Wisconsin Recruiting Grades - Defensive Line

Signing a top 35 recruiting class, Wisconsin added plenty of talented prospects to its program, but just how good were they at each position? BadgerNation hands out the grades for each position in the 2015 signing class, touching next on the defensive line.

Defensive Line: David Pfaff (three stars, No.35 DE by Scout.com), Olive Sagapolu (three stars, No.44 DT by Scout.com), Kraig Howe (three stars, No.46 DT).

Wisconsin lost three defensive line recruits late in the process in Pago Pago (AS) HS defensive tackle Elu Aydon, Millburn (NJ) Senior end Jake Pickard and Ladue (MO) Horton Watkins end Nate Howard, but did well in finding pieces to help continue to build a young defensive line.

Wisconsin set themselves up well for the Aydon de-commit by adding Howe, a one-time Pittsburgh commit, to the 2015 class. Although listed as a defensive end by Wisconsin, Howe has the ability to make the switch over to nose tackle. Howe shows good athletic ability, does well of getting around people to try and make a play on the ball carrier.

The first commit amongst the defensive line and the second in-state commit, Pfaff shows a good motor and, like Howe, can get after the ball carrier. Pfaff is rated as the fifth-best defensive end in the Midwest and with his non-stop motor has shown in his film that he can get off the snap of the football well. He competes on every play, and he won’t give up on a play, but he’ll need to get stronger. Once he adds the appropriate strength, his quick first step will help him win a number of his battles and help him get to the quarterback.

With finding quality nose tackles being difficult for Wisconsin it was important for Chryst to keep Sagapolu in this recruiting class, especially after losing Elu Aydon to Oregon State. Sagapolu was named first-team All-California Interscholastic Federation for Pac-5 Division as he was able to finish his senior season with 24 tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. But Sagapolu shows good speed in tracking the ball carrier down and like Pfaff can play with a nasty streak. Sagapolu does need to continue to get stronger to help him consistently win the point of attack to help the linebackers for Wisconsin to make plays.

Like Pfaff and Sagapolu, Howe will need a year in the strength and conditioning program as he continues to grow into the defensive end position for Dave Aranda’s 3-4 defense. If Howe can develop well in the strength and conditioning program he should be able to compete for playing time with in his first two years in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin tried to make a splash with Scout No.1 overall prospect Kahlil McKenzie (who lived in Wisconsin while his dad worked for the Green Bay Packers) before ultimately picking Tennessee, lost out on Fond du Lac defensive tackle Robert Windsor when the old coaching staff didn’t recruit him and Penn State took advantage and missed out on some high level defensive ends.

Even with the misses around the country, Wisconsin landed Stevens Point Area Andrew Ruzek, who finished his career with 166 tackles, 57 TFLs and 17 sacks and is choosing to walk on to Wisconsin over scholarship offers elsewhere. An honorable mention all-state player as a junior and senior, Ruzek is rated a three-star prospect the No.77 defensive end in the country by Scout.com.

Signing Day Grade: B

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