The initial direction for the University of Wisconsin to find a running back in the 2016 class has become crystal clear: the Badgers are taking their first hacks and are swinging for the fences.
With a list that has 15-to-20 names on it, the Badgers have identified their top three tailbacks and have extended their first scholarships in hopes of replacing former commit Antonio Williams.
A former Ohio State commit, George Hill’s recent indecisiveness was one of the reasons Ohio State went aggressively after Williams. Many believed Michigan State was the front-runner for his services even when he was still committed to Ohio State (and saying he was 100 percent committed to the Buckeyes). Now that he’s uncommitted, it seems like Hill, who is making his third visit to East Lansing this weekend, will eventually suit up for Michigan State.
If Hill doesn’t commit this weekend, Wisconsin is hopeful they can get him on campus for an official. The Badgers are extremely excited about the potential that Hill brings and feel confident about the product that they have to showcase for tailbacks, especially in the Paul Chryst offense.
According to head coach Gary Joseph, Kyle Porter’s biggest strength is his mentality.
“He’s a kid who has gotten better every year that he’s been here,” said Joseph, whose Katy High School team is 7-0 and one of the best programs in the country. “He’s a very complete back, and he’s very intelligent. He’s really takes on a lot of responsibility not just for himself, but for his team. He’s really taken on a leadership responsibility.”
A multi-dimensional back who can run, catch and block, Porter is a prospect who puts a high value on academics. According to Joseph, Porter is No.21 academically in a class of about 700, another reason why UW should feel good about this player.
Wisconsin views Porter extremely high. One source said the Badgers view him as the top uncommitted tailback in the country. Porter, who doesn’t have a Twitter account and doesn’t speak to the media, is expected to start taking his official visits following his football season, which will likely end in December.
Therefore, don’t expect a decision from Porter until January or even national signing day.
Committed to Stanford since early September, Brandon Stephens had a ton of offers at his disposal when he picked the Cardinal. He also had an outdated one from the Badgers, as UW was his first scholarship offer when former head coach Gary Andersen was calling the shots.
The interest died down following Andersen’s departure and Williams’ commitment, so it’s unknown how interested Stephens would have been had they continued to recruit him. Stephens was a high priority and heavily recruited until early December.
Of the three tailbacks mentioned, Stephens appears the most likely to visit. In addition to Stanford and Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Texas are recruiting him hard. Stephens is labeled as a firm commit but is someone keeping his options open.
The Next Wave
Looking to take at least one tailback (there’s a possibility of UW taking a power back and a speed back), Wisconsin is willing to be somewhat patient considering the majority of its 2016 recruiting class is complete. Even so, the Badgers might not be far away from extending more prospects. Wisconsin is also high on Tre Harbison, a Virginia commit from North Carolina who has good grades and good speed. Badgers running back coach John Settle has been in touch with Harbison, who is an early enrollee.
UW is also monitoring:
Gerrid Doaks - three-star prospect from Indianapolis Lawrence Central currently committed to Cincinnati)
Matt Falcon - four-star prospect from Southfield (Mich) HS currently injured and committed to Michigan)
C.J. Freeman - three-star prospect from Greensboro (NC) North Guilford who is currently committed to South Carolina
Khalil Herbert - prospect from Plantation (FL) American Heritage
Amani Hooker - three-star prospect from Brooklyn Park (MN) Central currently committed to Iowa
Deon McIntosh - three-star prospect from Fort Lauderdale (FL) Cardinal Gibbons
Devwah Whaley - four star prospect from Beaumont (TX) Central