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

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

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Kent State at Wisconsin Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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 10 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.

After another month on the recruiting trail has come and gone, we at B5Q update the state of the current recruiting class, while projecting forward what other players may join the program to become Badgers after some recent shake ups and additions.


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 securing a verbal commitment early from Deacon Hill, the Badgers seem content to stick with one signal-caller for 2021. A big, strong armed quarterback, Hill was busy improving his stock on the camp circuit prior to the recent COVID-19 shutdown, and was recently named a participant for the annual Polynesian Bowl.

Drew’s take: Deacon Hill is the guy. He looks like a player the Badgers were in early on who has the potential to blow up during his senior year. If he’s able to take a redshirt year, I think he’ll have multiple years of starting in his future.


Running back (1-2)

Antwan Roberts

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Running back 6-foot-1 190 pounds Hendersonville, Ten. Three-star; .8485; No. 72 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 the recent addition of Antwan Roberts into the 2021 class, things appear up in the air in terms of where Jackson Acker and Loyal Crawford may end up playing position wise for Wisconsin. Roberts was a solid get for the Badgers, and appears to have some great natural ability.

As of right now I think Crawford could fit at a couple of different positions which will be highlighted later, while Roberts is a for sure running back commit. The two backs bring something a little different to the position group, so for now I will keep Crawford as a tailback.

Drew’s take: A lot of people who follow recruiting closely were kind of confused that the Badgers were pursuing Roberts as doggedly as they were, since UW already had two RBs in the 2021 class, but now the situation is starting to clear up.

It appears that Roberts will be the “lead back” of the class with Crawford in a support role, while Acker will move somewhere else. It is hard to glean meaning from a teenager’s Instagram page, but this post from Crawford maybe indicates he’d be ok moving to a defensive back position? Who knows, man.

View this post on Instagram

#StayHumbleandGrind #SHAG #TeyaTough #4leaf # iscon21n ⚪️

A post shared by Loyal Crawford (@loyalcrawford__ftball) on


Fullback (0-1)

Matt’s take: With Jackson Acker’s final position still in limbo, fullback is a real possibility for him. The Badgers seem to be looking to take the best available prospects and are willing to move some of their in-state athletes around to do so. I don’t think Wisconsin will ink a player that is specifically brought in on scholarship to play fullback immediately, but Acker could depending on how things transpire.

Drew’s take: Yeah, depending on how things shake out with Acker, he could end up as a fullback but the Badgers won’t be recruiting anyone to play here specifically.


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

Matt’s take: Alvis Whitted is still in the process of developing his full board for receiving position, hence a myriad of new offers have recently come out at the position. However, he is still in contact with Jaylin Noel, who has the Badgers as one of his top contenders.

Another target, Kaden Dudley is yet to earn an offer from the staff, but he has prior connections with Whitted given his time in Colorado. As of right now, these are the two players I think that the Badgers have the best shot for that they are in contact with, but that could obviously change. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wisconsin reel in a higher profiled player in the class if things go according to plan, and bring in a total of two at the position.

Drew’s take: Noel is the name that has been associated with the Badgers for the longest time and Whitted has reached out to him, but like Matt says we still don’t know who Whitted loves in the 2021 class. 3-star WR Jaden Alexis out of Florida was just offered by the Badgers, so he’s a name to keep an eye on, but he has over 30 offers already and it might be tough for Wisconsin to make any headway with him.


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 are in a really good spot for four-star tight end Jack Pugh out of Ohio. He is prototypical tight end, and would fit really nicely with the offense. Wisconsin is also in the thick of things for four-star tight end Terrance Ferguson as well out of Colorado, who is expected to take an official visit to Madison. At this juncture, I think that Wisconsin will narrow their focus in on those two targets and would make room for both if they each opted to choose to commit to Micky Turner.

Drew’s take: Pugh would be a huge get for Wisconsin. He’s got B1G size and talent already and would be a nice heir apparent to Jake Ferguson. Another name out of Colorado to keep an eye on is Gunnar Helm. Helm is 6-foot-5 3-star TE whose recruitment has really picked up recently. He’s got offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Penn State, LSU and others, so it won’t be an easy fight, but the Badgers have a good pedigree with tight ends and beat Bama last year for Cam Large. For now, though, I think Wisconsin is only going to take one TE and see how the rest of their board shakes out before nabbing a second.


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 nine 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 want to believe that the Badgers can get Rucci to come join his brother Hayden in Madison, but I just don’t see it. He just cut his list down to nine final schools but Clemson, Penn State and Wisconsin have been the three front runners for quite some time now. Rucci will definitely continue to give the Badgers a long look but the siren song of playing for the hometown/dad’s alma mater or a perennial CFP contender will probably be too strong.

Unless Hayden really does beat him up and force him to come to Wisconsin.


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

Mike Jarvis

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Strong-side defensive end 6-foot-5 250 pounds Medford, NJ Three-star; .8593; No. 53 SDE

Taleeq Robbins

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
DT 6-foot-2 296 pounds Philadelphia, Pa. Three-star, .8516, No. 42 DT

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 including his most recent offer by Indiana. With no summer camp circuit for Wisconsin to see players in person, Nelson might be a player that earns an offer in the near future.

Mike Jarvis is a player that has the Badgers among his top schools, and fits the mold of what Wisconsin usually looks for in terms of their defensive lineman. He has a good frame to continue to add weight to, and he is a player to monitor as the recruiting process plays out.

Drew’s take: I like Jarvis as a take for the Badgers and think he’d end up being a good player for the Badgers. I think Wisconsin should take a DT/NT this cycle, especially since Keeanu Benton wasn’t able to redshirt last season and Bryson Williams is injury prone. One that I like, who has an offer list that isn’t crazy, is Philadelphia native Taleeq Robbins. He’s got a large frame and would probably explode in a college weight lifting program. According to 247 Sports, Arizona State is in the lead for him, but I’d love for the Badgers to reach out for him.


Outside linebacker (2-4)

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

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

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

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.

Yanni Karlaftis is another player that the staff will likely accept a commitment from not matter what, but I still think Purdue is the team to beat for his services.

Drew’s take: I agree with Matt that Karlaftis is a “take” no matter what but unlike him, I think the Badgers are able to secure his commitment. While his brother had a monster freshman year at Purdue, Wisconsin’s ability to get EDGE players to the NFL will be the deciding factor for Yanni to choose the Badgers.

If one of Bollers, Peterson or Karlaftis falls through, a name to watch is Jake Ratzlaff out of Minnesota. He’s a current Gophers hockey commit, but there are rumblings that he’s taking a second look at football for his college career.


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

Matt’s take: Wisconsin has already landed two of their top inside linebacker targets in Bryan Sanborn and Jake Chaney. The two players compliment one another nicely in this class, and should help bolster the young depth at the position. After missing out on Kobe King, I postulate that the staff might shut down recruiting the position, and might instead project -in-state standout Jackson Acker to this position. I have listed him as an athlete, and also discussed him briefly earlier in the fullback portion, but I think his future home is likely at inside linebacker at least to start.

Drew’s take: The Badgers would appear to be done at the ILB position with Sanborn and Chaney on board. With Acker likely to switch positions, he could fill in as the third ILB of this class if needed. The only other ILB the Badgers have even offered is Trey Reynolds out of Arizona and he seems likely to stay out west.


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

Ricardo Hallman

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Cornerback 6-foot 183 pounds Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Three-star; .8687; No. 44 CB

Matt’s take: Wisconsin continues to stay in a great place for Robert (RJ) Regan, who recently included the Badgers in his top seven. He is expected to take an official visit this summer (if possible) before his anticipated decision around his birthday in September. The high caliber corner would be a great get, and according to our interview with Deacon Hill he is a player that is already part of the 2021 group chat.

The Badgers are also pushing hard for Ricardo Hallman, another tremendous corner prospect who hails from Florida. Wisconsin has done very well in recruiting the Fort Lauderdale area in the past for cornerbacks, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them close on Hallman if they get him on campus in the future.

Drew’s take: Regan seems to be more of a “when, not if” guy for choosing the Badgers and Hallman, despite hailing from Florida, has his eyes set on a number of B1G teams. If Wisconsin can get Hallman on campus this summer they may be able to seal the deal, as they often do with kids from out of state who don’t know how nice Madison really is.


Safety (1-2)

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: The staff and fans should be very excited about the addition of Hunter Wohler. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the state of Wisconsin is a top-of-the-board prospect that should be ready to contribute early on campus. With a lack of new offers going out, I think Wisconsin might shut things down at the position outside of their current commits.

Loyal Crawford is listed as a running back in this episode, but his size and athleticism could make a transition to safety an option as well if Wisconsin likes his ceiling better there. Leo Musso and Mike Caputo are great examples of prep running backs that excelled as safeties at Wisconsin in recent years, could Crawford be next?

Drew’s take: Wisconsin will probably take a second safety to pair with Wohler. The native of Wisconsin is excellent at stepping up into the box and helping with run support so a complementary player that can be more of a “center field” type that makes sure nothing gets over the top would be nice.

Justin Walters (who has committed to Notre Dame) would’ve been perfect but he’s out of the picture. Crawford would be a nice player here too, but he’d be more of a project. I’m going to guess that the Badgers make another offer here, but I don’t know to whom.


Athlete/specialist (1-2)

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

Matt’s take: With the recent inclusion of Antwan Roberts, Jackson Acker’s projected position is a bit fluid. He has natural gifts that could help out at running back, fullback, or inside linebacker in the future. Acker is the type of athlete you want on your roster, and you can figure out a fixed position later. If I had to guess right now I think fullback or inside linebacker make the most sense given his size and athletic ability.

Drew’s take: Yeah, keep Acker on board and figure out a position for him later. I think that’s a fine idea.


Overall Breakdown

Build-A-Badger Episode III

Matt's Class Drew's Class
Matt's Class Drew's Class
QB (1): Deacon Hill QB (1): Deacon Hill
RB (2): Loyal Crawford, Antwan Roberts RB (2): Loyal Crawford, Antwan Roberts
WR (2): Jaylin Noel, Kaden Dudley WR (1): Jaylin Noel
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, Mike Jarvis DL (2):Mike Jarvis, Taleeq Robbins
OLB (3): Ayo Adebogun, TJ Bollers, Darryl Peterson OLB (4): Ayo Adebogun, TJ Bollers, Yanni Karlaftis, Darryl Peterson
ILB (2): Bryan Sanborn, Jake Chaney ILB (2): Bryan Sanborn, Jake Chaney
CB (2): Robert Regan, Ricardo Hallman CB (2): Robert Regan, Ricardo Hallman
S (1): Hunter Wohler S (2): Hunter Wohler, future offer
ATH (1): Jackson Acker ATH (1): Jackson Acker
Total: 20 commits Total: 20 commits