There’s little debating the success of head coach Paul Chryst in his first full recruiting cycle, as the second year head coach signed a class ranked No.25 in the Scout.com recruiting rankings. But if you are looking at a position from this year’s class that could possibly leave the biggest impact of all the positions, it is hard not to quickly jump up and point out the linebackers that Wisconsin signed, a position that is becoming an embarrassment of riches for Wisconsin.
Already sitting with a young crop of talent, the Badgers signed four prospects that will make sure the position is well stocked and have the right characteristics to make first year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s 3-4 defense a success.
It will be interesting to see what role the four linebackers will have in 2016. All four could realistically redshirt with the talent in front of them (returning three of four starters from 2015) but all are capable of contributing within the defense at either inside or outside linebacker or on special teams in year one.
The especially holds true for Dallas Jeanty, who is one of two early enrollees at Wisconsin for the spring and will have a head start at trying to crack the depth chart.
“There are a lot of benefits, it’s an extra semester to get right physically in the weight room (and) learn the playbook before my classmates,” said Jeanty. “From what I heard, before (Dave) Aranda left, the players said it was a complicated defense to learn. Being a part of spring football will allow me also to get ahead and learn the new defense. I’ll have an advantage over the other linebackers but it also allows me an opportunity to help the rest of the linebackers in this class and make sure they get to where they need to be.”
Earning close to 40 offers during his recruitment, Jeanty validated the interest by racking up 94 tackles, 14 sacks and forced seven fumbles as a senior and being named to the Semper Fi All-American Bowl. Fellow Wisconsin linebacker commit Noah Burks also earned that distinction, and the duo each had good weeks of practice during their time in California that should competing at the Semper Fi game.
A first-team all-state by Associated Press as a senior, logging 89 tackles, 14 TFLs, six sacks and three interceptions, Burks’ Semper-Fi highlight came when he registered an interception in the second half. It also was Jeanty’s highlight, as the future teammate widely cheered for him.
“Noah is very instinctive, very football smart and he displayed it on his interception as he read the play and quarterback very well,” Jeanty said. “He puts himself in a position to succeed and in prime position for other players to succeed. He’s a great team player. He’s going to be fun to play with.”
Griffin Grady ranks the highest of four players Wisconsin signed at the position, and like the other linebackers, the four-star prospect shows good instinct on the field, has a high football IQ and is consistently is in the right place to make a play. He appears the most “game ready’ of the group thanks to his ability to move from sideline-to-sideline and his discipline. With Wisconsin consistently rotating linebackers, Grady could have a chance to crack the rotation this year and be a good asset on special teams.
The first of the four linebackers to commit, Mason Stokke is a physical specimen. A first-team all-state selection at both linebacker and running back by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association and the Associated Press, Stokke is also the reigning state champion wrestler at 195 pounds. Being able to play multiple positions with a high motor and tenacity, Stokke is the type of player who is willing to play any position for the betterment of the team.
“Here’s a kid who’s driven,” said recruiting coach Chris Haering said of Stokke. “If you look at his goals and you say here’s a guy who fits our mold of just being a worker and a tough kid.”
With Wisconsin returning 12 scholarship linebackers, and 15 overall at the position, adding four players was not necessary in 2016. However, it is hard to say no to a group of four versatile players who want to come to Madison are all capable of delivering big results with their tough, physical, hard-working style.
Signing Day Grade: A