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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. 

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 Breakdown: Tight End

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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.

Previous Positions: QB | DE | RB | CB |WR | DT |

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.

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Badgers Recruiting

Wisconsin Badgers 2019 Early Signing Day Breakdown: Defensive Tackle

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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. 

Previous Positions: QB | DE | RB | CB |WR |

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. 

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Badgers Recruiting

Wisconsin Badgers 2019 Early Signing Day Breakdown: Wide Receiver

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Believe it or not, national signing day is jus a day away for future Wisconsin Badgers.

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. 

Fax machines are being dusted off and the vast majority of UW’s 2019 class will be in the fold on Wednesday. With that in mind, let’s continue our breakdown of each position group. 

Previous Positions: QB | DE | RB | CB |

Up today is a look at a position that had a lot of transition and little help from the quarterback spot — wide receiver. 

UW Needs: 1
UW Commits: 2

Expected to Sign Early: Stephan Bracey, Cameron Phillips *

*Phillips will be a walk-on commit due to an ACL tear in spring of 2018

Wisconsin didn’t have a big need here, but it also had two big names in the fold for a long time (more on that later). In the end, they got two very different prospects — one that blossomed late and another that went from heating up to cooling off thanks to injury. 

Biggest Get: Stephan Bracey

It may feel a bit underwhelming knowing that a flip from Western Michigan was the biggest get of the group, but that is the reality. So is the fact that Bracey flew under the radar until his final season in which he showcased more than just pure speed. 

His recruitment feels like a classic win for the Badgers, who were able to find a gem late and get his commitment before others began to catch on. 

Don’t be surprised to see him become a big player at wide receiver in a few years. 

Biggest Miss: Nolan Grouix

Any time a 4-star wide receiver says good bye to your recruiting class it’s not good. Such is the case with losing Grouix, who the Badgers landed a very early commit from. However, the North Carolina native eventually was swayed to stay home and it was a big loss for the Badgers as he decided to head to Wake Forest instead. 

It was one of two losses at the position with Marcus Graham also parting ways, this time in favor of Stanford. Still, Grouix was the larger loss considering his film and his recruiting ranking. 

Biggest Target Still Out There: None

With the get of Phillips on a grayshirt, the Badgers are done and should be done at the position in this class. They need save spots for the next few years to hopefully even things out at the position going forward. 

What to Expect From This Group: Speed

Kendric Pryor and A.J. Taylor were impressive in 2018, as the duo picked up a ton of slack and could be counted on in tough situations. But, this team sorely missed the speed and size that Quintez Cephus brought to the table. 

It’s highly unlikely that  Cephus will ever see the field again for the Badgers, so UW needed to find some options that gave them more and more speed to go along with some size. 

Wisconsin gets that in spades thanks to it’s push to flip Bracey from Western Michigan. Now the Badgers will get to pair him with Aron Cruickshank as perhaps the fastest pair of receivers in Badgers history. 

Getting Phillips as a walk-on was a steal as well (he is the No. 88 ranked player at wide receiver in the country after all), and he gives the size and potentially more speed as well depending on how his recovery from a knee injury goes. If the gamble was right, UW has a pair of potentially impactful wide receivers to add to a group that can be really good with some help from the QB spot. 

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Badgers Recruiting

Wisconsin Badgers 2019 Early Signing Day Breakdown: Cornerback

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Believe it or not, national signing day is jus a day away for future Wisconsin Badgers.

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. 

Fax machines are being dusted off and the vast majority of UW’s 2019 class will be in the fold on Wednesday. With that in mind, let’s continue our breakdown of each position group. 

Previous Positions: QB | DE | RB |

Up today is a look at a position that saw a lot of youth last season — cornerback. 

UW Needs: 3
UW Commits: 3

Expected to Sign Early: Semar Melvin, Dean Engram, James Williams

One of the most impressive parts to UW’s recruiting efforts in 2019 and in general since the arrival of Paul Chryst and Jim Leonhard has been the Badgers ability to recruit well at the cornerback position. 

That was on full display with the youth that made it on the field in 2018, but just take a look at this class and where they are from. Wisconsin was able to land players from three of the biggest name programs on the East Coast in St. Thomas Aquinas, Chaminade-Madonna Prep and Gonzaga. 

UW has two cornerbacks in the top 100 at the position and the third comes in at No. 115. You have to like the potential those numbers suggest. 

Biggest Get: Semar Melvin

Any time you get a player out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale, you’ve done something right. Previous classes at Wisconsin have paved the path to a good relationship at the school and Melvin was easily the Badgers biggest realistic target and they were able to get him committed early in the process. 

UW beat out the likes of Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Louisville, Mississippi State and a host of others who made offers. 

His size (6-1) and athleticism are very attractive for a position group that is a bit smaller in stature as well. If there’s an immediate impact player in this trio, Melvin appears ready to be that player as long as he can put on some good weight in the coming months.  

Biggest Miss: None

This is another position that the Badgers hit on the offers they realistically were in the game for. Once UW got hot with Melvin, Engram and Williams, other names became de-prioritized and pulling a name like Engram away from Penn State was as huge as they come considering the head-to-head losses suffered in the past on the recruiting trail. 

You may say a name like Jalen Alexander or Warren Burrell would’ve been nice, but after the Badgers offered things never really heated up between the two sides. We’ll have to track to see if either become a major name. 

Biggest Target Still Out There: None

Like almost all positions, the Badgers appear done here heading in to 2019’s first and secondary signing periods. Unless something crazy happens, this position group appears to be on lockdown. 

What to Expect From This Class: Competition

Yes, Wisconsin returns a ton of talent and a lot of players who at least saw the field in 2018. But, don’t expect this coaching staff to let experience win out over talent when things play out on the field come spring and fall camps. 

No player was consistent enough last season to have just automatically earned a spot in the rotation in 2019. So, look for the likes of Melvin, Engram and Williams to get a crack at making an early impact. 

I love what this group brings to the table and the more competitive practices are the better off this young secondary is going to be going forward. It will also be nice to know they don’t have to produce right away and can be impactful with slow growth instead of having to be thrown out there out of necessity. 

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