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Badgers Recruiting

4-star TE adds to Badgers impressive 2019 recruiting class

Wisconsin continues to impress on the 2019 recruiting trail, adding 4-star tight end Hayden Rucci to the mix on Monday morning

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The ink isn’t even ready on the fax machine for national signing day to finish up the 2018 class, but already the Wisconsin Badgers 2019 recruiting class is off to a flying start.

On Monday morning that class grew by one, as 4-star tight end Hayden Rucci gave his verbal pledge to the Badgers.

Rucci is the No. 11 ranked tight end in the country and the No. 3 ranked player in the state of Pennsylvania. He’s also fourth 4-star player in the 2019 class to give a verbal commitment to the Badgers.

He also chose the Badger over offers from the likes of Michigan State, Duke, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers, Boston College, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana and others.

At 6-5, 225 pounds before he even enters the second half of his junior year, Rucci is in a good position to grow in to his frame and continue to show the pass-catching skills that are on display in his highlight film. Most importantly, he shows an ability to get in the trenches and block as well.

Perhaps my favorite highlight comes at about the one-minute mark here, as Rucci goes out to block on a run play and drives some poor linebacker about 20 yards down field before pancaking him for good measure.

If ever there was a high-skilled tight end that fit what Wisconsin likes to do at the position, Rucci is exactly that fit. His combination of blocking and being able to split out make him a dangerous prospect at the next level. It doesn’t hurt that he is a more finished prospect already than anyone not named Kyle Penniston was coming out of high school.

Rucci’s commitment isn’t just big for the position, it continues a start to the 2019 class that could see the Badgers one of the big players on the national recruiting scene. As we speak, Wisconsin has eight commitments in the class and half of them are 4-star players. Currently Wisconsin has the No. 1 ranked class in the Big Ten and the No. 3 ranked class in the country.

That’s what happens when you identify guys that are high priority targets early on in the process and have their verbal commitments early on as well.

Wisconsin’s eight commitments also has a larger effect on the recruiting processes of other players UW is targeting. While eight players doesn’t seem like a lot, by out count, the Badgers only have spots available for 14-16 players at the most. As the roster stands today, Wisconsin would have 79 of the 85 allowed scholarship players in the fold (including the 8 commits for 2019).

It means, the timelines for players who really want to be a Badger could be moving up. Additionally, it means the Badgers have a bigger luxury to lock in on top targets and really find out where they stand. Getting many of their top targets to commit this early is new territory for the Badgers, but it could be the cushion they need to really lock down a top class that could change things in a big way in Madison.

The excitement over this class is understandable and Rucci’s addition shows that the momentum is real for the Badgers. However, we’ve got nearly 11 months to go before the first signing day for this class and that means a lot of work still needs to be done to keep this group together.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Badgers Recruiting

Wisconsin Badgers 2019 Early Signing Day Preview: Running Back

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Believe it or not, the time to look ahead to 2019 is already here. While there is still the Pinstripe Bowl to be played, UW’s coaching staff is squarely focused on getting its recruiting class over the finish line. 

For many, that means signing on the early national signing day (Dec. 19) and we’ll be breaking down each position group as it stands heading in to the first time these recruits can officially call themselves Badgers. 

Previous Positions: QB | DE |

Up today is the position that garners more attention than any at Wisconsin — running back. 

UW Needs: 1
UW Commits: 1

Expected to Sign Early: Julius Davis

Wisconsin hasn’t grabbed an in-state running back since it went back-to-back at Kenosha Bradford with Melvin Gordon and Vonte Jackson. One worked out well and the other just couldn’t overcome multiple knee injuries. 

So, when a running back in the state gets a scholarship from the Badgers this man is likely a serious player. They could’ve swung big in this class, but felt like Davis fit right in to what this offense is all about — the power run game. If he’s good enough for this coaching staff, he should be good enough for the fan base. 

Biggest Get: Davis

Yes, both Chris James and Taiwan Deal were graduating, but this group still has four scholarship running backs heading in to 2019. So, adding only one player was always going to be the plan in this recruiting class.

Biggest Miss: None

Wisconsin wasn’t a heavy player with some of the higher ranked players in the 2019 class, but if we had to pick, maybe the name Patrick Garwo, who has pledged to Boston College, could fall in this category. 

Biggest Target Still Out There: None

As we’ve referenced above, the Badgers have been done at running back for some time now and with next to no space left in the class they aren’t going to reach to add a second player at this position in 2019. 

What to Expect from this Class: More of the Same

Wisconsin has a long tradition of quality at the running back spot and expecting anything less would be a disappointment in any class that includes just one back. 

That said, Davis is one of the more powerful backs I’ve seen on film coming out of high school. He certainly doesn’t shy away from contact, but what makes him special is his ability to also make a cut and make you miss because you’re so focused on the physicality. 

Davis is a sneaky-good back and honestly looks the part of a Badgers back when you put his film on. His recruitment was quick, with only another offer from Buffalo coming at the time of his pledge to UW. 

All you need to know is that both USC and Notre Dame offered him and attempted to pry him away this past spring…to no avail. 

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Badgers Recruiting

Wisconsin Badgers 2019 Early Signing Day Preview: Defensive End

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Believe it or not, the time to look ahead to 2019 is already here. While there is still the Pinstripe Bowl to be played, UW’s coaching staff is squarely focused on getting its recruiting class over the finish line. 

For many, that means signing on the early national signing day (Dec. 19) and we’ll be breaking down each position group as it stands heading in to the first time these recruits can officially call themselves Badgers. 

Previous Positions: QB |

Up today is the position that has plenty of playing time up for grabs in 2019 — defensive end. 

UW’s Needs: 2
UW Commits: 1

Expected to Sign Early: Gio Paez

Paez may be listed as a defensive tackle, but he’ll play end for the Badgers. His offer list is also impressive, with the likes of Kentucky, Louisville, NC State, Nebraska, Texas A&M and UCF extending offers. 

Biggest Get: Paez

So far Paez is the only one committed and likely to sign early, so this is by default. More on Paez as a player later though. 

Biggest Miss: Aeneas DiCosmo

Wisconsin threw out a ton of offers to highly rated prospects at defensive end in this class, but one of the more realistic names in the group was Aeneas DiCosmo, who wanted the most out of academics and athletics. 

Unfortunately, the Badgers history with players in the state of New Jersey wasn’t enough to get him to commit to the Badgers over Stanford. Wisconsin cooled on him over the summer after having him on campus back in March of this year, as the writing appeared to be on the wall that they weren’t going to win this battle. 

Still, this is the type of athlete that could’ve been very interesting to get on the line and missing out on high academic and athletic kids is always a bigger blow than a miss on a 5-star pie-in-the-sky kind of offer. 

Biggest Target Still Out There: Ja’Darien Boykin

Boykin is a 4-star prospect that appears unlikely to sign come the early signing period and rumblings have the Badgers sniffing around this recruitment in the hopes of jumping to the front of a crowded group of suitors. 

So far names like Arizona State, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Washington State are in the mix. But, a Wisconsin offer would clearly be his most recognizable school on the list and he has yet to use his official visits. 

The Georgia product would be a huge win for the Badgers and a step in upgrading the potential of the entire defensive line position. 

What to Expect: Classic Wisconsin Projects

There’s no denying that the Badgers are in desperate need of help at defensive end. Both Kayden Lyles and Matt Henningsen were stop-gaps that likely would’ve seen limited reps had both Garrett Rand (who missed all season) and Isaiahh Loudermilk (played in eight games) been healthy. 

But, with a class of three defensive linemen that decided to redshirt this past year the depth chart looks too deep for Paez or anyone else coming in and contributing right away. 

Add in the fact that Paez has some things to clearly work on and you’re looking a player who the Badgers may be able to bring along slowly and allow to dominate later in his career in Madison. Don’t be surprised to hear his name in the rotation in two years time though, because the raw talent is certainly there. 

Wisconsin is also clearly looking around to add another name to the class at defensive end given what they saw on the roster in 2018. Expect this to be one of biggest areas of emphasis for the coaching staff over the next few months. 

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Badgers Recruiting

Wisconsin Badgers 2019 Early Singing Day Preview: Quarterback

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Believe it or not, the time to look ahead to 2019 is already here. While there is still the Pinstripe Bowl to be played, UW’s coaching staff is squarely focused on getting its recruiting class over the finish line. 

For many, that means signing on the early national signing day (Dec. 19) and we’ll be breaking down each position group as it stands heading in to the first time these recruits can officially call themselves Badgers. 

Up today is the position everyone is talking about heading in to the offseason — quarterback. 

UW’s Needs: 1
UW Commits: 1

Expected to Sign: Graham Mertz

Mertz comes in as the No. 4 ranked pro-style quarterback in the country according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He also finished off his high school career at Blue Valley North High School in electrifying fashion, completing 62.3 percent of his passes (238 of 382) for 3,883 yards and 51 touchdowns. 

But, what is perhaps the most impressive part of Mertz’s game is just how smooth he looks on film. There isn’t a choppy part to his game, few mechanical issues that are obvious to the naked eye and frankly is the first quarterback coming out of high school that looks the part of a star I’ve ever seen in a lifetime of watching Badgers football. 

Let the film speak for itself with Mertz’s game. 

Biggest Get: Mertz

Getting the No. 1 guy on your board is always a huge win. Doing so with one of the best players at their position in the country, that’s a double win. Wisconsin did exactly that in targeting Mertz early on in the process and staying all over him. 

UW outlasted huge late efforts from the who’s who of college football in Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Miami (FL), Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State to name a few. 

Biggest Miss: None

Simply put, the Badgers wanted Mertz from the get-go and got him in the fold. There is no miss when it comes to a top 5 quarterback in this recruiting class. 

What to Expect: Consistency

No quarterback in the recruiting rankings era has come in to Wisconsin as highly-touted as Mertz will and it is his consistency from camp to camp and game to game that has won many scouts over. 

It’s also perhaps the one thing that the Badgers missed most from the quarterback position in 2018. The inconsistency from veteran Alex Hornibrook and the inexperience from sophomore Jack Coan was painful to watch. 

Does that mean Mertz comes right in and takes over the starting position? A lot will depend on two factors — how quickly Mertz can adjust to the speed and verbiage of the college game and how will Chryst and Co. handle offseason competition. 

If Mertz can show command of the offense and the consistency everyone is craving…what is the point of not riding through a few bumps for what could be a stellar player down the line? We’ll see if Chryst allows real competition or rides with Hornibrook through a final season out of loyalty. 

No player will be under a bigger microscope come spring ball than Mertz will be. Let’s see how he handles the big lights before anointing him as the savior of UW football. 

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Badgers Recruiting

Badgers get IMG Academy WR Cameron Phillips’ verbal commitment

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The 2019 early signing period is almost upon us and the Wisconsin Badgers continue to look to add to their class. 

On Saturday morning they got a big commitment as 3-star wide receiver Cameron Phillips announced his intention to sign with the Badgers. 

Phillips is a name that has gone under the radar largely because he didn’t play a down of football in 2018 after suffering a knee injury in the spring while working out at IMG Academy. 

He is commitment No. 18 in the 2019 class for the Badgers and one of the final pieces to the puzzle. But, that doesn’t mean he is an afterthought either. 

He is the No. 75 ranked wide receiver in the class and the No. 578 ranked player in the country according to the 247Sports composite rankings. 247Sports has him as the No. 90 wide receiver and the No. 662 player in the country by their own rankings. 

Phillips is very familiar with the Badgers program, having been recruited by UW for the better part of two years and getting in an unofficial visit last November. 

“Wisconsin was definitely one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever experienced,” Phillips said last year, via Badger247. “The fans were awesome and I loved the energy coming from the players and coaches.”

The film on Phillips from his junior year shows a player that was used in a variety of ways, but also appears to be a perfect fit in the slot and could be a replacement for the likes of A.J. Taylor, who will graduate in the next few years. 

Wisconsin also appears to be one of the few programs that stayed hard on him after his injury and may have been able to steal a really quality commitment from under some big programs as well. 

With Phillips in the picture, Wisconsin’s recruiting class sits at No. 27 in the nation and No. 6 in the Big Ten as we approach the early signing period. 

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