The Wisconsin Badgers hit early July 2017 and have already knocked out the 2018 football recruiting class. With a full fall ahead of them and new regulations allowing junior visits in the spring semester, the 2019 recruiting cycle is going to heat up fast.
With that in mind, let us fast-forward to what the 2019 recruiting cycle is likely to look like for Paul Chryst and Co.
The most important part of the what the 2019 class will look like is to understand what the makeup of the roster will look like coming up to the 2018 season. So, as we look to build the 2019 class, here is a look at how the roster will look like heading in to the 2018 season.
The biggest note is that the Badgers currently sit two over the scholarship limit of 85 players.
Obviously there will need to be and likely will be some attrition on the roster between now and December 2018 or February 2019. But, we can only deal with what is in front of us today.
1. Offensive Line
This is easily the No. 1 priority, both in terms of numbers and the actual players UW will see depart the program following the 2018 season. Right now, the Badgers stand to lose four players who have started games in the 2016 season and likely will start plenty more in Beau Benzschawel, Michael Deiter, Micah Kapoi and Jacob Maxwell. That’s not mention the potential that Kevin Estes will leave the program and throw open a fifth spot somewhere along the way here.
That’s a lot of fire power to not see on the offensive line and UW is likely going to try to hit the jackpot again in the 2019 class. UW has put out seven offers at the offensive tackle position already. While it is too early for a lot to be known about interest, one name to watch early on appears to be that of Grand Rapids (East), Mich. product Logan Brown. He is the No. 12 ranked offensive tackle in the class so far and has expressed real interest in UW to date.
Once again, we see the pattern of the Badgers targeting prospects that aren’t in the Detroit area wheel house for Michigan and Michigan State. It will be an interesting Midwest battle though for Brown, with Michigan and Wisconsin battling it out early in the 247Sports crystal ball predictions.
The Badgers have also yet to really evaluate the products in the state of Wisconsin and that will really change the board. However, you can expect a very high priority on this group of players.
2. Nose Tackle
Wisconsin will still be loaded up front and has some versatile pieces to the puzzle heading in to the future. However, the loss of not one, but two nose tackles following next season make this a paramount position of need for the Badgers. UW doesn’t have a really giant man to plug up the middle, so it will be interesting to see how this group shapes up on the recruiting trail.
To that end, Wisconsin already has extended offers to five defensive tackles in the class per 247Sports. Two of them — Tru Thompson and Siaki Ika — have already committed to Florida State and BYU respectively. That means three left, with Mazi Smith, the No. 6 ranked DT on the board along with Cincinnati, Ohio product Jowon Briggs (No. 9 DT) and Wichita Falls, Texas product Lloyd Murray Jr. (No. 21).
I wouldn’t expect any of these early offers to be on the final board just yet, but Briggs and Murray are going to be interesting to follow in their respective recruitments. Briggs has 247Sports crystal ball predictions in for Notre Dame already, but it is so early in the process.
Rafael Gagilanone is the only scholarship kicker on Wisconsin’s roster right now and that is likely to stay that way through the 2018 season. The bigger question will be if the lovable kicker will get an extra year of eligibility due to his injury this past season. Either way, this is a position that should be prioritized by the Badgers coaching staff.
The numbers may be tight, but in the end getting cover in case Gaglianone doesn’t get that extra year back is good and so is having a kicker in place as a redshirt if he does get that year back. Right now the Badgers don’t have any offers out and that’s a good thing in my book. I mean, like anyone knows if a kicker that is about to enter his junior season is really good or not. This one will take some evaluating in the fall and likely through the spring to figure out, but don’t be surprised to see some offers flying out in the coming year at this position.
4. Running Back
Wisconsin is going to lose two really decent options after the 2018 season in Taiwan Deal and Bradrick Shaw. There appears to be some decent depth behind them as well, but this is a group that will need to be re-stocked and should have a high-end running back as a priority on the recruiting trail.
It will forever baffle my mind as to why a top-ranked running back wants nothing to do with the Badgers program. Of course, factors like grades and fit to the program also matter a lot, but UW hasn’t really hit a big name running back since pulling Corey Clement out of New Jersey and home-grown product Melvin Gordon from Kenosha.
Jonathan Taylor and Nakia Watson could be special backs, but I’d like to see the Badgers get a top target for a change. To that end, keep an eye on the recruitment of players like Joachim Bangda out of Washington D.C. and Miami Carol City product Nay’quan Wright. The latter of which is already a 4-star product and the No. 10 running back in the class.
It appears the Badgers are doing their homework like always and may be going under the radar early in the recruiting process here. But, they are hitting some high-traffic areas like the DMV, South Florida and Pennsylvania so far.