We have got a lot to get to, so we’re going to dive right in to what Tyler, Belz, J.J. and Bremen had to say about the 2022 recruiting class for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Are you happy with the class that Wisconsin brought in for 2022?
Tyler: I am. I think on the surface the rankings and numbers don’t quite jump out to you compared to the last couple classes and that is perfectly fair. Let us remember that those classes were record breaking classes for Wisconsin and that isn’t going to happen every single year. I do think Wisconsin got really good bang for their buck. They didn’t nab as many players as other teams but I don’t think that is always a bad thing especially with the transfer portal changing the way this recruiting cycle might work. Yes, you would have liked to nab all the players from in the state that you had on your board, and those losses will stick out, but overall I think this is a solid group that brings some real talent to Wisconsin.
J.J.: I’m fine with it. It feels underwhelming, only securing two of the top five Wisconsin recruits (with a third up in the air), when last year the Badgers landed each of the top five (as well as the sixth). It was a nice boost to bring in Isaac Hamm on signing day, and the defense looks like it picked up some really good pieces. I don’t mind focusing on quality over quantity, and it seems the Badgers’ small class size is what caused it to be ranked so low. If you can get 4-star IOL Carson Hinzman, you’re in a pretty good, if not exceptional, spot. If you miss out, then you’re probably at just a solid-tier class.
Belz: I think the Badgers did a good job defensively in this cycle. I like the front seven players and the versatility each of them bring within Jim Leonhard’s defense. I think keeping a player like Hamm at home was huge and I love Austin Brown’s film. Losing 4-star IOL Billy Schrauth still stings a little though, and, offensively, I think in a perfect world the Badgers would have brought in a traditional running back, but we shall see if Cade Yacamelli can help them out there. Overall the class filled a lot of needs, but I think this seems like a developmental group compared to the past two classes which had more high end talent.
Bremen: It’s good enough. I think that the disappointment of the Schrauth saga is tough to swallow and clouds a lot of judgments about this class. The Badgers staff always said it would be a smaller class this year because of all the weirdness around COVID and I think the positions of need were generally filled how you would want. It obviously will be interesting to see what happens with Hamm (Editor’s note: he obviously picked Wisconsin after Bremen wrote this) and Hinzmann still on the board, but if Wisconsin can close out Hinzmann especially, that will be about what I had hoped for.
What was the biggest win the Badgers had on the trail in this cycle?
Tyler: The obvious win is landing the top in-state player in Joe Brunner. That’s a player you cannot lose out on especially at the bread and butter position of offensive line. That’s a huge win for Wisconsin. Outside of that though, I think Aidan Vaughan out of Walled Lake (Mich.) Western is an absolute steal. Vaughan was originally committed to Air Force but his recruitment really took off which led him to decommit. He picked up a number of offers and ultimately landed at Wisconsin. When speaking to Allen Trieu of 247 on the latest episode of Bucky’s 5th Podcast Trieu raved about Vaughan’s skillset. I think he could be a real gem in this group.
J.J.: On the defensive side of the ball I really liked the Curtis Neal addition at defensive line. He had some top schools sniffing around on him, and is a big physical player who I think can contribute early on in his career. I think Jim Leonhard and the Badgers’ defensive staff is going to really enjoy developing him. On offense, Brunner feels the obvious choice. It’s an expectation at this point to keep the top in-state plater in-house for Paul Chryst, and Brunner is the type of player that ensures the Wisconsin line will always be top-quality.
Belz: I will go with Austin Brown. I think he is a special player. He is the type of multi-sport athlete that Wisconsin has done very well with in the past and he had a ton of Midwest interest before ultimately picking the Badgers.I think he and Hunter Wohler could form a tremendous duo at safety in a year or two, and I think he is destined to be a good one.
Bremen: I think snagging Curtis Neal will be huge for the Badgers. Neal is a huge defensive lineman, which is always something the Badgers need in the 3-4 defense and had offers from SEC schools and chose UW over Ohio State. He also is from a high school that Wisconsin has recruited before and is one of the better schools in the Charlotte area for producing talent, which could provide a useful pipeline. Neal has the size to compete right away especially since he will enroll early, and to beat Ohio State on a recruit is always something that will make me happy.
Same question, but biggest miss.
Tyler: The losses are magnified as a lot of attention was given to this class for the past few years because of the in-state talent. The “Super Six” was the name they garnered years ago and that went down to five when Braelon Allen reclassified. Losing Billy Schrauth and Jerry Cross are tough blows but I never really felt like Wisconsin had a good shot at landing either of them. Schrauth came on our podcast early in his recruitment and it sounded very pro Notre Dame, so I was not at all surprised by those results. At the time of writing Carson Hinzman has not made a decision, but losing out on him would likely trump all of these. You can’t lose an in-state lineman to Ohio State.
J.J.: Recency bias tells me Schrauth, but I think Jerry Cross was the most unfortunate miss. Notre Dame coming in sucks (or in the case of Hinzman, Ohio State), but at the end of the day those are persistent top ten programs which the Badgers can’t make the same claim to be. But losing an in-state tight end to Penn State (especially one with Cross’ physical gifts and tape) really sucks. Ohio State and Notre Dame are hard to compete with (though I’d prefer to not lose any in-state recruits), but Penn State is definitely not a program that traditionally takes your lunch money in your own house.
Belz: Like others have said Schrauth is the obvious answer here, but I will stick with the running back position in general. Hindsight is 20-20, but focusing only on Nicholas Singleton appears to have bit them a bit here. It’s hard to fault the staff considering they brought in four running backs in 2021, but in an ideal world I think you want to take at least one ball carrier each class. Cade Yacamelli could wind up helping them out if that’s where the staff starts him out, but for a run-first team running backs are so valuable. I would assume they look at the transfer portal or attempt to bring in two ‘backs in the 2023 class moving forward.
Bremen: I think the toughest loss is Schrauth as said earlier on. With it being such a drawn out process that ended up with an in-state lineman leaving for a school like Notre Dame will drive everyone crazy. I hope that maybe some of the recruiting hiccups this year will be a sign the department needs to be modernized, but who knows.
Which player are you most excited to see get out on the field?
Tyler: I am excited to see Myles Burkett get on the field. Quarterback obviously gets the attention but something about that kid really impresses me. That comeback he led in the state title game got a lot of Badger fans to pay attention to him. All the talk was on Graham Mertz in his recruitment, but I think a lot of people forgot about Burkett and what he might bring. Another I am excited to see is Tommy Mcintosh. He’s got a ton of height at the wideout position so I am eager to see where his development takes him.
J.J.: I’m interested to see what Cade Yacamelli can do. He seems to be the Swiss army knife of this class, and is the only player that even resembles a running back. He’s got the skillset to do a bunch of different things early on in his career for the Badgers, and I’m excited to see what Gary Brown has in mind for him.
Belz: Like Tyler said the homegrown quarterback element to Myles Burkett is exciting. I will go with Isaac Hamm though. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds he is a physical specimen, and I think he is a guy that could be a force as a defensive end if he continues to add strength. He is very explosive for a guy for his size, making him a potential difference maker on the line if things pan out.
Bremen: I am really excited to see the two receivers on the field. Wisconsin’s passing game is what it is, but Tommy McIntosh and Vinny Anthony provide really good size that UW hasn’t really had a ton of since I’ve gone to school. Especially with the Badgers set to lose three big contributors at the wideout spot, I’d hope that those two could come in and add some competition and try and get a spot early.
Do you see any of these players making an all-conference team during their time in Madison?
Tyler: I would say Joe Brunner eventually makes a team, and I would again say Aidan Vaughan as well. After that, it’s a bit hard to see that projection until some further development takes place but I think Wisconsin has a lot of talent that could blossom into that position in the future.
J.J.: Brunner feels like an easy pick for this- if he develops the way he’s projected to, he’ll be an anchor lineman at what has historically been one of the best lineman schools in the country. That should be enough for an all-conference team. My sleeper pick would be JT Seagreaves, who I think as a tight end should get a lot of targets as soon as he gets into the Badger starting lineup.
Belz: I am lockstep with Tyler here. The Badgers do extremely well with developing offensive lineman and linebackers. Of the group currently committed, Brunner and Vaughan are guys that I think have a good chance if they stay healthy and live up to the hype. If Carson Hinzman opts for UW I think he would be my pick though. I think he is going to be a really good center in the Big Ten given his smarts and athletic ability.
Bremen: It’s hard not to think the best lineman in Wisconsin will end up making an all-conference team at Wisconsin considering the history of O-Line U. I would say my other pick for an all-conference team would be Austin Brown. It seems like a lot of recruiting experts are very high on his potential and say he adds something to the secondary UW doesn’t always have. With Brown in defensive coordinator Jim Leonard’s hands, who of course has a bit of success playing safety, that is a tantalizing prospect.
What do you want to see from Paul Chryst when he makes his new recruiting department hires in February?
Tyler: I would like to see Chryst just do a complete reset of what they had in place before. Right now the cupboard is pretty bare in terms of bodies so you can’t really ask them to do much more than that until the foundation is back in place. You don’t build a house until the foundation is poured (right? I live in an apartment, I have no idea about home ownership but it makes sense to me). They need to get bodies in there and “get their plates full” as Chryst said in his recent presser. I get why they have not overhauled it yet with 2020 being a weird year and not wanting to commit to the wrong person this year, but now that they’ve gotten through this cycle they’ve got to get the foundation back in place.
J.J.: I think the various articles that have been published on where Wisconsin stands in terms of recruiting infrastructure, and what we know about Saeed Khalif’s departure, have made it clear that the Badgers are pretty thoroughly behind the times in terms of where most other programs of Wisconsin’s stature are at. I think Chryst needs to find a Khalif-specific replacement first, someone who excels at both building connections and evaluating talent, and then allow that person to build as comprehensive of a staff as the budget will allow beneath him.
From yesterday: Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst discussed his recruiting philosophy, transfer impact, shaping the Badgers’ 2022 roster and more. https://t.co/lbMTHBklDB— Jesse Temple (@jessetemple) December 14, 2021
Belz: I think Chryst needs to find a handful of people that he trusts and that will tirelessly work to bring in the best talent that can get into Madison. I think you want an experienced person to lead the group, but having a couple former players that know the culture and have played under Chryst would be nice to round out some of the roles to go along with the graphic and design team. Jack Cichy, Collin Wilder and A.J. Taylor are all guys that have been around the program a ton and who might be potential fits if they are interested.
Bremen: I am with Tyler. You need to get some more bodies in. You can’t have other schools out-staffing Wisconsin at a scale of, like, 3:1. Recruiting in college football is a season-round thing, and losing at that means you lose on the field as Dan Mullen quickly found out at Florida. Clearly 2020 changed a lot because *shrugs at everything going on in the world,* but the dip in performance between recruiting this year and 2021 was stark. You’ve got to bring someone in who will really get after it in recruiting and let them have a blank check to beef up the department.