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

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After a strong month on the recruiting trail, Matt and Drew take an updated look at how the 2021 recruiting class might play out.

Wisconsin v Illinois Photo by Joe Robbins/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-15 class in the early goings for 2021. With 15 current commits, and 16 scholarship seniors expected to exhaust their eligibility, the coaching staff has a tremendous start towards a projected number of 18-22 signees 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: An early under the radar grab by Jon Budmayr, Deacon Hill was offered a scholarship by the Badgers before starting a varsity game at Santa Barbara High School.

Budmayr’s trust in his evaluation paid off big time, as Hill has steadily climbed the rankings thanks to a stellar junior season and some strong play at local camps prior to the shutdown caused by COVID-19.

A four-star recruit according to 247 Sports, Hill is poised to be the only quarterback taken in the class.

Drew’s take: Hill is a really good looking player. Since we talked to him right after he committed, we’ve been pretty high on Hill’s upside and his earning of a fourth star from 247Sports proves that others have noticed it too. He can throw the ball a country mile and according to reports he has lost a little weight and, much like every baseball player at Spring Training, is in “the best shape of his life.”


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: Wisconsin has some positional flexibility in the 2021 class, as Antwan Roberts, Loyal Crawford, and Jackson Acker could all wind up at running back.

At this point I think Roberts and Crawford are the most likely prospects to start out at the position, and their differing skills would make them a good complement to one another. Crawford recently received a solid bump in the rankings by 247Sports, while Roberts brings a strong power running style that should fit nicely with Wisconsin’s running attack.

Drew’s take: After the Badgers nabbed Roberts it seems like Wisconsin is all done recruiting the position in the class. While neither Roberts nor Crawford are blue-chip rated prospects they both possess skill sets that will help them in Madison.


Fullback (0-1)

Matt’s take: The Badgers took a scholarship fullback last year, so there is not necessarily a need at the position in 2021. I believe Jackson Acker could make a really talented option at fullback, but his future position will likely not be determined until closer towards when he is on campus.

Drew’s take: Is Acker going to be a fullback? Well,,,it hard to say but maybe.


Wide receiver (1-3)

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

Eric McAlister

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Wide receiver 6-foot-3 180 pounds Azle, Texas Three-star; .8567; No. 120 WR

Matt’s take: Given the recent offers that have gone out in Texas, it appears that Wisconsin might be looking to take two wide receivers in the 2021 class. Personally I think that makes a lot of sense, and if I had to bet right now I think that Bell and McAlister are the most likely candidates. I think that Cameron Bonner and all name team member Joseph Manjack are other players to watch if they wind up visiting.

Overall, I think that the Badgers are in an ok spot at wide receiver after taking three in the 2020 class, but bringing in a bigger body like McAlister and a quicker player like Bell would be a nice pairing to add to the room.

Drew’s take: Once Bell moved his commitment date back, after recently receiving an offer from the Badgers, one would assume he’s having second thoughts about going to Iowa without at least taking a look at some other schools. If Wisconsin can get him on campus I like their chances a lot.

The Badgers should try and take two wideouts in this class, but I don’t feel particularly confident in any of the other ones who have offers. Like Matt said, if Manjack gets on campus, UW has a chance to flip 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

Gunnar Helm

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Tight end 6-foot-5 225 pounds Englewood, Colorado Three-star; .8699; No. 26 TE

Matt’s take: Jack Pugh was a great get for Mickey Turner back in late May. He has a really solid frame and tremendous athleticism that fits nicely with what the Badgers look to do on offense.

Wisconsin is in on a Gunnar Helm, but they have steep competition. The highly sought after tight end has a growing offer list.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the staff throw out some more offers in the future after missing out on Terrance Ferguson, but it appears as though the staff wants another tight end in this class given how hard they went after he and Helm.

I think Helm is a realistic option for the Badgers, and given a lack of other offers currently out there at the position I will swing for the fences with Helm. The Colorado native would pair really nicely with Pugh given their differing playing styles. He is wrapping up a visit to the campus, so Wisconsin is clearly an option for him.

Drew’s take: Pugh is such an intriguing talent and I’m excited to see the player he turns into in Madison. As far as a second tight end goes, Ferguson is out of the picture but Helm being on campus as I write this sentence potentially is a good sign.

He has a tough offer list to beat, but the Badgers have been going head to head with a number of blue bloods for tight ends over the past couple of classes and have been winning more often than not.


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: Wisconsin has the offensive line tradition to go toe to toe with any team on the recruiting trail, and the past few classes have proven that. The Badgers have been doing exceptionally well along the offensive line, and four-stars Riley Mahlman and J.P. Benzschawel are just the latest in a long line of talented prospects to choose to play for Joe Rudolph.

Mahlman recently saw his ranking climb to four-stars on Rivals, but the primary intrigue at the position remaining lies with Nolan Rucci. I have actually been feeling better about the Badgers chances with the five-star standout because of the pandemic. His older brother Hayden was at home for a long time during the outbreak and was undoubtedly nudging him towards Wisconsin.

Drew’s take: The Rucci to Wisconsin train shows no signs of slowing down. The longer his recruitment goes on the better I feel about him picking the Badgers. During the months where his brother was at home it sounds like they were both on Zoom calls with Badgers players and, based on some of their social media interactions, I’m sure older brother was giving younger brother the hard sell.

It’s fun to hope for something, so let’s say the Badgers pull the upset and add Rucci to their already loaded o-line class of Benzschawel and Mahlman.


Defensive line (1-2)

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

Matt’s take: Mike Jarvis kicked off a solid month of June for the Badgers on the recruiting trail when he joined the 2021 class despite not visiting the campus in person. The three-star lineman recently rose in the rankings as well, and his flexibility to play anywhere along the defensive line in Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense make him an excellent fit.

When we talked with Jarvis on the podcast he insinuated that he might enroll early, and that he could be the only defensive lineman that the staff takes in the class. There are a number of outside linebackers that I think could wind up filling out and playing on the line, so as things stand I’m going to stick with Jarvis as the only true defensive lineman for the time being. Marquise Brunson is a player to keep an eye on though, especially if he is able to visit this fall.

Drew’s take: Unless a big time nose tackle prospect appears on the board, I don’t think Wisconsin will be taking any more defensive linemen in the 2021 class. As has been mentioned both here and elsewhere, there is a definite possibility that one of the myriad outside linebackers could slide down to a hand in the dirt d-end after putting on some weight.


Outside linebacker (3-4)

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

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

Jake Ratzlaff

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Outside linebacker 6-foot-3 220 pounds Rosemount, Minnesota Three-star; .8667; No. 38 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: The Badgers hit on two top of the board outside linebackers in June with TJ Bollers and Darryl Peterson each choosing Wisconsin over Alabama and others. Their commitments were absolutely huge, and the duo have become pivotal recruiters in the 2021 class.

Ayo Adebogun has been committed since December as well, and the three players all are extremely talented outside linebackers for Bobby April. One of the group could potentially shift to the defensive line depending on how the rest of the class unfolds and their physical development, but they all possess strong pass rushing skills.

Wisconsin is still in the hunt for some other outside linebackers that are probably takes no matter what given the positional versatility of the group already committed. The Badgers are in contention for Yanni Karlaftis, Logan Fano, and Jake Ratzlaff, each of which would be welcomed additions.

For the sake of this exercise I will project Ratzlaff to be part of the class. An uber talented hockey player that is committed to Minnesota for the sport, he is awaiting the NHL Draft results before ultimately making a decision on his future sport. If he chooses football, Wisconsin will have a really good chance to be the school of choice, and I really love his junior tape.

Fano is a kid that recently decommitted from BYU, and plans to wait until closer to signing day to decide. Perhaps he could be a kid that the staff tries to add late if they wow him on an official visit given his positional versatility at defensive end or outside linebacker as well. He is going to be tough to reel away from the west coast though.

Drew’s take: Getting Bollers and Peterson on board was such a coup for Jim Leonhard and the Badgers defense. Those two guys are potential difference makers and are the quality of player that Wisconsin doesn’t always beat out the Alabamas of the world for.

Adebogun is basically a blank slate since he hasn’t played much organized football but he appears to be a quick learner and has taken to the sport well. If Ratzlaff doesn’t get the grade he’s looking for in regards to the NHL Draft he’s probably coming to Wisconsin but right now I’m going to keep banging the drum for Karlaftis to Madison.


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: One position where I believe the Badgers are done at is inside linebacker. Bob Bostad’s group added early commitments from Bryan Sanborn and Jake Chaney, and that should fill out the spot.

Both players complement one another well, and are good additions for a position of strength in recent history. I expect each to have a really good chance to see the field and make an impact during their careers.

If it comes to late in the cycle and the staff misses on some other prospects at different positions, maybe Damon Ollison — a high school teammate of Darryl Peterson — could be a best available addition, but the Badgers haven’t been as invested in his recruitment since Chaney committed.

Drew’s take: Maybe Acker gets moved here, but otherwise the Badgers don’t need to be looking at anymore ILB. Sanborn and Chaney look like they could be the second coming of Jack Sanborn and Chris Orr which no Wisconsin fan would turn down.


Cornerback (1-3)

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

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

Matt’s take: Ricardo Hallman is the most recent player to commit to the Badgers, and he appears to be a gifted cornerback with high upside as well as good ball skills. A four-star recruit according to Rivals, Hallman is expected to be one of two corners taken in this class.

Three-star cornerback Robert (RJ) Regan is the best bet to claim that other scholarship based on his strong relationship with the staff and current commits. The California native is said to be waiting until September to announce his college decision around his birthday, and the Badgers are in a really strong spot to be the choice right now. With Regan holding the only offer out to an uncommitted cornerback, Jim Leonhard appears to be content with his chances to land the No. 35 cornerback in the country.

If the Badgers are able to close on Regan, the duo of Hallman and Regan would stand to be one of the better classes at the position in program history.

Drew’s take: Locking up Hallman earlier this week was big. He’s big, literally, for a corner, has good ball skills and will help matchup with whatever stud wide receivers Ohio State has by then. Regan has been considered a Badgers lean for a long time and some have even mentioned that he’s a silent commit and is just waiting until September because that’s when his birthday is. Let’s hope that’s the case.


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

Zaequan Gilliespy

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Ranking
Safety 5-foot-10 183 pounds Tampa, Fla. 3-star; 83; No. 118 S

New Zealand Williams

Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Composite Ranking
Safety 6-foot-2 175 pounds Playa del Ray, Calif. 3-star; .8366; No. 106 S

Matt’s take: I think Hunter Wohler is the player that I am most excited about in this entire class, and don’t think I have been coy about that on the podcast. The four-star safety is a difference maker in the back end at the high school level, and that projects to continue at Wisconsin.

With Wohler in the boat, the Badgers don’t necessarily need another safety in this class, but I suspect that the staff will continue to search for viable options to pair with him given the number of upperclassmen graduating. For now I am going to leave Wohler as the only safety taken in the class, but I would not be surprised to see Wisconsin make a run at someone come the fall. Flip season is going to be a wild ride, and there are plenty of players that could jump onto the staff’s radar based on senior film.

Drew’s take: Wohler is an exciting player for the Badgers to get because talents like his, at positions like his, don’t often come from within state lines. However, Wisconsin is going to want a second safety in this class to try and pair with Wohler. There aren’t a whole lot of offers out there, but one that is out there is for Florida 3-star safety Zaequan Gilliespy.

On his 247Sports profile page he only has the Wisconsin offer listed, but after some quick Twitter sleuthing it appears he has offers from Colorado State, FIU, UMass, Liberty and FCS Tennessee State. He has seven total tweets: his six offers and then a retweet about his Hudl tape. Quite frankly I respect him for not logging on to that hell site every day and he probably has a wonderful life because of it.

There is a lot to like about Gilliespy’s game. He’s basically a fearless heat-seeking missile once the opposing offense gives the ball to someone. The amount of plays on his Hudl tape where he starts at the opposite end of the action and is somehow still in on the tackle is quite high. He looks to have good coverage instincts, although I’m not quite sure if the technique is there, but he has the hands of a defensive back and not a wide receiver.

I think he is a prime under the radar recruit that the Badgers could develop into a starting safety after a few years on campus. His offer list is extremely beatable and the Badgers were the first team to offer him a scholarship to boot.

I just wanted to bring it to your attention that Wisconsin is scouting a player named New Zealand Williams. They haven’t offered him a scholarship yet but I needed y’all to know this. I love everything about his name and I hope there is an amazing backstory to why he is named after a whole dang country.


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: Jackson Acker is one of the better prospects in the 2021 class, but his athleticism and traits could forecast him towards multiple positions. A standout running back at Verona, he could easily wind up at tailback, fullback, or at inside linebacker. With his future position not completely ironed out I’ll keep him listed as an athlete. I really like his promise as a fullback or at running back, but he is the type of athlete you definitely want in a class, and his position can be figured out later.

Raider Damuni, the cousin of quarterback commit Deacon Hill, is another athlete to monitor. The Badgers have not stopped recruiting the BYU commit, and he has talked about taking an official visit to UW frequently in the past. It is going to be tough to pry him away from his early commitment to the hometown school, but there is a connection and mutual interest.

Drew’s take: I say Paul Chryst lets Acker play a new position every season and see which one suits him best. Who says no?


Overall Breakdown

Build-A-Badger V

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, Eric McAlister WR (1): Skyler Bell
TE (2): Jack Pugh, Gunnar Helm TE (2): Jack Pugh, Gunnar Helm
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 (4): Ayo Adebogun, TJ Bollers, Darryl Peterson, Jake Ratzlaff 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, Zaequan Gilliespy
ATH (1): Jackson Acker ATH (1): Jackson Acker
21 total commits 21 total commits