni Karlaftis to this list because I think he’s too talented to pass up and I also think that at least one of these players would move down to defensive end or else the Badgers would have a real logjam at the OLB position moving forward.


Inside linebacker (2-3)

Bryan Sanborn

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Inside linebacker 6-foot-2 210 pounds Lake Zurich, Ill. Three-star; .8789; No. 20 ILB

Jake Chaney

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Inside linebacker 6-foot 210 pounds Lehigh Acres, Fla. Three-star; .8559; No. 38 ILB

Kobe King

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Inside linebacker 6-foot 223 pounds Detroit, Mich. Three-star; .8739; No. 20 ILB

Matt’s take: For a defense without a lot of glaring holes, the Badgers can be picky and take some best available talent in 2021. I really like Bryan Sanborn and Jake Chaney, as they compliment each other nicely as a potential pairing down the line.

With both players in the boat so to speak, Wisconsin can focus on a couple remaining targets like Mac Uihlein and Kobe King to close out the class with a bang. Uihlein has a much easier offer list at the moment, but I will say that Wisconsin is able to close on Kobe King and his brother, who we will talk about later.

Drew’s take: Kobe King and his twin brother, Kalen, aren’t necessarily a packaged deal...but if they are, I think Wisconsin would be an ideal landing spot for both of them. Kobe is the lower rated of the King brothers but he is no slouch.

If the Badgers still have room in their class for him later, and he doesn’t mind competing for reps, he’s definitely a “take” for UW.

I really like this Jake Chaney kid, by the way. He seems like the kind of guy who doesn’t crack the two-deep until he’s an upperclassman and then has some crazy season out of nowhere and records 95 tackles or something.


Cornerback (1-3)

Robert Regan

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Cornerback 5-foot-10 170 pounds Orange, Calif. Three-star; .8742; No. 35 CB

Kalen King

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Cornerback 5-foot-11 170 pounds Detroit, Mich. Three-star; .8950; No. 24 CB

Matt’s take: Wisconsin had really stockpiled cornerbacks in the classes leading up to last year, in which Max Lofy was the only scholarship corner taken. With some cornerbacks starting to get older on the depth chart, and the loss of James Williams this winter due to a career ending knee injury, I could see the Badgers try to bring in some more corners in 2021. Robert (RJ) Regan is a top of the board corner prospect that the team is sitting really well for according to our chat with Deacon Hill. After a great junior day at the beginning of the month, he is planning to visit officially this summer, and I think Wisconsin will close on him.

With COVID-19 blowing up visit plans across the country for prospects, it was huge that the Badgers were able to host a couple of their junior days early. One prospect that has been on campus quite a bit is Kalen King, a four-star corner out of Detroit. The competition will be fierce for him, but the Badgers are one of the only major players that have offered him the opportunity to play with his brother at the next level. Wisconsin will be in it until the end for him, so I will roll the dice and guess the King brothers end up Badgers.

Drew’s take: Kalen King would be a major recruiting victory for UW and I hope they can get both him and his brother to commit. Kalen would be the type of player that Wisconsin rarely gets and would help shore up the back end of the defense, a place where the Badgers are often exposed once they start playing the Ohio States of the college football world.

Regan is considered a strong Wisconsin lean but it’s interesting to note on his 247 profile page that UCLA is “warm” for him and the Bruins haven’t even offered him a scholarship yet.


Safety (1-3)

Hunter Wohler

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Safety 6-foot-1 190 pounds Muskego, Wis. Four-star; .9208; No. 9 Safety

Matt’s take: Last time we predicted the class, I guessed three safeties could be in this class given the fact that Eric Burrell, Colin Wilder, and Madison Cone will each be exhausting their eligibility after next season.

However, I have changed my tune dramatically due to the lack of new offers that have gone out at the position. I could easily see another safety pairing with Hunter Wohler if Wisconsin likes someone new, but given the current offers I don’t see it. Zakee Wheatley has talked about taking an official to Wisconsin at some point, but the competition level for him is threw the roof, especially in the highly contested DMV area.

With a huge commitment from Wohler — who I think is the most sure fire prospect in the class — I think as things stand the Badgers can get away with only bringing in one safety. Wisconsin may instead opt to bring in some top level best available talent at other positions in 2021, and focus on defensive backs more so in 2022 where Braelon Allen and others are already established targets.

Drew’s take: Wohler is great and the Badgers probably don’t NEED another safety in this class, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they got one.

A player to keep an eye on is Rod Moore, who goes to school with WR Markus Allen. Moore also received an offer from Junior Day at the beginning of the month and has since seen his recruitment blow up as well. While he is no longer “under the radar” Wisconsin probably still has a shot with him if they decide to take a second safety.


Athlete/specialist (0-1)

Matt’s take: Drew is a sucker for athletes in recruiting on NCAA Football video games, so I heeded his request to make athlete a possible position.

After taking a walk-on kicker, punter, and long-snapper last year, the Badgers will probably not take a scholarship specialist this year. Another walk-on or two though is not out of the question.

In terms of players ranked as pure athletes though, I don’t see the Badgers grabbed one at this juncture. Things can always change in recruiting, but I think the staff has a good start on some other positions.

Drew’s take: After bullying Matt into including this section I...removed my prediction of the one athlete I thought might pick Wisconsin, former Minnesota commit Sam Jackson. I still think he’ll take a look at the Badgers, but it sounds like he might want to play quarterback and Wisconsin wouldn’t want him for that position.


Overall Breakdown

2021 Class (attempt two)

Matt's Class Drew's Class
Matt's Class Drew's Class
QB (1): Deacon Hill QB (1): Deacon Hill
RB (2): Loyal Crawford, Jackson Acker RB (2): Loyal Crawford, Jackson Acker
WR (2): Jaylin Noel, Kaden Dudley WR (2): Jaylin Noel, Markus Allen
TE (1): Jack Pugh TE (1): Jack Pugh
OL (3): Riley Mahlman, JP Benzschawel, Nolan Rucci OL (2): Riley Mahlman, JP Benzschawel
DL (2):Hayden Nelson, Arden Walker DL (2):Hayden Nelson, Arden Walker
OLB (3): Ayo Adebogun, TJ Bollers, Darryl Peterson OLB (4): Ayo Adebogun, TJ Bollers, Yanni Karlaftis, Darryl Peterson
ILB (3): Bryan Sanborn, Jake Chaney, Kobe King ILB (3): Bryan Sanborn, Jake Chaney, Kobe King
CB (2): Robert Regan, Kalen King CB (2): Robert Regan, Kalen King
S (1): Hunter Wohler S (1): Hunter Wohler
Total: 20 commits Total: 20 commits