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Badgers Recruiting

No drama for Badgers on 1st early national signing day

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The Wisconsin Badgers football program was expected to sign 19 players in the 2018 football recruiting class. It took just opening day of the first early signing period for all 19 players to sign on the dotted line and send those faxes in.

“Today is a special day, not only for the Wisconsin football program, but also for the young men and their families who have worked so hard for this opportunity,” head coach Paul Chryst said. “I want to congratulate all of them and welcome them into the Badger family.

“It’s been extremely rewarding to get to know all of our signees and their families throughout this process. What I’ve been most impressed with is how well they fit with one another, within our football program and with the University of Wisconsin. We obviously feel they can add value to our team on the field, but just as important is how their personalities, character and work ethic fit this university and our football program.”

Headlining the class is the lone 247Sports composite 4-star player to commit to the Badgers in this class — inside linebacker Jack Sanborn. The Deer Park, Ill. (Lake Zurich) product was an early commit to the Badgers back in March of 2017. He is ranked as the No. 17 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 4 player in the state of Illinois.

But, the Badgers focused on adding a lot of speed and length in this class, especially at the skill positions.

Wisconsin signed four wide receivers in this class, adding a pair of teammates from West Bloomfield, Mich. in A.J. Abbott and Taj Mustapha as well as New York prospect Aron Cruickshank and Indiana speedster Isaac Guerendo.

The state of Michigan was also a big headline, as Wisconsin signed five players from the state for the first time in a single class ever. While none were from the powerhouse of Detroit Cass Tech, the Badgers found a niche in the state and planting the ‘W’ in the state could lead to bigger things down the road.

In addition to the pair of receivers from West Bloomfield, the Badgers got their lone offensive lineman in this class from Michigan as well. UW added 3-star tackle Michael Furtney out of Milan, Mich. He is rated as the No. 60 offensive tackle in the country, but at 6-5 and 280 pounds has the frame to add to his size and build behind a loaded offensive tackle group right now.

Perhaps the most intriguing prospect from the so-called “Michigan 5” is on the other side of the ball — safety Reggie Pearson.

The 5-10, 180 defensive back has the range and ability to play safety at the next level quickly.

Finally, athlete and likely flex-tight end, Jaylan Franklin was added to mix. He played quarterback and linebacker at the high school level, but his athleticism and size make him a prime target for the Badgers tight end group.

Wisconsin singed one of its lowest number of in-state scholarship players in recent memory, adding just four players from the Badger state in this class. However, it was considered a down year in terms of scholarship prospects from Wisconsin.

Leading the in-state contingent is Boyd Dietzen out of powerhouse Kimberly. He is joined by fellow defensive line prospect Cormac Sampson. Both were 3-star prospects, with Dietzen rated as the No. 23 strong-side defensive end in the country and Sampson as the No. 38 weak-side defensive end in the country.

The duo was also the No. 1 and 2 ranked players in the state of Wisconsin.

UW rounded out the in-state haul with a pair of inside linebackers in Mason Platter (Menomonie, Wis.) and CJ Goetz (Waukesha, Wis.).

Along with Dietzen and Sampson, the Badgers also loaded up on out-of-state defensive linemen. They picked up signatures from right in the back yard of two Big Ten rivals. Signatures came from 3-star products Isaiah Mullens (Columbus, Ohio) and defensive tackle Bryson Williams (Lincoln, Neb.).

However, the most intriguing and needed position in this class came at cornerback, and the Badgers added a pair of potentially great prospects to the mix. Look for Humble, Texas native Travian Blaylock and Georgia product Donte Burton to get a chance to contribute early.

The pair both rank as top 60 cornerbacks in the country.

UW also added California native Alexander Smith to the mix at cornerback.

With the Badgers losing three of its biggest contributors on the defensive line to graduation and potentially three-quarters of its starting secondary too, it was no surprise to see them load up on these groups.

One position everyone watches was lower on the Badgers radar this season as they added 3-star quarterback Chase Wolf to the mix. He was rated as one of the lower prospects on UW’s list, coming in as the No. 35 ranked pro-style quarterback and No. 963 ranked player in the country.

But, the scholarship players weren’t the only ones in the mix. In total the Badgers added 26 players in this class, as they also announced six preferred walk-on’s to the class as well.

Those walk-on’s are quarterback Nate Carter (Waunakee, Wis.), inside linebacker John Chenal (Grantsburg, Wis.), tight end Jack Eschenbach (Downers Grove, Ill.), athlete Mike Gregoire (Green Bay, Wis.), offensive tackle Andrew Lyons (Kenohsa, Wis.), running back Brady Schipper (Stoughton, Wis.) and outside linebacker Marty Strey (Sun Prairie, Wis.).

*all rankings courtesy of the 247Sports composite.

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

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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Badgers Recruiting

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.

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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.

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.

The two commits have also had a big impact on the Badgers recruiting rankings. Wisconsin currently as the No. 19 ranked class in the country and the No. 3 class in the Big Ten.

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.

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Badgers Recruiting

QB Graham Mertz earns invite to The Opening after Elite 11 showing

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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.

 

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Badgers Recruiting

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.

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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.

Late Friday night, that good news came in the form of a verbal commitment from rising 2019 defensive tackle Keeanu Benton.

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.

UW currently sits with the No. 20 ranked class in the country and the No. 4 ranked class in the Big Ten. Benton’s addition also means the Badgers are up to eight verbal commitments in the class.

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