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Wisconsin football recruiting: are the Badgers behind in the 2022 class?

With COVID-19 extending the recruiting dead period for what seems like decades, we decided to check in on some other schools to see if UW was actually falling behind.

Wisconsin v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

You know how the old internet trope is “don’t read the comments?” Well, I read almost every comment on this website and I’ve gotten some good food and beer recommendations, learned about collegiate wrestling and also found interesting post ideas down there. I think our comment section is great.

Anyways, commenter WIsports posed this question on a recruiting post from Tuesday: “I’m not super knowledgeable on recruiting cycles but it seems like 2022 is off to a very slow start. That could just be because I’ve read this blog for years and feels like the last couple of years we are constantly talking about commitments in the 2020 / 2021 classes. For people who know more than me, how are you guys feeling about 2022 so far and when should we start to expect commitments to roll in?”

I (along with Robocopboners and drstre each within four minutes of me, natch) answered the same thing: yeah, probably, but most teams are feeling the same effects as Wisconsin due to COVID-19 restrictions on recruiting visits. I was interested in seeing if this was true and not just what smart, handsome people thought.

So, I picked three other Big Ten teams to compare to Wisconsin to see if we could learn anything. I picked two teams, Minnesota and Iowa, that have some similar recruiting profiles/disadvantages to UW (location, weather, not making the CFP, etc.) and one, Ohio State, that recruits across the country are salivating to attend.

Commits Before Feb. 1 of Previous Year

Year Minnesota Iowa Ohio State Wisconsin
Year Minnesota Iowa Ohio State Wisconsin
2022 1 1 10 1
2021 6 7 10 8
2020 1 4 6 6
2019 4 3 0 6
2018 0 1 1 1

I picked the last five recruiting classes because it seemed like a logical place to cut things off as the class of 2018 was the first one where the early signing day was a thing. It’s interesting to note how the recruiting calendar is sped up the longer that early signing day has been accepted. For the 2018 class Minnesota didn’t have any commits one year before early signing day and Iowa, Ohio State and Wisconsin only had one each.

That number steadily rises for each school culminating with the Buckeyes having 10 players verbally committed a year before the most recent early signing day, the Badgers having eight, Iowa having seven and Minnesota having six.

The class of 2022 is looking far different currently. Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota all only had one recruit each commit before Feb. 1, 2021. The Buckeyes (lmao) got 10 again, including flipping the No. 1 player in the country from Texas. In fact, the Badgers only have one total commit for 2022 and Iowa and Minnesota only have two.

This seems to track with what the general thoughts on recruiting for this class have been. Due to the “dead period” being extended for months and months for the 2022 class, many kids haven’t been able to visit the campuses of schools that have offered them and many coaches haven’t been able to evaluate players in person.

For schools like Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa this has been pretty brutal. All three schools depend on recruiting kids from outside the midwest who may not know anything about their campus or city. Something that many recruits note when they visit Madison for the first time is how pretty and urban it is and how they weren’t expecting that. For schools like Ohio State...that doesn’t matter as much since they are regularly competing for national titles and the top recruiting class in the country.

The Badgers are a bit lucky due to the fact that there are an unusually high number of blue-chip prospects from in Wisconsin in this cycle, but even some of them haven’t ever visited Madison. 4-star DE Isaac Hamm (Sun Prairie) lives 30 minutes away and hasn’t even taken an unofficial visit, but the proximity to Madison has to help the Badgers in their recruitment of these players.

Another thing to mention is that Wisconsin would have two members of their 2022 class already but 4-star S Braelon Allen (Fond du Lac) reclassified and committed with the 2021 class, so he probably should still count as half a recruiting win for the staff in 2022.

So, in answer to the original question about how I am feeling about the ‘22 class? I’m feeling ok because most schools in the country seem to be suffering the same. Hell, Northwestern, Nebraska and Indiana don’t even have any commits yet. The Badgers should expect to see a couple more commits coming in the next few months and then hopefully a large uptick over the summer once visits are allowed again.

For those interested, here are the players that committed to Wisconsin over a year before early signing day:

2021: Deacon Hill, Loyal Crawford, JP Benzschawel, Riley Mahlman, Ayo Adebogun, Bryan Sanborn, Hunter Wohler, Jackson Acker

2020: Chimere Dike, Trey Wedig, Jack Nelson, Ben Barten, Dylan Barrett, Cole Dakovich

2019: Graham Mertz, Julius Davis, Cam Phillips, Logan Brown, Joe Tippman, Leo Chenal, Hayden Rucci (committed on Feb. 3 so I didn’t count him, but he was close)

2018: Reggie Pearson