With 2017 in the rearview mirror and the 2018 Wisconsin Badgers recruiting class already signed, sealed and mostly delivered, it is truly an offseason to look forward to what is ahead.
That’s especially true on the recruiting trail, where the Badgers are way ahead of their normal curve. UW already has four commits to the 2019 class and there is a ton of buzz around the potential for this class to be special.
Wisconsin also likely needs to make this class count because it won’t be a big one, with around 14-16 players likely to be in the class in total. UW currently has 75 players on the 2019 scholarship list as it would sit today.
As we transition to looking ahead, we’ll take a look at each position as it stands on the recruiting trail. What better place to star than the premier position at Wisconsin — running back?
Davis has flown a bit under the radar on the national recruiting trail, but you can see why the Badgers offered early and why Davis would be a fit. He’s got speed for days, and while he may have some things like vision to work on, those are things that can be taught to some extent. The instincts are good with Davis, he just may need to hone those skills.
But, don’t let the numbers fool you, as Davis was recently upgraded on the recruiting rankings and is now the No. 30 ranked running back in the 2019 class. Considering the fact that Taylor is still going to be at Wisconsin, UW can afford to go the develop and fill route with Davis.
Taking Davis also indicates that Wisconsin is likely to target a pair of running backs in this class. It makes sense as Chris James and Taiwan Deal will be gone no matter what after this upcoming season. Deal may not even make it to the 2018 season given the multiple ankle surgeries he’s now had, so this shouldn’t be a surprise.
Wisconsin has the first back in the fold already and Davis is only likely to help his stock as the offseason goes on. It’s easy to see why when you see his high school film progress throughout his junior season.
Chalk Davis up as a sleeper the Badgers locked in place early, classic Wisconsin recruiting if you will. As for the position going forward, the key will be figuring out if this class has two running backs in it or not. A lot depends on how much faith they have in Sam Brodner coming back from knee injury.
Wisconsin has six offers out currently at running back, but its most recent offer went out to Buford, Ga. product Derrian Brown. He is a 4-star prospect who has a 100 percent 247Sports Crystal Ball to Auburn, but the Badgers have been close to big names at running back in the state of Georgia in the past and that experience may help them in this recruitment.
If the Badgers do go with two running backs, look for the second name to not even be a name offered as of yet. Wisconsin’s tradition at running back will help and they’ve been notorious in taking their time to evaluate the position in past recruiting classes. So, don’t be surprised to see this recruiting board change a lot in the coming months.
State of Recruiting:
Wisconsin will always be in the mix for some of the big names at the position, but they are also in a position to be selective. The fit has to be right, and sometimes that frustrates fans who see 5-star after 5-star running back going anywhere but Wisconsin. Chryst and his staff hit a home run in identifying and flipping Jonathan Taylor from Rutgers in the 2017 class.
In 2018 the Badgers got a more powerful back in Nakia Watson, who still has plenty of speed to like in his game too.
Now in 2019, it appears the Badgers identified the speed back they’d like to work with in Davis, what else will the Badgers look for on the recruiting trail at running back? That’s the question that needs answering.
Badgers 2019 QB Mertz has big week on camp circuit
UW’s top QB recruit in history is having himself a nice showing on the biggest of national stages.
We’ve officially entered the period where it’s time to pace back and forth as a college football fan. After all, we’re just a month or so from the opening of fall camps and that means the anxiousness for another season reaches a fever pitch.
It also means a rough period in terms of actual news for most programs. Not so for the Wisconsin Badgers, who have been busy adding big pieces to their 2019 recruiting class.
However, the biggest piece to the 2019 class is arguably quarterback Graham Mertz. After re-affirming his commitment to the Badgers, it has been time to hit the camp circuit once again for the rising 4-star QB.
The final week of June saw Mertz dazzle those in attendance and his fellow players at the Rivals Challenge.
— Rivals (@Rivals) July 1, 2018
Mike Farrell named Mertz and Auburn commit Bo Nixon as the two most impressive quarterbacks at the event. He stated the two were “head and shoulders” above the rest at the event’s opening session.
Farrell wasn’t the only one that impressed according to The Zone sports director Zach Heilprin.
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) June 28, 2018
It was a perfect prelude to the biggest summer recruiting event of the year — The Opening Finals. For Mertz and 11 other quarterbacks it was also the Elite 11 finals.
Just 12 quarterbacks get invited to this prestigious event, where they receive intense scrutiny and some of the best coaching available outside of their actual college environments.
Mertz passed the test early on in the Elite 11 finals, impressing 247Sports national recruiting director Steve Wiltfong.
I thought #Wisconsin QB commit Graham Mertz was sharp on day one of The Opening Finals. He also says Madison is the best place to develop into an NFL signal-caller: https://t.co/fYzOLadE2s #Badgers @Evan_Flood
— Steve Wiltfong (@SWiltfong247) July 1, 2018
However, when the individual rankings of the QB’s came out from day to day at the event, Mertz wasn’t near the top. However, this seems to be more because he’s not showing off the big arm he has and is instead choosing to play it safe with underneath routes and short throws in 7-on-7 action. It very well could be that Mertz is simply there to compete and gain experience more than worrying about impressing so-called scouting experts.
There are still a few more days to go in the overall The Opening event, but one thing is very clear from Mertz’s performances over the last two big events of the summer — he is the elite level quarterback that Wisconsin fans have been waiting to see in the Cardinal and White.
Of course, this is projecting pure arm talent, but there’s no doubt that few quarterbacks come to UW with as much hype and hope attached to them as Mertz. The good news is that he came in to these events with plenty of hype and hope and lived up to it all.
Badgers add pair of defensive recruits following weekend visits
UW continues a red hot 2019 recruiting class with two big additions on the defensive side of the ball.
The University of Wisconsin’s summer official visit weekends are starting to pay dividends in the first year. With back-to-back weekends of large groups of official visitors, UW has now added two new members of the 2019 class.
On Sunday, defensive lineman Gio Paez, who is listed as a defensive tackle by 247Sports but will start as a defensive end, made his verbal pledge coming off the heels of his official visit.
Paez comes to the Badgers as the No. 66 ranked defensive tackle in the country and is the second player from the state of North Carolina in the class as of today.
Just 24 hours later, UW got commitment No. 12 in the class as high 3-star cornerback Semar Melvin made his verbal commitment via Twitter.
— Semar Melvin. (@SemarMelvin) June 18, 2018
Melvin was long considered a big lean to the Badgers, but the official visit apparently sealed the deal.
Getting Melvin also continues the Badgers long tradition of pulling up and coming defensive backs out of South Florida. He picked UW over some major offers from the likes of Oklahoma, North Carolina, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Louisville, Virginia, Mississippi State, UCF, and others.
He joins fellow Florida cornerback James Williams from the Sunshine State and is the 27th player from the state to join the program since 2000.
UW is expected to have about 4 to 6 more spots available in this class and summer visits are going to continue to play a key role in getting this class completely put together.
QB Graham Mertz earns invite to The Opening after Elite 11 showing
The University of Wisconsin has ha a habit of getting their evaluations pretty spot on at the quarterback position since the arrival of head coach Paul Chryst.
So, when they went after little-known Mission (Kan.) Blue Valley North high school quarterback Graham Mertz early in the 2019 recruiting cycle it made others begin to take notice. Since that offer, Mertz has done nothing but live up to the Badgers early evaluation of him as a top pro-style quarterback in the 2019 class.
Over this past weekend, Mertz, who is rated a four-star prospect and the No. 5 ranked pro-style quarterback according to the 247Sports composite rankings, had a chance to cement himself as a member of the elite QB prospects in the class at the Elite 11 competition.
He did just that, earning high praise all weekend long and also earning an invite to The Opening along with 11 of the 24 other quarterbacks that were at the Elite 11 Finals this past weekend.
According to 247Sports’ Greg Biggins, Mertz had a great overall weekend despite a bit of an up-and-down day on Saturday.
“Mertz was great on Friday, struggled Saturday and was solid Sunday,” said Biggins. “He’s a high-upside kid with all the physical tools you could want in a next-level quarterback. When you combine his size and makeup as well, he has among the biggest potentials this group.”
Things looked really good for Mertz after Friday, with Biggins rating him as the No. 3 performer of the day.
For those following along with Mertz and the recruiting trail in general, this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Wisconsin figured out his high upside potential far in advance of almost every other Power 5 program in the country and have been hanging on to his commitment despite his status as an elite prospect continuing to grow.
Hanging on has seemed to be the appropriate term, as fans have long seen a trend of UW being the first to get a commitment from a big player and watching the player blow up and de-commit. It has happened twice already in the 2019 class with four-star wide receiver Nolan Groulx and three-star safety Bryson Shaw.
It’s been a spring full of big offers for Mertz too, including hard efforts from the likes of Ohio State and Notre Dame so far.
Through it all, Mertz has kept open communication with the Badgers coaching staff and has yet to take any other visits. However, this upcoming weekend could be huge, as Mertz comes to the Madison campus for his official visit.
Mertz has yet to publicly flat-out say he won’t be listening to the likes of Ohio State and Notre Dame, but he also hasn’t set up any other official visits and hasn’t seen any other campuses that haven’t been around areas in which he has played games or been to camps this offseason.
With the Badgers winning back-to-back New Years Six contests and contending for a berth in the College Football Playoff this past season, it could be holding on to an elite prospect like Mertz that can make the difference going forward.
It is also good to know that UW will have a spotlight player at the biggest recruiting event of the summer in The Opening, which will take place June 30 – July 3 in Dallas, Texas.
This month is going to be huge towards setting the final push for UW’s 2019 class, and Mertz’s status and performance will be the biggest key to all of that.
Badgers add in-state DT to 2019 recruiting class
Wisconsin stops a backslide in the 2019 recruiting class with the addition of an in-state DT.
After starting off red-hot in the 2019 recruiting cycle, the past few weeks have been a bit tumultuous for the Wisconsin Badgers. With a pair of verbal commits backing off their pledges, UW needed some good news.
He comes to the Badgers from Janesville (Craig), Wis. and with a hugely athletic background for a big man. At 6-4 and 295 pounds, Benton has the frame to be a big man in the middle for UW going forward.
Benton’s athleticism shouldn’t be questioned based on the tape and the fact that he is one of the state’s top heavyweight wrestlers. He was the runner up at 285 pounds at the 2018 state individual wrestling meet.
With the loss of Olive Sagapolu after this upcoming season, the Badgers coaching staff is going to need reinforcements at the position in a big way. Only incoming freshman Bryson Williams is currently capable of playing at the nose guard position in UW’s 3-4 defensive base scheme.
Following the loss of 4-star wide receiver Nolan Groulx and safety Bryson Shaw (Ohio State), getting back on track towards filling out the class was hugely important.
What will be interesting is if the Badgers continue to look for interior defensive line help, with only two players at the position and both of them within their first two years of eligibility.
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