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Wisconsin football recruiting: pipeline states under Paul Chryst

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With the Badgers hot on the recruiting trail, now is as good of a time as ever to overview the states where Paul Chryst and company have had their most success in recruiting.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Within the world of college football recruiting, there is often this notion of recruiting pipelines, or locations where a team has traditionally had success in recruiting.

For Wisconsin Badgers football, recruiting is a 365 day job that spans the entire country. The coaching staff has had wide ranging success across myriad different states under the leadership of Paul Chryst since 2015, and the fruits of their tireless recruiting has yielded a 52-16 overall record, good for the ninth highest winning percentage in college football over that time frame.

While Wisconsin, in recent years, has recruited coast to coast, the Badgers have obtained commitments from 27 different states during the Chryst regime, and have had varying levels of success in each state.

In an attempt to further flesh out which states could be considered pipeline states, lets dive into the 12 states that Wisconsin has frequented the most according to recruiting data during their recent recruiting successes.

**Note that the 2015 recruiting class was partially built by both Gary Andersen and Paul Chryst**

#1: Wisconsin

Wisconsin recruiting (2015-present)

State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
Wisconsin 35 110 3.14 0.869 Trey Wedig (2020)

Ever since Barry Alvarez highlighted the importance of building a wall around the state of Wisconsin in recruiting when he was hired, the Badgers have cleaned up within state lines. The home grown talent has worked out well for Wisconsin, especially at offensive line, linebacker, and tight end, with a smattering of skill positions here or there as well.

The state of Wisconsin has yielded by far the most commits for the Badgers, and that makes sense given the strong tradition, ties and proximity to home that players general seek in the recruiting process.

Under Chryst, the Badgers have signed anywhere between three and seven players each season from within the state, and those numbers are even higher when the number of walk-ons on the roster are also considered. Within the state there appears to be some specific regions of the state that jump out, specifically the Milwaukee suburbs, the area around Appleton to Green Bay, Dane County, and the surrounding Eau Claire area appeared the most often.

With strong in-state classes in 2021 and 2022 already earning heavy interest from the Badgers, the trend of starting local doesn’t appear to be shifting anytime soon, nor should it. The collection of players opting to stay home and play in Madison are the glue to everything.

WI commits by year (247 Sports composite score):

  • 2015: Jon Dietzen (.8898); Zack Baun (.8428); David Pfaff (.8230); Jake Whalen (.8214); Alec Ingold (.8113)
  • 2016: Cole Van Lanen (.9389); Tyler Biadasz (.8405); Mason Stokke (.8313); Luke Benzschawel (.8026)
  • 2017: Kayden Lyles (.9211); Jake Ferguson (.8875); Tyler Beach (.8833); Logan Bruss (.8656); Aaron Vopal (.8599); Alex Fenton (.8335); Danny Vanden Boom (.8106)
  • 2018: Boyd Dietzen (.8730); Cormac Sampson (.8685); CJ Goetz (.8600); Mason Platter (.8559)
  • 2019: Julius Davis (.8776); Leo Chenal (.8714); Keeanu Benton (.8453)
  • 2020: Trey Wedig (.9643); Jack Nelson (.9540); Cole Dakovich (.8755); Chimere Dike (.8727); Ben Barten (.8594); Tanor Bortolini (.8552); Cade McDonald (.8407)
  • 2021: JP Benzschawel (.9424); Hunter Wohler (.9219); Jackson Acker (.8756); Ayo Adebogun (.8730); Loyal Crawford (.8688);

#2 Ohio

Ohio recruiting (2015 - present)

State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
Ohio 11 35 3.18 0.865 Danny Davis (2017)

Coming in second in the list of pipeline states is Ohio.

Configured within the Badgers geographic footprint, the state of Ohio has been a rich recruiting ground for Paul Chryst, and really many of the coaches before him all the way back to Barry Alvarez. The state has produced 11 commits for Wisconsin, including two current 2021 prospects since Chryst took the reins.

The results from the state have been fairly mixed however, as former four-star Danny Davis III has been the only high profile contributor from the Buckeye state thus far. With an influx of talented players coming from Ohio and growing in experience recently that trend could easily change in the coming years.

Regardless of overall success, Ohio has long been touted as one of the best recruiting areas in the country, and the Cincinnati, Akron, and Columbus metro areas will undoubtedly stay a hotbed for Badger recruiting moving forward.

Ohio commits by year (247 Sports composite score):

  • 2015: Kraig Howe (.8471)
  • 2016: Griffin Grady (.8719); Seth Currens (.8325)
  • 2017: Danny Davis III (.9121)
  • 2018: Isaiah Mullens (.8614); Chase Wolf (.8526)
  • 2019: Rodas Johnson (.8858); Quan Easterling (.8424)
  • 2020: James Thompson Jr. (.8435)
  • 2021: Jack Pugh (.8932); Darryl Peterson (.8734)

#3 Michigan

Michigan recruiting (2015 - present)

State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
Michigan 10 32 3.20 0.875 Logan Brown (2019)

One state that has definitely become more of a focus in Wisconsin recruiting under Chryst is Michigan. In fact, prior to David Moorman’s commitment in 2015, the last time the Badgers had successfully mined the area was all the way back in 2007.

The numbers are a bit skewed by a five-player class out of the state in 2018, but the staff built a nice foot hold in Michigan under Chryst. Not only have the Badgers done well from a number perspective in pulling players out of the Detroit metro area and surrounding suburbs, but the talent level has been quite high. The city of Grand Rapids highlighted by five-star offensive lineman Logan Brown, is another strong part of the state that the Badgers have done well in.

In looking closely at the group of commits out of the state of Michigan, there aren’t any apparent trends by position outside of three offensive lineman and three wide receivers, as there are also two safeties and two linebackers who round out the list. The Badgers have made significant inroads in Michigan, and it has already paid dividends on the field with three players who have started games (Moorman, Nelson, Pearson), and a bevy of younger players who could be on the verge of expanded roles.

Michigan, like Ohio, is a Midwestern state that has a wealth of good high school football, and the Badgers have taken advantage of success on the field and in the area recruiting. Given it’s relative closeness, geographically speaking, the state of Michigan should continue to be a high priority for the Wisconsin.

Michigan commits by year (247 Sports composite score):

  • 2015: David Moorman (.8797)
  • 2016: None
  • 2017: Scott Nelson (.8516)
  • 2018: Reggie Pearson (.8675); Jaylan Franklin (.8668); Michael Furtney (.8614); Taj Mustapha (.8614); A.J. Abbott (.8581)
  • 2019: Logan Brown (.9915); Stephan Bracey (.8481)
  • 2020: Jordan Turner (.8680)
  • 2021: None

#4 Florida

Florida recruiting (2015 - present)

State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
Florida 11 33 3.00 0.846 Ricardo Hallman (2021)

No state outside of the Midwest region has been more productive for the Badgers in recruiting than Florida. One of the best hotbeds for talent in the entire country, Wisconsin has steadily brought in talent out of the Sunshine State.

In fact, 2020 is the only year under Chryst that there wasn’t a player from Florida in the class. A big reason for that was a lack of defensive backs brought in during that recruiting cycle as the Badgers have routinely turned to south Florida, specifically the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area for defensive backs. This trend is not simply new to Wisconsin under Chryst, but he has definitely continued it. As things currently stand, the Badgers could be in line to bring in another cornerback from that area in the 2021 class in Ricardo Hallman.

In looking more deeply at the list of commits out of Florida, there does appear to be a trend of players who are not defensive backs that fizzle out, however. Nick Thomas, Andrew James, Keldric Preston and Dallas Jeanty all left the program early for various reasons.

At this point the Badgers will likely continue to pursue speed players out of the state, as there is a well-worn path for defensive backs from Florida to Madison.

Florida commits by year (247 Sports composite score):

  • 2015: Nick Thomas (.8360); Andrew James (.8302)
  • 2016: Dontye Carrier-Williams (.8450); Keldric Preston (.8366); Dallas Jeanty (.8360)
  • 2017: Faion Hicks (.8258)
  • 2018: Rachad Wildgoose (.8574)
  • 2019: Semar Melvin (.8674); James Williams (.8479)
  • 2020: None
  • 2021: Ricardo Hallman (.8687); Jake Chaney (.8559)

#5 Illinois

Illinois recruiting (2015 - present)

State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
Illinois 9 27 3.00 0.867 Jack Sanborn (2018)

Outside of Wisconsin and Ohio, the most consistent state for football recruiting since 2015 has been Illinois. While the overall numbers are not astronomical, Wisconsin has signed an Illinois native each year under Chryst.

Close proximity to Madison has made the north and western suburbs of Chicago a strong base to pull from for the Badgers. In terms of position, linebacker (both inside and outside) appears to jump out the most with four of the nine commits.

Many fans generally wonder why Wisconsin is not more active in the state of Illinois, but the consistent approach in the state appears to be working with David Edwards, Kendric Pryor, and Jack Sanborn all turning into key contributors, and Izayah Green-May potentially doing the same in 2020.

Given the closeness and regional familiarity between Illinois and Wisconsin, I doubt that the Badgers abandon the state anytime soon in football recruiting.

Illinois commits by year (247 Sports composite score):

  • 2015: David Edwards (.86); Titus Booker (.8587)
  • 2016: Sam Brodner (.8668); Kendric Pryor (.8384)
  • 2017: Izayah Green-May (.8684)
  • 2018: Jack Sanborn (.8949)
  • 2019: Maema Njongmeta (.8784)
  • 2020: Dylan Barrett (.8626)
  • 2021: Bryan Sanborn (.8789)

#6 California

California recruiting (2015 - present)

State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
California 7 21 3.00 0.872 Kyle Penniston (2015)

According to the numbers, the next most productive recruiting grounds for Wisconsin since 2015 has been California. With seven total commits, the Golden State has been a good to the Badgers in a limited sample size.

The numbers are a bit distorted because of the 2015 recruiting class was a hybrid of Gary Andersen and Paul Chryst at the helm, but in recent years Wisconsin has returned to California in a greater way. The Badgers already have a commitment from QB Deacon Hill in the 2021 class and are also one of the top schools for CB Robert (RJ) Regan as well.

California is the top west coast recruiting area, with a bevy of high caliber athletes. Wisconsin will likely never see California become one of their top three pipeline states that they rely on, but the Badgers have done a nice job of identifying players from the southern portion of the state that really fit the program.

California commits by year (247 Sports composite score):

  • 2015: Kyle Penniston (.8894); Kevin Estes (.8822); Olive Sagapolu (.8522);
  • 2016: None
  • 2017: None
  • 2018: Alexander Smith (.8423)
  • 2019: Spencer Lytle (.8883); Titus Toler (.8813)
  • 2020: None
  • 2021: Deacon Hill (.8680)

#7 Texas

Texas recruiting (2015 - present)

State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
Texas 6 18 3.00 0.846 Nakia Watson (2018)

A cradle for some of the best high school football players in the country, recruiting in the state of Texas has been a mixed bag for Wisconsin. The Badgers started off the Paul Chryst era with at least one commit from the state in each of the first four classes, but have not recruited the state nearly as heavily in recent years.

When the Badgers have had success in Texas the Austin and Dallas metro areas have been the most friendly. Linebacker Chris Orr and cornerback Caesar Williams were both underrated recruits out of the Dallas metro area that have already proven to be successful, and RB Nakia Watson will be vying for the starting running back role this season after earning carries as a redshirt freshman. Cornerback Travian Blaylock could easily be high level contributor in the next few seasons in the secondary, but injuries absolutely riddled the 2017 wide receiver group out of Texas.

Overall, Texas has proven to be a worthwhile area to recruit for Wisconsin, but with Ted Gilmore no longer on staff and a lack of success the past few cycles, Texas might be trending in the wrong direction on this list.

Texas commits by year (247 Sports composite score):

  • 2015: Chris Orr (.8235)
  • 2016: Caesar Williams (.8213)
  • 2017: Cade Green (.8464); Emmett Perry (.8299)
  • 2018: Nakia Watson (.8822); Travian Blaylock (.8721)
  • 2019: None
  • 2020: None
  • 2021: None

#8 Minnesota

Minnesota recruiting (2015 - present)

State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
Minnesota 4 14 3.50 0.898 Riley Mahlman (2021)

One state that the Badgers have had some recent success in is Minnesota.

Wisconsin has now landed the top player in the state consecutively in the 2020 and 2021 classes with the commitments of Kaden Johnson and Riley Mahlman. While Minnesota is not nearly as fertile an area for deep classes of talent, the Badgers have done a really nice job of recruiting the top level talent to Madison.

With only four commitments from the neighboring state since 2015, Minnesota will likely never be one of the top five pipeline states for the Badgers. An overall lack of FBS level athletes makes that tough to do, but Wisconsin will always attempt to poach the top prospects from under the nose of their rivals.

The Badgers have really won some major battles in the state the past two seasons, and as long as Wisconsin continues to have a stranglehold in their rivalry with Minnesota, I think that trend could persist.

Minnesota commits by year (247 Sports composite score):

  • 2015: None
  • 2016: Patrick Kasl (.8716)
  • 2017: None
  • 2018: None
  • 2019: None
  • 2020: Kaden Johnson (.9231); Aaron Witt (.8655)
  • 2021: Riley Mahlman (.9319)

#9 Georgia

Georgia recruiting (2015 - present)

State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
Georgia 4 13 3.25 0.865 Arrington Farrar (2015)

Similar to the state of Texas on this list, Georgia is another location that the Badgers have seen less success at in the past few cycles.

After landing four players in the first four recruiting classes for Chryst, Wisconsin did not sign a player in 2019 or 2020 from the Peach State. At this point it does not appear super likely that a player from Georgia is part of the 2021 class either unless it is outside linebacker Martez Thrower.

An uptick in competition for schools in Georgia has made recruiting the area much harder for teams like Wisconsin, but John Settle will continue to scour the state for potential players that fit the program. Quintez Cephus was by far the biggest hit for the Badgers from the state, maybe the Badgers will find another under the radar target out of Georgia in the future.

Georgia commits by year (247 Sports composite score):

  • 2015: Arrington Farrar (.9039);
  • 2016: Quintez Cephus (.8557); Anthony Lotti (.8306)
  • 2017: None
  • 2018: Donte Burton (.8710)
  • 2019: None
  • 2020: None
  • 2021: None

#10 Arizona

An unlikely state that makes the list is Arizona. Well over 1,000 miles away, and sporting a very different weather pattern than Madison, Wisconsin has surprisingly done well with prospects out of the desert.

Garrett Rand was a huge recruiting win on the trail for the Badgers back in 2016, while Kare’ Lyles was a legacy recruit prior to his transfer out of the program. Four-star offensive lineman Kaden Lyles, who is projected to be the starting center this season was also a native of Arizona as well, and deserves a place in this discussion. The recent addition of Malik Reed in the 2020 class definitely bolstered the state’s standing in this exercise, as Wisconsin has done extremely well in the Phoenix suburbs.

Given the distance between Wisconsin and Arizona, the players Paul Chryst and his staff recruit from the southwestern state will need to be a strong match, but it is not out of the question for the Badgers to pull another prospect our two out of the state in the coming years.

Arizona commits by year (247 Sports composite score):

  • 2015: None
  • 2016: Garrett Rand (.9244); Kare’ Lyles (.8463)
  • 2017: Adam Bay (.7838)
  • 2018: None
  • 2019: None
  • 2020: Malik Reed (.8681)
  • 2021: None

#11 Kansas

Kansas recruiting (2015 - present)

State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
Kansas 3 10 3.33 0.893 Graham Mertz (2019)

One of the last states to barely make the cut is Kansas. While there has not been an inordinate amount of success in the state in terms of numbers, the rate of success has been quite high.

Eight-man football star Isaiahh Loudermilk has been a steady contributor along the defensive line for multiple seasons now, and four-star quarterback Graham Mertz is potentially the biggest signature obtained by Chryst in his career as a head coach.

Add in that fact that three-star linebacker Nick Thomas was originally from Kansas prior to finishing his high school career at IMG Academy in Florida, and the numbers look pretty good for the Badgers on the plains.

There aren’t a lot of top prospects that usually come out of Kansas, but Wisconsin has done pretty well within the state in recent years.

Kansas commits by year (247 Sports composite score):

  • 2015: None
  • 2016: Isaiahh Loudermilk (.8593)
  • 2017: None
  • 2018: None
  • 2019: Graham Mertz (.9689); Clay Cundiff (.8510)
  • 2020: None
  • 2021: None

#12 New Jersey

New Jersey recruiting (2015 - present)

State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
New Jersey 3 10 3.33 0.886 Jalen Berger (2020)

One of best true pipelines that the Wisconsin football program has is New Jersey. The Badgers have had immense success at recruiting running backs from the Garden State for multiple decades now.

While Paul Chryst has only landed three players during his head coaching tenure from New Jersey, Jonathan Taylor was his most important offensive player for three straight seasons. Add in four-star standout Jalen Berger in the 2020 class, and the proof is in the pudding.

Wisconsin has had a propensity for huge success from Jersey ball carriers in the past with Ron Dayne, Anthony Davis, Corey Clement all hailing from the state prior to Jonathan Taylor’s historic career as well.

New Jersey would likely be much higher on this pipeline list if the rankings were not numbers based, as the overall success rate of running backs is through the roof, and something that is consistently mentioned by prospects from the area looking at Wisconsin.

New Jersey commits by year (247 Sports composite score):

  • 2015: None
  • 2016: None
  • 2017: Jonathan Taylor (.8854)
  • 2018: None
  • 2019: None
  • 2020: Jalen Berger (.9378)
  • 2021: Mike Jarvis (.8355)

You can see the entire state-by-state breakdown below.

State-by-State Commitment Pipelines under Paul Chryst (2015-Present)

State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
State Number of commits Total stars Average Star Rating Average 247 Sports Composite Ranking Top Ranked Commit (by composite)
Wisconsin 35 110 3.14 0.869 Trey Wedig (2020)
Ohio 11 35 3.18 0.865 Danny Davis (2017)
Florida 11 33 3 0.846 Ricardo Hallman (2021)
Michigan 10 32 3.2 0.875 Logan Brown (2019)
Illinois 9 27 3 0.867 Jack Sanborn (2018)
California 7 21 3 0.872 Kyle Penninston (2015)
Texas 6 18 3 0.846 Nakia Watson (2018)
Minnesota 4 14 3.5 0.898 Riley Mahlman (2021)
Georgia 4 13 3.25 0.865 Arrington Farrar (2015)
Arizona 4 12 3 0.856 Garret Rand (2016)
Kansas 3 10 3.33 0.893 Graham Mertz (2019)
New Jersey 3 10 3.33 0.886 Jalen Berger (2020)
Indiana 3 10 3.33 0.876 Joe Tippmann (2019)
Maryland 3 9 3 0.858 Eric Burrell (2016)
Pennsylvania 3 9 3 0.857 Hayden Rucci (2019)
North Carolina 3 9 3 0.841 Gio Paez (2019)
Iowa 2 7 3.5 0.9067 Andrew Van Ginkel (2017)
New York 2 6 3 0.875 Aron Cruickshank (2018)
Missouri 2 7 3.5 0.871 A.J. Taylor (2016)
Tennessee 2 6 3 0.847 Antwan Roberts (2021)
Colorado 2 6 3 0.826 Max Lofy (2020)
Hawaii 1 4 4 0.936 Nick Herbig (2020)
Alabama 1 3 3 0.8779 Bradrick Shaw (2015)
Utah 1 3 3 0.8666 Austin Kafentzis (2015)
Massachusettes 1 3 3 0.8647 Cam Large (2020)
Connecticut 1 3 3 0.8597 Jake Hescock (2016)
Nebraska 1 3 3 0.854 Bryson Williams (2018)