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State of the Union: 2023 Football Recruiting Class

Let’s take a look at where the Badgers’ current recruiting class stands, and what they can add to improve it!

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

While it’s certainly not over with, we’ve hit the home stretch of the recruiting process, as the Badgers are typically driving deep into turn 3 (pardon the racing analogy) with their official visits out of the way, they’re hoping to make it stick through the center of the corner so they can fire off out of turn 4 into the fall and towards the finish line.

With Wisconsin’s three major official visit weekends concluded, let’s take a look at where the class currently stands:

Current Commitments (10)

QB: None
RB: Jaquez Keyes (6-foot-1, 207 pounds, Ironton (HS), Ohio), Nate White (6-foot-0, 175 pounds, Milwaukee King HS)
WR: Collin Dixon (6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Tallmadge (HS), Ohio), Trech Kekahuna (5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Honolulu, St. Louis HS)
TE: None
OL: IOL James Durand (6-foot-4, 280 pounds, Chandler, Ari., Basha HS)
DL: Roderick Pierce (6-foot-3, 290 pounds, Chicago, Brother Rice HS)
EDGE: Jordan Mayer (6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Clairton, Pa., Thomas Jefferson HS)
LB: Tyler Jansey (6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Batavia (HS), Ill.)
CB: A.J. Tisdell (5-foot-11, 175 pounds, College Station (HS), Texas)
S: Justin Taylor (6-foot-1, 185 pounds, La Grange Park, Ill., Nazareth Academy)

What The Class Needs

More Big Dudes

Expect this class to be heavy on the trenches, as every class should, in order to ensure crucial depth on both sides of the ball. As the program gets further away from the COVID eligibility season, they need to add more big bodies.

Syndication: The Tennessean
Joe Crocker
Stephanie Amador / The Tennessean via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Offensively, the big target still on the board is Joe Crocker, an OT from Nashville. At 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, Crocker has the size and length the Badgers and new offensive line coach Bob Bostad covet. He was on the Badgers’ first official visit weekend in June, and is the top offensive lineman on the board. I’d expect another offensive lineman as well, but Crocker is the obvious one.

Defensively, two stand out. Chicago’s Jamel Howard from Marist HS is the nose tackle Wisconsin needs. Howard, at 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, is conveniently good friends with current Chicagoland area commits Justin Taylor and Roderick Pierce. Hopefully those relationships pay dividends.

The other big fish is still Ashton Sanders, who is down to Wisconsin and Cal. Sanders, a Los Angeles native, would be a big win for the Badgers, but is much more of a homerun swing at this juncture than Howard. He was scheduled to make his decision this past Sunday but a family issue came up and he pushed it back.

Finish the Chicagoland Cleanup (and other defensive backs)

Kahlil Tate, a long and athletic defensive back from Kenwood Academy in Chicago, would be the final jewel from the Illinois area that Wisconsin feels good about grabbing. Tate, and his good friend Justin Taylor, would be the safety pairing in this class, and be some more toys for Hank Poteat and Jim Leonhard to play with in the secondary.

Speaking of toys in the secondary, Lake Mary, Fla.’s Braeden Marshall would be a cherry on top for a group that will be looking to replace a senior laden group following 2022. Jace Arnold, a prospect from Georgia, was also just on campus this past weekend, and is reportedly a favorite to commit to Wisconsin. (Editor’s note: after Owen turned this post in, Evan Flood at Badger247 announced that Arnold will be committing on Wednesday afternoon.)

Tackett Curtis

The top recruit that Wisconsin has targeted throughout this entire 2023 process, Curtis is a top-100 recruit and top-six linebacker in the country.

Syndication: Shreveport Times/The Times
Tackett Curtis
Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Curtis has been sold on the idea of being THE difference maker in this Wisconsin defense by coach Bobby April, who would be his position coach at outside linebacker. Rumored to be down to Wisconsin, USC and Ohio State, there is still hope being held that he could end up in Madison.

This would be a huge win for Wisconsin, and coach April, who reportedly has been down to Louisiana at least seven times to visit with Curtis and his family.

Quarterback, Tight End, Yada Yada Yada

While it’s very clear there will be no Graham Mertz level target in this class for the Badgers after Ankeny, Iowa’s JJ Kohl stayed in-state at Iowa State, South Dakota’s Lincoln Kleinholz appears to be the apple of the eye of Paul Chryst and Bobby Engram at this stage. He kind of better be as there are no other real offers out at the position.

Zach Ortwerth, a tight end from the St. Louis area, appears to be the top target at this time for the Badgers, as he was the only tight end to get an official visit in Madison this summer. While Ortwerth isn’t a “top of the line” target from a recruiting stars perspective, he is 6-foot-6 and has the size and length that the Badgers often seek at the position.

In conclusion

In all, I don’t expect this class to be a boon for Wisconsin, as they’re still somewhat feeling the effects in this class of changing over their recruiting department and re-structuring it over a year ago. However, I expect the classes to come (2024, 2025) to be firing on all cylinders and making another run at the highest recruiting ranking in school history, like they saw in 2021 (No. 16 in the country).

A final mockup of the class (19):

QB: Lincoln Kleinholz
RB: Jaquez Keyes, Nate White
WR: Collin Dixon, Trech Kekahuna
TE: Zach Ortwerth
OL: Joe Crocker, James Durand, *third OL
DL: Roderick Pierce, Jamel Howard, Ashton Sanders
EDGE: Tackett Curtis, Jordan Mayer
LB: Tyler Jansey
CB: A.J. Tisdell, Braelen Marshall
S: Kahlil Tate, Justin Taylor