NSD: A look at Wisconsin's 2014 Class

BadgerNation ranks the top five players in the 2014 recruiting class, the biggest flip, the biggest miss and much more.

MADISON - With National Signing Day just hours away, Badger Nation is ranking the top five 2013 commits.

It would be very simple to just look at player's rating and rank accordingly. But I also factored in variables such as: need, hype and location. With a lot of good players in this class, picking the top five wasn't the easiest task.

5, Kicker Rafael Gaglianone

People may scoff at me putting a kicker on this list instead of any defensive backs, but then I urge them to remember how consistently inconsistent the kicking position was the last two season for the Badgers between Kyle French and Jack Russell. Wisconsin missed 17 field goals the last two years, including seven this past season. That doesn't include the amount of points it cost UW by the coaches forcing to punt, going for it on fourth down or getting tricky because it didn't have faith in the kickers.

Gaglianone, who picked Wisconsin over an offer from N.C. State in mid-November, showed great consistency, ball flight and trajectory on the camp circuit, catching the eyes of special teams coaches who knew Jeff Genyk. UW knew it wanted a kicker to compete for the starting job right away and upgrade the position, and Gaglianone is it.

4, Offensive tackle Jaden Gault

Not only the number one prospect in Wisconsin, Gault is one of the top linemen nationally and the 141st prospect overall, making him Wisconsin's highest-ranked signee. One of four early enrollees for the Badgers, Gault will get an opportunity to compete in spring ball and add immediate depth to the Badgers' depleted offensive line, which lost two scholarship seniors and two redshirt freshmen because of health reasons.

Gault has great size (6-6, 310), mobility and potential. He hasn't seen a ton of guys that can match him for size and ability yet, but it's still impressive that he went three seasons without giving up a sack, not to mention leading his team to a division 3 state championship this past fall. He has all the tools needed to develop and is the standout of the six offensive linemen Wisconsin secured in this recruiting class.

In addition to being a darn good lineman, Gault was a great recruiter for Wisconsin, reaching out to potential recruits while on campus and through a variety of other mediums to sell them on the UW brand.

3, Quarterback D.J. Gillins

Wisconsin likes to take a quarterback every recruiting cycle, meaning a quarterback will usually be high on the list of most important players in a class. Gillins represents the new wave of quarterbacking at Wisconsin – multi-faceted, good arm and the ability to beat teams with his legs.

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig told me on signing day that Gillins is still a raw quarterback who has to get better with his drop-back mechanics and his footwork, things Ludwig can help him with. However, he added, "I can't teach him to throw, and he knows how to throw." Between two high schools, Gillins threw for 7,271 yards and 76 touchdowns.

The quarterback of the future, Gillins is on campus and will compete during the spring with hopes of being the starter – or at least involved – in 2014, meaning running the wildcat or some version of a misdirection offense isn't entirely out of the question.

2, Defensive tackle Jeremy Patterson

One half the Georgia duo to sign with UW, Patterson's commitment is important on a number of levels for Wisconsin. For starters, it opens up Wisconsin into a new region, an area that the Badgers hadn't signed a prospect in since Roderick Rogers in 2003. With as much talent as there is in the south, this was an important first step.

Second, Wisconsin found a player who projects well into the nose tackle position. If Craig Evans was 1A for the position, Patterson is 1B and Conor Sheehy is 1C (Sheehy could play either end or nose after talking to the coaches). Patterson already has the athleticism and the size to be effective at the college level but as he continues to develop and get stronger, he'll be a force in the middle for the Badgers.

Third, Wisconsin showed it could win battles outside its Midwest comfort zone. Clemson, Florida and defending national champion Florida State all extended offers, but Patterson turned them down, including cancelling a late official to the Gators. Prospects in that area take note of that kind of stuff.

1, Wide receiver Krenwick Sanders

There are a number of players who someone could put as the top recruit in this recruiting class and nobody would bat an eyelash. There's no question the Badgers need wide receivers. Wisconsin has needed a number two receiver for the past two years and now need a top receiver with Jared Abbrederis graduating. Wisconsin signed five receivers in this class and for me the best receiver of the bunch is Sanders.

The other half of the Georgia duo, Sanders finished his career with 199 catches for 3,613 yards (18.2 average) and 56 touchdown receptions, not to mention rushing for 879 yards and six touchdowns. He is a receiver who is long, rangy, has decent speed and attacks the football at its high point. He moves well and can cover a lot of ground in the secondary, making him a very attractive target for quarterbacks.

He is a very good get for Wisconsin. He will develop more fundamentals, improve his speed and strength, and will contribute early for the Badgers if he continues progressing.

Top recruiting weekend

There were eight recruiting weekends where Wisconsin hosted official visitors during the 2014 cycle (not including the weekend where UW hosted all its commits), with the Badgers coaching staff hosting 30 uncommitted scholarship players.

UW had one weekend clean sweep, nabbing both official visitors (Natrell Jamerson and Rafael Gaglianone) for the Indiana game, but its biggest weekend was its second to last. Hosting five official visitors and four uncommitted prospects, Wisconsin was able to secure verbal commits from defensive backs D'Cota Dixon and Derrick Tindal and receiver George Rushing, three Florida players who could have an immediate impact this season.

The only player who didn't commit was Kaleb McGary, who cited distance and some family reasons for staying close to home and playing for Washington.

Close second was the Penn State weekend, as the Badgers immediately landed Micah Kapoi and Dareian Watkins while they were on campus and eventually got Serge Trezy. Third was the Tennessee Tech weekend when the Badgers convinced Sanders, Patterson and Rohan Blackwood to eventually commit, although Blackwood had his scholarship pulled because of academics.

Worst recruiting weekend

It was hyped as the biggest recruiting weekend in program history and while getting Andre Godfrey, Allan Havili, Jamil Kamara, Damien Mama, Joe Mixon and John Plattenburg was a major coup for UW's reputation, not landing one of them is disheartening, which is what happened when that group visited for the Northwestern game in October. It was the only home game where UW was completely shut out.

Biggest flip

Former running back coach Thomas Hammock was adamant that Caleb Kinlaw was not a late find, but he certainly popped on UW's fans radar late. Hammock had known about Kinlaw for some time and when he went and watched him compete in late October, he was able to secure an official visit. Kinlaw, who had been committed to Georgia Tech since July and who has a cousin who was a Heisman finalist at Georgia Tech in 1999, made the flip shortly after his visit.

Wisconsin had 10 kids in this recruiting class who were previously committed to other schools, including Sanders and Gillins, but Kinlaw brings a dynamic presence that could help the Badgers this season. He can make people miss, has great vision, the ability to catch the ball in the backfield and help in the return game.

Biggest miss

Allen Trieu wrote this in his Wisconsin class snapshot in late August:

"A recent offer to Detroit King defensive back-wide receiver Jalen Embry puts the Badgers right at the top for him, although they will have to battle Iowa for his commitment. JUCO cornerback Demarlon Morris (Mesa College) has a Badger offer and will look to visit Madison this fall. Prospects on the board don't get much bigger than five-star running back Joe Mixon. The California native says he will take an official visit to Wisconsin. The Badgers also remain in the mix for another Golden State five-star, massive guard Damien Mama. Sparta (NJ) tight end Ryan Izzo will take an official visit to Madison along with Wayne County (Ga.) teammates Jeremy Patterson and Krenwick Sanders. Other top prospects looking to take officials to Madison include running back Qadree Ollison, four-star wide receiver Jalen Brown, cornerback Lubern Figaro, safety Andre Godfrey and four-star Houston cornerback John Plattenburg. Compton (Ca.) Dominguez defensive end Uriah Leiataua has Wisconsin high on his list and will visit Wisconsin in September."

Other than Figaro, Patterson and Sanders, Wisconsin missed out on all these guys. When Wisconsin gets into recruiting battles for those elite athletes, UW is going to miss more often than they hit. There are plenty of players I can put here (Craig Evans, Mixon, Kamara, etc.), but I am going with McGary, who said he really wanted to play at Wisconsin. He would have been a perfect fit for the Badgers, but outside circumstances prevented it from happening. McGary would have given UW a four-star standout 36 hours before signing day.

Second on my list is four-star cornerback Chris Lammons, who decided Wednesday morning and announced Wednesday afternoon. UW didn't know where they stood until word spread after Lammons' announcement on social media.

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