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

In the latest episode of the Build-a-Badger series, Matt takes a stab at how the 2021 recruiting class will flesh out.

NCAA Football: Kent State at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past two recruiting cycles, 2019 and 2020, the Wisconsin Badgers have elevated their recruiting status, and are already positioned with a top-20 class in the early goings for 2021. With 16 current commits, and 16 scholarship seniors expected to exhaust their eligibility, the coaching staff has the vast majority of their class already figured out.

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 activity on the trail. (Editor’s note: Since the class is pretty close to being filled out, we’ll just have Matt’s takes this time and well, was I really bringing that much to the table anyway?)


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: The Badgers struck gold early in the 2021 cycle with the commitment of Deacon Hill. Since his pledge he steadily risen up the recruiting rankings since putting together a strong junior season and camp circuit in the spring prior to COVID-19 shutting things down. Wisconsin has company though as the in-state UCLA Bruins are still pursuing the 6-foot-4 signal caller, but as things stand the Badgers seem to have a stranglehold on his recruitment.


Running back (2-3)

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

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

Matt’s take: Like quarterback, the running back position has been taken care of for some time. Loyal Crawford and Antwan Roberts have different running styles which should help them complement one another well in Wisconsin’s offense. There is a chance that Jackson Acker also winds up at running back, but for now we will stick with him as an athlete.

Roberts started off his senior season with a bang last weekend with over 200 yards rushing and five touchdowns. You can check out one of his runs here.


Fullback (0-1)

Matt’s take: The Badgers took a scholarship fullback last year with Quan Easterling. I think adding a walk-on to the room would be a more likely route, unless Acker winds up at the position.


Wide receiver (1-2)

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

Matt’s take: The Badgers got a big commitment this month from Skyler Bell. The three-star wideout was their top target at the position for a while, and Alvis Whitted did a phenomenal job of winning that recruitment. With Bell in the fold, Wisconsin can be very picky at the position, and frankly I think it is trending in the direction of him being the only receiver taken in the class after taking three in 2020.

Bell was a huge get for the staff, and recently leapt up 30 spots in the 247 Sports Composite position rankings since his commitment to the Badgers over Iowa, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia among others.


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: Wisconsin got their got in Jack Pugh back in late May at tight end. An all around athlete, he fits nicely with how the Badgers use the position. Gunnar Helm and Terrance Ferguson were also heavily sought after by the staff, but both opted to go elsewhere.

It appears as though the Badgers might stick with one tight end to round out this class unless a new offer comes out at the position. Regardless, Pugh is a four-star prospect that fans should be very excited about.


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 hit early with four-star offensive linemen J.P. Benzschawel and Riley Mahlman. Both players have the traditional frame and athleticism that the Badgers covet, and should be tremendous players at UW.

There is still one more target out there, and Nolan Rucci would represent the crown jewel of the class if he chooses the Badgers. A five-star prospect, and the No. 1 player in the state of Pennsylvania, Rucci essentially has his choice of where to attend college. Wisconsin is in the middle of a dog fight for his services, with Penn State and Clemson the two other most likely suitors. Michigan and Stanford have also been in regular contact, but I still think this will come down to Wisconsin and Penn State.

The tradition at offensive line, strong staff relationships, and older brother connection still has me leaning towards Wisconsin, but it should be just a matter of time before we know.


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 told B5Q around the time of his commitment that he might be the only defensive lineman brought in during the 2021 cycle. At this point that appears to be the most likely outcome, as there aren’t really any other defensive line prospects that the Badgers are recruiting hard at the moment.

As mentioned in previous Build-a-Badger episodes, I think it is far more probable that the staff continues to hunt for edge talent at outside linebacker and see how those players physically develop. One or more of those players could easily add weight and slide down to defensive line potentially.


Outside linebacker (3-5)

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

Matt’s take: I really like what the Badgers have done at outside linebacker in both 2020 and 2021 to build out the future of the position. TJ Bollers and Darryl Peterson would top of the board guys that the staff identified early and closed on. Add in Ayo Adebogun, and this group has some really good explosiveness and potential.

If it were up to the staff though, I don’t think they would be done.

The Badgers are still in a good spot for both Yanni Karlaftis and Jake Ratzlaff, as like Rucci they appear to be the most wanted players. Wisconsin seems to be going with a best available approach, and both Karlaftis and Ratzlaff fit that mold given their abilities.

I still think that Karlaftis is going to be hard to pry away from Purdue, but outside linebackers coach Bobby April has them in solid shape to possibly win out.

Jake Ratzlaff is in a little different situation as a Minnesota hockey commit. He is awaiting where he is selected in the NHL Draft which is slated for early-to-mid October. Based on the draft process, he will have to make a determination about his future sport. At this juncture, it appears if he chooses football that the Badgers would be the choice.


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: Bryan Sanborn followed his brothers lead by committing to Wisconsin, and he should bring a similar set of traits and physicality to Jack.

Chaney was a bit more of a surprise commitment for the Badgers back in March — around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — but he had a bevy of good offers and should be another strong player to pair with Sanborn.

At this point those two should represent the inside linebacker class, unless in-state athlete Jackson Acker winds up at the position.


Cornerback (1-2)

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: Another top target for the staff, Ricardo Hallman chose the Badgers over many others despite not having the opportunity to visit in person. A longer cornerback with excellent ball skills, he will be a tremendous addition to the secondary.

With no offers out to any uncommitted cornerbacks, Hallman looks like he will be the lone cornerback barring anything unforeseen.


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: Hunter Wohler was one of the biggest recruiting wins in the class even though he was an in-state player. He could easily see playing time early in his career, and with the recent commitment of 2022 four-star safety Braelon Allen the Badgers appear to be in good hands at safety moving forward. With that in mind, I would imagine that the staff will probably forgo taking another safety in this class.


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: Somewhat of a wildcard in the class, Jackson Acker could project to play multiple positions at the next level. A prep running back, he is an explosive athlete that could play on either side of the ball. His versatility make him a valuable member of the class, and he will probably be the only scholarship athlete or specialist in the class.


Overall Breakdown

Wisconsin 2021 Recruiting Class (episode seven)

Matt's Class
Matt's Class
QB (1): Deacon Hill
RB (2): Loyal Crawford, Antwan Roberts
WR (1): Skyler Bell
TE (1): Jack Pugh
OL (3): Riley Mahlman, JP Benzschawel, Nolan Rucci
DL (1) Mike Jarvis
OLB (4): Ayo Adebogun, TJ Bollers, Darryl Peterson, Jake Ratzlaff
ILB (2): Bryan Sanborn, Jake Chaney
CB (1): Ricardo Hallman
S (1): Hunter Wohler
ATH (1): Jackson Acker
18 total commits