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

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In the fourth 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: JAN 01 Rose Bowl - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Brian Rothmuller/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 11 current commits, and 16 scholarship seniors expected to exhaust their eligibility, the coaching staff has a tremendous start towards a projected number of 18-21 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 obtaining an early commitment from Deacon Hill early in the process, I think the Badgers are all done at the quarterback position. Hill has a live arm and good size at 6-foot-4. He has steadily climbed up the rankings across the major recruiting services thanks to his intangibles and some great junior tape.

I think Wisconsin got a good one in the boat, and can focus on 2022 at the position moving forward.

Drew’s take: Yup, still no need to be looking elsewhere at the QB position for the 2021 class. If Hill keeps climbing up the rankings and a lot of people are going to be asking “how did Wisconsin get such a highly rated QB again?”


Running back (2-3)

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: After picking up a recent commitment from Antwan Roberts last month, the Badgers are probably all done at the running back position. Loyal Crawford is an extremely quick and twitchy back that should pair nicely with Roberts, who is more of a powerful strider.

Jackson Acker is still another potential option at tailback too, but I think Crawford and Roberts are the most likely combination to ultimately end up at the position.

Drew’s take: The Badgers got two early RB commitments with Crawford and Acker, but Roberts appears to be the best of the bunch and one of the guys that the coaching staff really wanted. Acker, an excellent athlete, should now move to a different position (fullback or linebacker maybe) and Roberts and Crawford will be the 1-2 punch at tailback.


Fullback (0-1)

Matt’s take: Wisconsin is in a pretty good spot right now scholarship wise for the fullback position with both John Chenal and Quan Easterling holding plenty of eligibility still. I could see the Badgers adding a walk-on still in this cycle for fullback, but I think the most likely outcome is that Jackson Acker ends up there. His blend of speed, strength, and athleticism would add a nice boost to the room if he doesn’t come in as a linebacker or running back.

Drew’s take: The Badgers will not be taking a scholarship fullback this class, unless Acker ends up there.


Wide receiver (2-3)

Skyler Bell

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Wide receiver 6-foot-1 185 pounds Watertown, Conn. Three-star; .8540; No. 132 WR

David Pantelis

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Wide receiver 6-foot-1 185 pounds Pittsburgh, Pa. Unranked

Matt’s take: Alvis Whitted has had to play catch up since assuming his new role as wide receivers coach back in early March.

New offers have been flowing out recently, but the Badgers don’t appear to be leaders for any of their top targets. While I assume more offers will be going out over the coming months, here are the two players that have the most smoke with their Wisconsin recruitments.

Skyler Bell is a player that we actually included right away in our original Build-A-Badger class projection, and the Badgers offered a few weeks ago. He backed off his commitment date, giving the staff some more time to get involved and potentially get him on campus.

David Pantelis is an under the radar prospect out of the Pittsburgh area that has also caught the eye of the staff. He might not be a high priority for the staff currently, but he might be a player to keep an eye on as the recruiting calendar pushes forward, especially considering that he already visited back in the fall.

Wide receiver recruiting is kind of a crapshoot right now, but these two players are potential options for the staff. If I were to actually guess who ends up in this class, I would hypothesize that the actual signees might be totally off the radar presently.

Drew’s take: Wisconsin needs to take at least one wideout in the 2021 class but there don’t seem to be any surefire options out there for Whitted and the Badgers. Bell pushed back his decision date very soon after he received an offer from Wisconsin and it would be great if UW could get him on campus, once that’s allowed again, but he still seems like an Iowa lean.

I’m going to take the coward’s way out and say that the Badgers take a WR but I don’t know who it’ll be...so let’s just save a spot for Generic Wide Receiver.


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

Terrance Ferguson

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Tight end 6-foot-5 230 pounds Littleton, Colo. 4-star; .8913; No. 14 TE

Matt’s take: Wisconsin earned a huge commitment on Memorial Day from Jack Pugh. He is a top of the board get at the position, and adds a nice skillset to the position given his combination of athleticism and physicality.

The Badgers don’t need to go crazy at tight end after signing two in each of the past two classes, but if a guy like Terrance Ferguson, who recently added the Badgers into his top five list also would want to commit, I think Mickey Turner would be hard pressed to turn him away.

Drew’s take: Pugh deciding to commit to Wisconsin on Monday may be the start of a big run of verbal commitments for the Badgers and is also important for the future of the tight end room.

Due to injuries and such Wisconsin should try and take two tight ends in this class if the right opportunity presents itself. That opportunity is Ferguson. Let’s say that Wisconsin gets him and has their second straight good tight end class.


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: I will keep Nolan Rucci on this list for now. He has a great relationship with his brother and the Wisconsin staff, which should keep the Badgers in it until the end. Clemson and Penn State will also be tough to beat, but I think that the strong relationships have kept Wisconsin still in the mix to pick up his commitment, and an official visit could close the deal. Momentum seems to be pointing in Wisconsin’s direction in this one possibly.

Rucci is the only player I think the Badgers will continue to pursue along the offensive line given that Joe Rudolph hit home-runs with Mahlman and Benzschawel already in the fold.

Drew’s take: I’ll admit, I was skeptical when Belz kept saying “Rucci, Rucci, Rucci” in the first three iterations of Build-A-Badger. But apparently having Nolan quarantined at home with his brother, and current Wisconsin tight end, Hayden has had a positive effect on the 5-star lineman.

Let’s get wild and say that Rudolph and Chryst close the deal, beating Penn State for the second big time recruit in this cycle (which would be a nice change of pace for how those head to head matchups on the trail often go).


Defensive line (1-3)

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

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: Mike Jarvis would make a lot of sense as part of this class. He has a beatable offer list, and his physical and athletic traits would be a good fit for the Badgers 3-4 defense. The Badgers appear to be one of his favorites, and now it is just a matter of getting him on campus.

Wisconsin has a really nice depth of talent along the defensive line currently, especially at nose tackle, which has traditionally been a tough spot to recruit toward. The Badgers are in a decent spot for a few different players like Marquise Brunson, but If I had to guess as things stand, I would say Arden Walker would be the most likely guy to become a Badger right row, but it is just a dart throw at this juncture, and he has a really tough offer list.

I think one of the most likely scenarios is if Wisconsin were to hit on a huge, talented, haul at outside linebacker, I think there are a couple of players in that group that have the size and frame to potentially shift to put their hand in the dirt as well. Guys like T.J. Bollers, Darryl Peterson and Ayo Adebogun each could outgrow outside linebacker and make an impact in the trenches like Alec James or Chikwe Obasih who were similar sized recruits coming out of high school. It would not be crazy to see a prospect like Jarvis end up as the only official defensive line recruit taken in the class with a bevy of 235+ pound athletes that could either play defensive end or outside linebacker on board as well.

Drew’s take: I like Jarvis. He seems like the perfect type of defensive lineman for the Badgers.

I also agree with Matt here that the Badgers might load up on EDGE/OLB prospects and see which one of them can bulk up enough to play on the defensive line. I don’t know the science behind this, because I am a dumb man, but I’d guess that it’s easier to make an athletic guy bigger than a bigger guy more athletic.

I’d love to see what a guy like Adebogun could do with some more weight (and some more high level coaching since he hasn’t played organized football for very long) and his hand in the dirt. Let’s leave the number of official defensive linemen commits at one and hedge our bets in the OLB section.


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: Ayo Adebogun is a talented in-state guy that I think will surprise folks. He has a really good motor and has big-time upside. He could easily end up as a defensive lineman depending on how his body fills out, but for now we will keep him at outside backer.

All signs continue to point toward Wisconsin being in a really good spot for both T.J. Bollers and Darryl Peterson. Both players are part of the 2021 commit group chat, and they have a great relationship not only with the commits but also the coaching staff. Wisconsin would be absolutely ecstatic to get both players, and as things stand today I still think they will.

Yanny Karlaftis is going to be hard to get away from Purdue, but I think the Badgers have the best chance outside of the Boilermakers. He is an absolute take no matter what I would assume, but I’m not super confident in the Badgers ability to overcome both distance and family.

Jake Ratzlaff, a Minnesota hockey commit, is another intriguing player to keep an eye on if he does not get picked as high as he is currently projected in the NHL Draft or opts to pursue football over hockey. He is a very talented athlete, and he would be a prototypical outside linebacker for the Badgers if he were to choose football as his collegiate path.

Drew’s take: While Belz was beating the Rucci drum I have been adamant that Karlaftis will be a Badger and leave his hometown team and brother in the dust. If we believe that the Badgers are going to try and turn an OLB prospect into a DE then it’s imperative that they take four players here. Adebogun, Peterson, Bollers and Karlaftis would be ::chef’s kiss:: and is not outside of the realm of possibilities.

As far as Ratzlaff goes, here’s an interesting note on the NHL Draft which would alter his timeline.

I think Ratzlaff would be a take for the Badgers but until he makes a decision on which sport he actually wants to play I don’t think I can confidently put him in the discussion.


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: With both Bryan Sanborn and Jake Chaney on board, I believe the Badgers are done at inside linebacker after signing quite a few in 2020.

Sanborn is the spitting image of his brother when you turn on his tape and see his size. I think he will be an impact player during his career similar to Jack.

Chaney is a bit smaller, but I really like his ability to flow downhill and maneuver through traffic. His skillset reminds me a lot of Chris Orr or Ryan Connelly, and I think he would pair nicely with Sanborn if the two found themselves on the field together down the road.

Drew’s take: Unless some 5-star kid shows up at Camp Randall and begs Chryst to offer him, it wouldn’t appear that the Badgers will be making any more offers at this position.


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 is in a great spot for both RJ Regan and Ricardo Hallman.

Regan was part of a big junior day group earlier in the spring, and he should be choosing from his final seven schools in September. He is a player that multiple commits have been in contact with and he would be a phenomenal high three-star addition.

Hallman is another player that would be a huge get for the staff. A long, athletic cornerback out of Fort Lauderdale, he is the type of South Florida prospect that has thrived for the Badgers from the sunshine state. I think if the Badgers are able to get him on campus for an official visit before the fall, they should be in the driver seat for him.

Drew’s take: After only taking one CB in the 2020 class, the Badgers will be taking two in 2021 and Regan and Hallman are the leaders in the clubhouse for those spots. I know it might be wild to think that Wisconsin would take a CB from Florida, but in these uncertain times anything is possible.

Despite not visiting, Hallman might pull the trigger on Wisconsin sooner rather than later. Regan has already been on campus, so he could also get in on a June commit run that might be coming.


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: I thought Wisconsin might have a chance to get into the mix for Beau Freyler after a recent offer, but he committed to Iowa State as I was writing this up. Maybe he will take a visit in the fall though during what could be a crazy flip season thanks to COVID-19.

The Badgers are in a good spot still at safety though with four-star Hunter Wohler on board already. He is a dynamic playmaker from the safety position, and I think he could find playing time early in Madison.

Taking another safety in 2021 would make a lot of sense with Madison Cone, Eric Burrell, and Collin Wilder all on pace to exhaust their eligibility next season, but it isn’t totally necessary with the young depth at the position. If Wisconsin is to land someone to pair with Wohler that isn’t Freyler, I think more offers will need to go out. Because of that, I will stick with only one safety for now.

Drew’s take: Wisconsin will probably keep kicking the tires on a number of 2021 safeties, but there isn’t anyone that comes to mind right now who would be an ideal fit next to Wohler.

Let’s keep this at one safety for now with the strong possibility that another one comes on board later.


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: I love Jackson Acker as a prospect. He has tremendous versatility, and he has some great traits to help out at a myriad of positions. He could easily end up at running back, fullback, or either linebacker spot. I think fullback make the most sense based on the number of linebackers and running backs already high on the staff’s recruiting board, but he is the type of player you want on your team regardless.

The Badgers also extended a preferred walk-on spot to in-state kicker Tyler Brittman out of powerhouse Arrowhead High School. He would be a specialist to keep an eye on for the class.

Drew’s take: My kids are both shouting to go to the park right now so let’s say that Belz is correct here. #analysis


Overall Breakdown

Build-A-Badger IV

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): Skyler Bell, David Pantelis WR (1): Generic WR
TE (1): Jack Pugh TE (2): Jack Pugh, Terrance Ferguson
OL (3): Riley Mahlman, JP Benzschawel, Nolan Rucci OL (3): Riley Mahlman, JP Benzschawel, Nolan Rucci
DL (1) Mike Jarvis DL (1) Mike Jarvis
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
19 total commits 21 total commits