This is the Badger scoop that keeps you in the loop. A report that will be giving you the latest and greatest in Badger football and basketball recruiting. This week features, “post signing day special” and is all about a recap of the 2015 recruiting class, which is now complete
The most talented player right now in the class is who and why?
In one of the most bizarre timings I have ever seen a commitment occur, Dallas South Oak Cliff running back Jordan Stevenson might be at the top of the list. A day after Gary Andersen left to Oregon State, the 5-10, 203-pound balanced tailback pledged to the Badgers. While it was big news someone was committing to the program then, what was the bigger story was who it was.
Stevenson sits in the Scout rankings as a four-star recruit and the No. 12 running back in the land. Furthermore, he is the No. 84 overall player in the nation who held offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Texas and UCLA, amongst many others.
After watching his film, I can see why he is so highly sought after. He runs so tough and most of his runs are between the tackles, but what separates him is what he does after that. Most guys I have watched who run between the tackles don’t have that breakaway speed and that will to do whatever it takes to score. That blend of strength and speed has only increased and gotten better as his career has went on, which has evaluated his game to new heights.
Who is the biggest “get” or “steal” for Wisconsin and why?
Originally I had put Kettering (OH) Archbishop Alter senior defensive tackle Kraig Howe, but this change was a no-brainer with the late addition on Signing Day of Atlanta Woodward Academy highly-touted outside linebacker Arrington Farrar. The four-star, 6-1, 195-pound defender took an official visit to Madison two weeks before Signing Day and the visit went beyond great. He really gelled with the other official visitors in Alec Ingold and Howe on his visit and his in-home visit with the Badgers coaches after his official went just as good, which really put Wisconsin in a great position to land him.
On Signing Day, with two hats laying before him in Wisconsin and Notre Dame, he picked up the Badger cap and threw up the “W” sign. This was a huge win and his skill set is perfect under Coach Aranda’s defensive scheme. I personally think he could one of the next great Badger defensive players and be a name you remember for years.
Who will be the next great walk-on at Wisconsin and why?
This walk-on class is one of the best many have seen head to Madison in a long time. It features some of the best prospects in the state and one of those top in-state players that decided to stay home is Stevens Point defensive end Andrew Ruzek. The 6-6, 240-pounds physical defensive lineman was honorable mention all-state as a junior and season and finished his career with 166 total tackles with 57 tackles for loss and 17 sacks. He was also ranked as the No. 76 defensive end in the nation and a three-star recruit by Scout. He heard from quite a few power five programs but it wasn’t enough to sway his intentions of playing at Wisconsin.
I saw him at Wisconsin’s summer camp and thought he was one of the top performers after dominating in the one-on-ones, so I see that the potential is there for him to get snaps and, maybe, a scholarship down the road. The long and rich tradition of walk-ons to contribute and bring success to the Badgers program over years will definitely continue in my opinion with this impressive incoming lineup of walk-ons.
Who is the biggest sleeper in this class and why?
Someone who I feel is one of the top commits in this class and, proved it on the field this past season, was San Marcos (CA) senior offensive tackle Kevin Estes. The 6-5, 270-pound tackle has been very quiet in the recruiting process. Despite being shy with reporters, his play on the field is anything but reluctant. Playing with aggression and that translates into pure domination, Estes has the frame to put on good weight, has body control and balance and could possibly become one of the next talented players Wisconsin has added to its storied offensive line history.
Who is the prospect that Wisconsin will absolutely love five years from now and why?
This is probably one of the harder questions in my opinion because there is a lot of guys who could fall into this, but I am going to have to go with Downers Grove (Ill.) North senior tight end David Edwards. The 6-6, 225-pound athletic tight end is ranked by Scout as the No. 13 overall tight end in the nation and a three-star recruit, but his high school career consisted of him under center taking hand-offs and being the quarterback of the team.
Many are curious how smoothly he will transfer over to tight end when he gets to Madison, but my eyes lit up when I saw him live this summer at Wisconsin’s summer camp compete at tight end. You could tell he was still learning the position, but the size and athleticism he brought was top notch. Once he gets a grasp on the position and gets even stronger, I feel he could be a dominate force for the Badgers that will have defensive coordinators staying up all night wondering how to defend him.
Who is the recruit that will perform above his current ranking?
One player that I have been high on in this class from the day he committed was IMG Academy (FL) middle linebacker Nick Thomas. The 6-2, 230-pound hard-nosed, blue-collar Thomas was all over the field this past season making tackles in the backfield and in space. When I watched his tape, I instantly thought of Chris Borland because of his instincts and being able to run sideline to sideline to make the tackle. He plays fast and physical. With him enrolling early, he has the shot to possibly see the field early in his career. He sits as the No. 53 ranked middle linebacker in the nation and a three-star recruit, but many schools saw how much of a football player he was and Wisconsin had to fight off many programs, like Nebraska, until the end to keep him. I got a feeling that he will out-perform that ranking and be a good one at Wisconsin.
Who is the biggest miss of this recruiting class?
There could be quite a few misses to talk about. I mean just look at all the de-commits, and the biggest miss I see of this class came on Signing Day when Seffner (FL) Armwood senior middle linebacker Jordan Griffin flipped from Wisconsin to Vanderbilt. He took official visits to South Florida and Vanderbilt in the weeks leading up to Signing Day, which went extremely well.
The Commodores rolled out the red carpet to put them in the driver’s seat, which became really a battle between Wisconsin and Vanderbilt. With Griffin choosing to play in the SEC, what did the Badgers lose? Quite a lot. The 6-0, 210-pound linebacker led his team to the Class 6A State Championship game for the second consecutive year and compiled 141 total tackles on the season. With that productivity and playing against some of the best in the game down in Florida, he is definitely not lacking in his game. The new Wisconsin coaching staff sent almost their entire staff to visit him. When defensive coordinator Dave Aranda decided to stay in Madison, his first call went to Griffin and he told him that he is a huge priority for the Badgers still and was needed on the field immediately. The Badgers made him a top priority and to lose him at the last minute hurts.
Who is the biggest project in this class and why?
A few of the late signees Wisconsin was able to secure were told by this coaching staff they would like to evaluate them more in the summer, but has a position in mind for them right off the bat. One of those players is Green Bay (WI) Bay Port athlete Alec Ingold. The 6-2, 205-pound Ingold played quarterback his high school career, but will start at Wisconsin playing the outside (rover) linebacker position, which is the same position former Badger Derek Landisch occupied last season.
While he is not a player that will overwhelm you with his talent, he still has a very good football IQ and is a student to the game that will put in the work to understand this new role. One thing to note is that he also was a pretty good wrestler in high school, so that could help his transition over to the defensive side of the ball easier. Still, I want to see how long it takes him to adjust and how well he picks up the position before I go off and say he is not a project at the moment.
Who was the top recruiter from this class?
This is probably one of the easiest questions for me to answer. Since joining the staff a year ago, some were skeptical on running back coach Thomas Brown’s experience in the coaching department being so young and wondered how he would do on the recruiting trail. It didn’t hurt he had the Heisman runner up in Melvin Gordon to work with, but Gordon only got better this season and you have to give some credit to Thomas. What has been more impressive so far has been his relentless and aggressive approach to recruiting, which has made him a force to be reckon with in the Big Ten.
Brown was able to land the highly-touted Stevenson, snag Alabama native runner Bradrick Shaw from SEC country, help in keeping Texas linebacker Chris Orr on board during all the turmoil and landed a huge score on Signing Day in Farrar. All those doubts people might have had coming in can be put to rest, and he has even started off the 2016 class big by landing one of the top junior running backs in the nation in New London (NC) North Stanly tailback Antonio Williams.
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