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Wisconsin recruiting: a look at the first Official Visit Weekend from the football fit side

Wisconsin’s first crack at official visits is this weekend.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Death, Taxes, and Madison, Wisconsin being a beautiful place to spend a weekend during early June.

That’s what the Wisconsin Badgers have depended on over the past few years in order to help draw their top targets to play in Madison. With another June upon us, three more weekends are teed up to bring the Badgers’ top recruits on their board to the best college town in the country and add to their roster.

With the first one due up to start on Friday, June 3, let’s take a look at how the Badgers targets would fit in on the current/future roster:

LB, Tackett Curtis, Many HS (Many, La.)

While I have no doubt that the talented Curtis could play any linebacker spot for the Badgers just fine, he projects as an outside linebacker at the moment.

With Nick Herbig set to be a redshirt junior by the time Curtis would get to campus, the opening at the designated pass rusher 3-4 outside linebacker position could have an opening not long after that.

Wisconsin’s defense has been good regardless, but when they have a difference maker at that spot (think T.J. Watt or Zack Baun), it takes the Badgers’ defense from good to special, and Curtis, the No. 56 overall recruit in the country according to 247Sports, could provide that type of spark.

The Big Fellas: OT, Joe Crocker, Franklin Road Academy (Nashville, Tenn.), OT Christoper Terek, Glenbard West HS (Glen Ellyn, Ill.), and IOL James Durand, Basha HS (Chandler, Ariz.)

We’ll start with Durand, as he’s already committed to Wisconsin. The interior offensive linemen committed in May as the start of a string of commits for the Cardinal and White. While he’s already committed, that puts him in an excellent spot to help recruit Crocker and Terek to join the program.

Crocker is 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds and has an offer sheet almost as big as he is. He was made an immediate priority by new offensive line coach Bob Bostad, and his length and size at tackle is exactly what the Badgers are looking for.

Terek is a rising prospect who within the last month has gotten offers from Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, and others. Another Illinois target, the Land of Lincoln has been a prime spot for the Badgers in this class with three commits from there already (LB Tyler Jansey, DB Justin Taylor and DL Roderick Pierce). Terek also has the size, length and frame to develop into what Wisconsin looks for at the position.

While Wisconsin has “recruited” the offensive tackle position very well over the last couple of seasons, both projected starting tackles this season will starting their first seasons at tackle (rSo Jack Nelson at LT and rJR Logan Brown at RT). Nolan Rucci and Riley Mahlman also were brought in at OT last year, but you don’t stay strong at a position by not recruiting for the future.

The Other Side of the Ball Big Fellas: DL My’Keil Gardner, Liberty HS (Peoria, Ariz.) and DL Ashton Sanders, Cathedral HS (Los Angeles)

Wisconsin already has one defensive line commitment from Chicago’s Roderick Pierce (Brother Rice HS), but I assume the Badgers are far from being done adding big bodies along the defensive line.

The name of the game in this class seems to be versatility. While the Badgers feel that Pierce could play nose tackle in their 3-4 base defense if needed, he’s athletic enough to play all along the defensive line. This is also how they feel about Gardner and Sanders, who provide size (6-foot-2/275 pounds, 6-foot-3/295 pounds, respectively) and athleticism.

Wisconsin will be losing stud nose tackle Keeanu Benton after the 2022 season to the NFL, and don’t have as ton of established depth behind him or anywhere along the defensive line, for that matter.

*side note - watch for Jamel Howard on next weekend’s official visit, with buddies Justin Taylor and Rod Pierce also on the visit. Spots along the defensive line could quickly get sparse.

The DBs: CB Nate Johnson, Clearwater Central Catholic (Clearwater, Fla.), ATH Khalil Tate, Kenwood Academy (Chicago)

Leave it to Jim Leonhard to load up the official visit calendar with under the radar defensive backs with a lot of appealing traits.

At corner, Nate Johnson is an under-the-radar kid out of Florida who the Badgers have had success with in the past (Natrell Jamerson, Faion Hicks), and though he’s not the biggest, Wisconsin hasn’t fallen completely victim to the trend of having all 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-3 corners. This may be the market inefficiency that the Badgers can capitalize on, and they’re doing their best.

Tate is yet another Chicagoland target who the Badgers see as a safety to pair in the backend with fellow Illinoisan Justin Taylor. Please disregard what I said about the Badgers not targeting tall defensive backs, as Tate’s size at 6-foot-3 will help him at safety, though he could always be defaulted at cornerback. He may be the next kid up on commit watch.

The Others: QB Lincoln Keinholz, T.F. Riggs HS (Pierre, SD), TE Zach Ortwerth, St. Louis University (St. Louis, MO), LB Tyler Jansey, Batavia HS (Batavia, Ill.)

Yes, even at the University of Wisconsin, the quarterback position is the most important on the football team. While some fans may have thought that the commitment of Graham Mertz would mark the beginning of an era where Wisconsin is consistently in play for premier quarterback recruits, I regret to inform them that it doesn’t appear to be the case, as the Badgers staff is searching for diamonds in the rough.

Keinholz is an under the radar prospect, but after their recruiting board has been picked over, he’s the top offer for the Badgers. They are the best offer among his top-four (Wisconsin, Washington, Wyoming, North Dakota State).

Somehow, I get paid to write for this website, so you’d think I’d have a good answer for this, but I’m not sure why Wisconsin isn’t able to appeal to the higher rated tight end recruits. With that being said, Ortwerth is at the top of their target board at the position. The 6-foot-6 and 225 pound prospect projects as a traditional Y in-line tight end for the Badgers.

Jansey is another committed prospect, in fact he was the first player to commit to Wisconsin in the 2023 class. The Badgers were very early on Jansey, and he has a big opportunity to help recruit the bevy of Chicagoland prospect Wisconsin is currently after (Tate, Howard, Joe Kingsbury, among others).

Overall, in the next few weeks, I expect Wisconsin to go on a real bender of commits. With Mickey Turner in charge, they seem to have put themselves in a better position for more targets at this juncture than they did last year, which isn’t necessarily any one person in particular’s fault following the departure of Saeed Khalid and Jensen Gebhart, but it’s definitely a good sign for things to come.