Game Week Mailbag

What does Wisconsin do now about the vacancy left by Darius Latham? What's the status of UW's other high-profile commits? What's the latest on Wisconsin-Alabama? There are a lot of good football questions to be answered in this week's Badger Nation mailbag.

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How shocking was the decision of Darius Latham to de-commit and where can UW turn to fill the void?

I am not Christmas morning surprised, but I am a little surprised it happened so quickly. I heard rumbling about this on Sunday after David Kenney, a four-star defensive end from Pike High School in Indianapolis, de-committed from Iowa Sunday morning. Before we reached out to Latham on Monday, Latham reached out to our Allen Trieu to inform him of his decision to back away from Wisconsin.

Latham and Kenney both visited Bloomington, Ind., multiple times in recent weeks and attended the Hoosiers' 52-49 loss to Ohio State on Saturday night, the Indiana student paper reported. The two apparently talked about that decision there, as Latham has been unwilling to go real depth on his decision. Is there still a chance he reconsiders? Maybe, but distance is apparently a huge factor. If that's the case, why wasn't Indiana included in his top five to begin with? Why did he talk so positively in a story if he wasn't solid? It's interesting on how this all shook out.

As you read this morning, Detroit Cass Tech defensive tackle Kenton Gibbs has been talking with tight end coach Eddie Faulkner (who recruited Latham), but likely won't take any official visits until after his season. He is certainly interested, and loved the campus when he visited in the summer.

Monty Nelson has also been a player Wisconsin has offered at the position. Talking to a source yesterday about Nelson, the person close to Nelson said he sees him going to Wisconsin. However, another source said UW hasn't been in contact with Nelson for a few months. Nelson has still expressed interest in visiting UW this fall, and I would imagine now that the Badgers would find a way to happen.

With the decision of Sojourn Shelton, is Wisconsin done recruiting cornerbacks?

They aren't, but probably won't get one. Wisconsin has been trying to get Los Angeles cornerback Cameron Walker on campus for an official visit, which may or may come for the Ohio State depending on his football schedule. If that visit doesn't happen, it will be almost impossible. Even so, I would say Walker is a California lean, where he has visited twice and has a better relationship with some of those players than any UW player.

Wisconsin has also continued to recruit Boaz Joseph, but he's waiting on Florida State or Georgia to come through with an offer. Should one of those schools come through with an offer, Joseph will likely stay South. If neither do, Joseph has been excited about going to Kentucky for an official. There are some other options out there, but Wisconsin has two solid corners now in Shelton and Keelon Brookins and will be pushing for a safety.

When one four-star recruit going elsewhere, do you think four-star Ohio receiver Rob Wheelwright will be committed on signing day to Wisconsin?

When he committed, Wheelwright told me that he would listen if another coaching staff called him and grew up a fan of Ohio State. Since committing in April, however, Wheelwright has been talking positively about Wisconsin and that he is going to be a Badger. I feel better about Wheelwright's commitment than I did previously, especially with the conversation over Twitter he had with Westerville-South safety Marcus Ball. Here is a sample of their back and forth.

How would one decipher that? Well, Wheelwright was asked twice if he was committed but didn't answer. He did say, however, that he would possibly take his official to the Ohio State game. The two play AAU basketball together and Wheelwright told me he hoped Ball would end up at Wisconsin. Why would he wish that if he wasn't there?

Talking to an Ohio State source, he said the Buckeyes don't currently have room for a fourth wide receiver, which is what he would be with OSU having five or six uncommitted receivers higher on their board. I think Wheelwright will stick with UW, but crazier things have happened in recruiting.

What are your thoughts on the Alabama-Wisconsin playing a neutral site game down the road?

During a speaking engagement in Mobile, Ala., Barry Alvarez said that there are discussions between the two schools about a future game. We've been teased with this notion before. Reportedly, ESPN approached Wisconsin and Alabama about playing a neutral site game but when Bielema countered with an offer to play a home-and-home series with the Crimson Tide, Alabama coach Nick Saban declined. If it was for this year, maybe it's a good thing it fell apart.

With a playoff finally coming to college football, schedule strength will be important again in determining the four teams that comprise the playoff. Having an Alabama on the schedule certainly would benefit UW, who has been long criticized for its soft nonconference schedule, and rightfully so.

Before the announcement of the playoff, Wisconsin had taken steps to boost its nonconference result, previously announcing games with Pac-12 foes Washington State (2014 in Pullman and 2015 in Madison) and Washington (2017 in Madison, 2018 in Seattle) in addition to Virginia Tech (2016 in Blacksburg and 2017 in Madison) from the ACC. Last week, UW announced that it would play independent BYU twice more in addition to next year's game in Madison (2017 in Provo, 2018 in Madison).

As you can see, Wisconsin doesn't have a road/neutral site game schedule for 2015, so fitting in Alabama would work. Unfortunately for many UW fans, there is virtually no chance in Alabama coming north to a Chicago, Indianapolis or a St. Louis. If the game is going to be in the south, UW should make a push to have it played in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Not only does Wisconsin have a large alumni base in the arena, the Badgers have started recruiting the area over the last two years. Exposure in that area certainly wouldn't hurt and would be better than Texas or Louisiana where UW doesn't recruit at all.

What are the Badgers waiting for with Dareian Watkins?

Great question, and it's an answer that only the coaching staff knows for sure. At 6-1, 190 pounds, Watkins has the potential to be one of the top players in the Midwest for 2014.

Helping lead his team to a 7-1 record heading into this weekend, Watkins has played at wide receiver in two games (11 receptions for 282 yards and four touchdowns), at quarterback (five touchdowns and two interceptions), cornerback and safety. He is also the team's punt returner, although teams haven't kicked to him after he returned a punt for a touchdown in each of Galion (OH) High School's first three games.

In order to get him more involved, I'm told the coaching staff is going to possibly use him on kickoff return, mix him in at quarterback and receiver and play a little linebacker as the team makes a playoff push. He's done all of this at roughly 90 percent speed wise after tearing his meniscus and sustaining a stress fracture earlier in the season. After having surgery, he plays 11 days later.

Watkins has four BCS offers Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana and Northwestern in addition to four MAC offers. He has visited Wisconsin twice – this past April for the spring game and last year for the Purdue game. A source told me that Watkins and his family thought Wisconsin was going to offer approximately three weeks ago, and that the UW staff has been diligent in his recruitment with receivers coach Zach Azzanni sending handwritten letters and Eddie Faulkner sending messages on Facebook.

I've been told that Watkins likely won't return to Madison until he has an offer, especially since they've already been to the school twice and have yet to visit some of his offered schools once. Should Wisconsin offer, I'm told Watkins would ‘definitely' make a trip to the campus.


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