The Wisconsin Badgers are in the midst a hot streak on the recruiting trail, landing two 2021 commits in the past two weeks with the additions of 5-star offensive lineman Nolan Rucci, and 3-star cornerback Al Ashford III. Add in the recent reclassification of former 2022 commit 4-star safety Braelon Allen into the 2021 class, and the Badgers are in rarefied territory in the updated national team recruiting rankings.
Over the past six months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Badgers have done very well on the recruiting trail for the 2021 class, landing half of their class since the end of March. A few of those announcements came even without the opportunity for prospects to visit campus and interact with the staff in person.
On Wednesday, the NCAA extended the recruiting dead period all the way until the new year, making in person evaluations and communication a no go. This includes complimentary game tickets and official visits.
The Badgers will need to continue to be creative on the recruiting front, and now junior tape for the 2022 class is even more imperative without the ability to go and see players in person.
So how might the decision affect the Badgers?
First off, Wisconsin did a really good job of closing on most of their top targets in the 2021 class already. With 18 commits in the boat (not yours P.J.), Paul Chryst and his staff can focus on finishing off the final few spots with the best available talent, and also ramp up recruiting in the 2022 and 2023 classes.
In 2021, there only appears to be three main targets remaining. Wide receiver Markus Allen — who recently decommitted from Michigan — is probably the only viable offensive player that the Badgers are still targeting. He will likely wait things out a bit before making a second declaration, but the Badgers have gotten re-involved quickly and are pushing hard. Luckily he has been on campus in the past, so building the relationship virtually should not be a deterrent.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Badgers seem to be waiting for decisions from outside linebackers Yanni Karlaftis and Jake Ratzlaff. Both players would be tremendous additions, and have each visited Madison in the past, giving the Badgers a leg up in their recruitments. Ratzlaff is awaiting where he gets picked in the NHL Draft before ultimately making a decision, while Karlaftis backed up his decision. Wisconsin is in a good spot for both players and it might be first come first served for that final spot at outside linebacker.
The first helmet I ever put on was a Badger helmet. So amazing that I was just offered by the Wisconsin Badgers! I’m speechless, humbled and amazed. Thank you @CoachBudmayr so much! pic.twitter.com/brbmFwiZfr— Devin Brown (@dbrownqb33) May 22, 2019
The Badgers were off to a great start with the commitment of 4-star safety Braelon Allen, but he is now a 2021 commit after reclassifying.
That does not mean that Wisconsin is not still in a good spot early on in the process.
Top quarterback target Devin Brown told B5Q on Bucky’s 5th Podcast that he could make a decision prior to his first game this fall, which kicks off in early October. I could easily see him being the next player to become a Badger regardless of class given his affinity for Wisconsin. With no other offers on the table to other quarterback prospects, the writing appears to be on the wall for how confident the staff feels about their chances given that he has visited Madison multiple times.
I also believe that the dead period could help the Badgers with the local in-state talent that make up a loaded 2022 class. Four-stars DE Isaac Hamm, OL Joe Brunner, OL Carson Hinzman, and OL/DL Billy Schrauth are all players familiar with Madison and the Badgers are favorites to secure their commitments. With an inability for these prospects to go visit many other colleges that are after them, do they go with the hometown team this fall and end the recruiting cycle early?
Outside of the in-state kids, normally Wisconsin would also welcome many interested out-of-state prospects up to games, but as things stand that will not be possible. The Badgers will need to do their diligence to build strong relationships this fall in anticipation for hopefully visits this winter or spring for some of their other top targets like TE Micah Riley, DB Christian Driver, DE Popeye Williams, LB Sebastian Cheeks, DB James Monds among others.
The inability to get many out of state prospects on campus for games is obviously not ideal, but if the Badgers can get a firm commitment from Devin Brown and a couple of the in-state players from the trenches this fall, it would go a long way in building a really good foundation for this spring when in-person recruiting hopefully gets back underway.
Wisconsin has done a phenomenal job of utilizing summer official visits the past couple seasons (pre-COVID). Without players having the chance to take in gameday atmospheres across the country, those official visits come next summer could be even more important than ever for the Badgers.