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 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.
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.
Wisconsin Badgers 2019 Football Recruiting: An early defensive line outlook
While the defensive line may not get all the glory, if 2017 proved anything it’s a vital position for success in the 3-4 defense. What does the 2019 recruiting class look at along the line?
With the 2018 Wisconsin Badgers recruiting class already signed, sealed and delivered, it is truly an offseason to look forward to what lies ahead for the program.
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. This time up it’s the position that doesn’t get a lot of glory, but could be vital for UW’s defensive success — defensive line.
Wisconsin may not end up with a ton on the recruiting trail at this position in 2019. What with eight defensive ends either signed in 2018 or currently part of the scholarship group heading in to 2019. However, they will likely look to even things out a bit with three players likely to graduate after 2019.
Look for the Badgers to target two defensive ends and a pair of defensive tackles, which we’ll get to in a bit.
Defensive tackle, defensive tackle and defensive tackle.
We can’t stress that enough in this recruiting class, as there is currently just one player who fills that role on the roster as we speak. That one person is 2018 signee Bryson Williams, who is likely to be the primary backup to Olive Sagapolu this upcoming season. I just don’t see the Badgers using Garrett Rand as an inside player after seeing his athletic ability over the past two seasons. Either way, depth at the defensive tackle position is lacking and Wisconsin needs to solve that issue.
Priority No. 1 in that vein is Lloyd Murray Jr. the No. 61 ranked defensive tackle in the country. A Wichita Falls, Texas product, Murray Jr. is likely the Badgers No. 1 target and his film suggests someone who the Badgers would love to have. It doesn’t hurt that fellow Texas products are having great careers so far at UW.
A name that seems to be under the radar in terms of the recruiting services, but not the schools is Wake Forest, North Carolina recruit Jaden McKenzie. Wisconsin joins other schools like Boston College, Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest and West Virginia in the mix.
Switching over to the outside of the defensive line, the Badgers have struck up a good relationship with Michigan product Michael Fletcher and could also be looking hard at Florida powerhouse program St. Thomas Aquinas’ Braylen Ingraham. Outside of those two, a lot of the players the Badgers have offers out to aren’t realistic options at this point.
State of Recruiting at DL:
Per usual, this position group is slow-developing in terms of early commitments. Wisconsin has some in-state talent it can pull from, but appears to have its early focus out of the state instead. That’s understandable, as this offseason should set the tone for where UW stands with some of the bigger offers it has out there.
Look for the summer to really heat up recruiting at both defensive end and defensive tackle. That’s good news because the pickings seem slim in terms of realistic options heading out of the winter and in to spring. UW has to start identifying and getting these kids on campus sooner or they will be left with a disappointing crop at both positions.
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