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 get commitment from 2020 OLB Cole Dakovich
The 209 football recruiting cycle hasn’t technically ended and already things are heating up quickly for the 2020 Wisconsin Badgers recruiting class.
A day after accepting a verbal pledge from in-state wide receiver Chimere Dike, the Badgers now have their 6th member of the 2020 class with Waukesha (Wis.) Catholic outside linebacker Cole Dakovich announcing his pledge on Twitter on Friday morning.
This was another quick recruiting life cycle, as UW offered on Saturday during their first junior day and Dakovich jumped on the offer a week later.
He is another under the radar recruit, with the Badgers offer being his only to date. However, that is more likely because Dakovich has played only one year of football since the 7th grade and it was a productive year at that.
In his first year back to playing football, Dakovich racked up 105 tackles, 18 for loss, 2.0 sacks, two interceptions, and three forced fumbles. He also had 16 receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown on the offensive side of the ball.
Wisconsin has a long and storied history of identifying these types of prospects and having them turn out well over their time in Madison.
He is not ranked by any of the scouting services out there, that’s how little football he has played to date.
The Badgers are now 11th nationally in the 2020 team recruiting rankings after some movement around the country yesterday.
In-state 2020 WR picks Badgers
Just a month after the Wisconsin Badgers got the 2019 football class signed, they got their fifth verbal pledge to their 2020 class.
Following an offer at junior day on Saturday, Waukesha (Wis.) West wide receiver Chimere Dike jumped at the chance to follow the team he’s been a fan of all of his life.
Getting this commitment gives UW five players in the mix, but also their first non-offensive lineman commit in the class.
Wisconsin is getting a player they found early in his football playing days and only competed with Iowa State for a scholarship offer to date.
This past season Dike caught 79 passes for 1,091 yards and 12 touchdowns. At 6-1, 170 pounds, Dike gives UW a nice frame to work with and his production says there is potential here.
It has led to him being rated a 3-star prospect by 247sports and the No. 6 ranked player in the state. He’s also the No. 99 ranked wide receiver in the 2020 class.
Wisconsin had him near the top of their board and getting him to verbally commit this quickly has to make the coaching staff very happy.
It also means the Badgers continue to keep a very high national ranking for this class. Wisconsin is ranked No. 10 in the country and No. 2 in the Big Ten right now. They also have a crazy .890 average player rating for the class so far.
Wisconsin Badgers 2019 Early Signing Day Breakdown: Tight End
All 19 scholarships the Wisconsin Badgers had to offer in the 2019 recruiting class have been spoken for. Early National Signing Day was yesterday and everyone chose to put pen to paper and faxing actual Letters of Intent in.
But, we aren’t done breaking down the class and we continue our journey through the 2019 Badgers recruits today. This time it’s a look at Tight End.
UW Needs: 2
UW Commits: 2
Already Signed: Hayden Rucci, Clay Cundiff
After jumping in with some big time recruits at the position, Wisconsin got back down to looking at players who could be good blockers and pass catchers once again.
Rucci was a big get, with his recruitment a good battle amongst high-level teams. Cundiff was a late addition, flipping from Kansas during his senior season and UW believes they got a hidden gem from the 3-star recruit.
Biggest Get: Hayden Rucci
There are very different versions of what a quality tight end can be. There’s the receiver-heavy kind and the blocking-heavy kind, but in Rucci, the Badgers found a mix of both.
There wasn’t a lot of consensus on how good Rucci was in this class, with Rivals having the Badgers signee as their No. 15 ranked TE and 247Sports ranking him at No. 31.
What we can see from his junior film is someone who isn’t afraid to block on the line of scrimmage, but also has the ability to slip past defenders. Wisconsin got themselves a quality addition that may not have to immediately play should everyone else ahead of him stay healthy.
Biggest Miss: Hudson Henry
It’s not too often the Badgers are a serious contender with top-level recruits, but that was the case early on with 4-star tight end Hudson Henry. UW was given a long look by Henry, but the Little Rock, Ark. product couldn’t pass up playing for the home state Razorbacks.
Missing on the No. 60 player in the class stunk, but the Badgers ended up with some quality at the position despite this miss.
Biggest Target Still Out There: None
Wisconsin got what it wanted in this class in terms of a more well-rounded player at tight end.
What to Expect From This Group: Dual-Threat Ability
As hard as it is to admit, the Badgers offense is at its best when there are multiple looks from the tight end group. Having a blocking tight end along with a pass-catching option has made UW’s offense scary-good in the past.
With the additions of Rucci and Cundiff, Wisconsin has found two players who are good on the line of scrimmage and leaking out to receive passes as well.
Pairing either of them as they develop with the likes of Jake Ferguson could make UW’s offense really dangerous in the coming years.
Wisconsin Badgers 2019 Early Signing Day Breakdown: Defensive Tackle
Believe it or not, national signing day is here and the fax machines were buzzing early on Dec. 19th.
For many kids it is the time they finally get to do what they’ve wanted to do for months, if not years. Yes, they’ll officially be able to call themselves Wisconsin Badgers.
It’s 9:30am and believe it or not the biggest names UW had verbally committed to the program have already made it official. All the speculation and last-minute wringing of hands can cool off now.
We’ll continue to break down the class that just signed as we’ve done leading up to signing day.
Up today is a look at a position that saw injury and youth on the recruiting trail really devastate the group — defensive tackle.
UW Needs: 2
UW Commits: 3
Signed Early: Rodas Johnson, Gio Paez, Keenau Benton
With Olive Sagapolu graduating after this season and only one true nose guard/defensive tackle on the roster (Bryson Williams), this group was going to have more than one player in it.
In Benton, Johnson and Paez, the Badgers continue the trend they set with Williams — mainly concentrating on athleticism for the inside of the defensive line.
Biggest Get: Rodas Johnson
Getting a big time player at this position was a premium for the Badgers. Doing so right in Ohio State’s backyard…well that was just icing on the cake.
Wisconsin beat out the likes of Michigan and Penn State down the stretch of his recruitment and that was huge.
Johnson comes to the Badgers as the No. 29 ranked defensive tackle in the class and on film he shows potential to be a dominating force on the inside. At the very least, he’s got a college-ready body and can be the immediate back up to Williams.
Biggest Miss: Isiah Gibson
While the Badgers are happy with the three players they got, UW also was very heavily involved in the race for Gibson’s pledge. In the end it came down to the Badgers and Kentucky, with the Ohio native choosing to stay closer to home.
It also would’ve been interesting if Benton or more likely, Paez, would’ve even been in the mix had Gibson chosen Wisconsin.
Biggest Target Still Out There: None
UW has finished up its class and there are no expected signings at the position.
What to Expect From This Group: Athleticism
For all the talk of the size of Olive Sagapolu, the biggest lesson is that athleticism really matters on the inside. The ability to take on a double team or eat up space doesn’t just mean you’re a big man. It means you have the strength and athletic ability to get the job done.
When watching film on all three of UW’s signees, it’s clear that they all are athletes with big frames to work with. The more athletes along the line, the better UW’s linebackers look as well.
This will be a transformative group of inside players for Wisconsin’s defense.