Paul Chryst's staff helped Wisconsin land the No.25 recruiting class in the country

BadgerNation grades the work of Wisconsin's assistant coaches during the 2016 recruiting cycle.

Dave Aranda

Committed targets responsible for: Ke’shan Pennamon, Keldric Preston

Primarily stationed in Florida, recruiting all the areas north of Tampa, Aranda was able to add two key pieces to a defense he will no longer coach. Pennamon is not the biggest cover corner in the world at 5-11 but he finished his senior season with 57 tackles, four tackles for loss, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Having also lettered in basketball and track and field, his athleticism is one of his biggest attributes. An inside-outside guy, Pennamon can be a boundary corner, a solid nickel defender or safety in a pinch.

Preston will start off more in passing situations and develop into an every-down role, acting in part like Zander Neuville and T.J. Watt did this past season. Wisconsin and Aranda did such a good job with Preston that he only needed to be on campus half a day during the summer to make him realize that Madison was a great opportunity for him.

Grade: B

Inoke Breckterfield

Committed targets responsible for: Dontye Carriere-Williams, Dallas Jeanty, Garrett Rand (partially)

Taking the Fort Lauderdale/Miami portion of Florida, Breckterfield secured a cornerback that could see significant time this season and a linebacker who is already becoming a fan favorite.

Although UW didn’t offer Carriere-Williams until December, after he had committed to Cincinnati, Breckterfield said the three-star corner first popped on his radar in the spring time. The only thing that was holding UW back from offering was Carriere-Williams’ senior film from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. Once Breckterfield saw that, it was an easy decision to accelerate the process.

“He’s got quick feet, and he’s been on three state championship teams,” Breckterfield said of Carriere-Williams. “He’s competitive at anything you put him at. He’s a great cover corner in man coverage.”  

Jeanty has all the makings of a poster child for Wisconsin football and fans haven’t even seen him on the field yet. He’s a high-character individual that will have a chance to be an impact player for UW in a couple years.

Rand is a tremendous asset to Wisconsin, a swing man like current UW senior Arthur Goldberg who can play either nose tackle or defensive end. Wisconsin fought off some very talented West Coast programs to bring him to Madison. Breckterfield said the work UW put in recruiting him and showing Rand how well he would fit into the program and the city made him feel they were very confident they were going to get the four-star prospect’s letter of intent throughout January.

Once Aranda left for LSU, Breckterfield took over his two targets and was able to calm the waters. It was fairly easy with Preston (who Breckterfield had built a relationship with as his future position coach), but Pennamon was a little trickier with a late official visit to Rutgers. That ended up amounting to nothing.

Grade: B+

Ted Gilmore

Committed targets responsible for: Quintez Cephus, Isaiahh Loudermilk, A.J. Taylor, Caesar Williams

A lot of times assistant coaches succeed in getting quality or quantity. Gilmore got both in this recruiting cycle and successfully built relationships with four different states that could yield major benefits for the program.

While each individual player’s recruitment is unique, Gilmore’s four targets take that to the extreme. Loudermilk is an outstanding eight-man football player who can develop into something special, Williams was one of the last players Wisconsin offered a scholarship to, Cephus was committed to Furman for basketball and Taylor was ranked the top athlete in Missouri.

Projected to play receiver, Taylor has the ability to line up in the backfield and create mismatches against defenses.

“I told Coach Settle to stay away,” Gilmore said of Taylor. “I think he can do multiple things.”

Gilmore heard about Cephus in May in an email from his coach. The closer he watched the more he liked Cephus’ athletic ability. The first power five conference coach to recruit him, Cephus turned down a late offer from Miami because he “trusted Coach Gilmore.”

Williams is a long rangy corner who is a good athlete and has the flexibility to play this season. Louldemilk is young, raw and will need adjustment to the 11-man game, but the three-star prospect is athletic, smart, tough and dependable. Wisconsin wasn’t really on his radar after Gilmore extended the offer until the receivers coach convinced him and members of his family to come up for an official visit in October. From that point forward, Loudermilk was hooked on UW.

Grade: A

Chris Haering

Committed targets responsible for: Luke Benzschawel, Tyler Biadasz, Anthony Lotti, Mason Stokke, Cole Van Lanen (partially)

Many people think it’s easy to recruit in-state because every in-state player would love to come to Wisconsin. That’s the big challenge for Haering and the staff to determine which players are scholarship worthy, who are good walk-on candidates and who the Badgers simply can’t take because of lack of available offers.

And with Wisconsin’s success over the last handful of years, keeping in-state kids a secret is no longer possible.

“When you look at all of them (the in-state commits), they are good football players,” said Haering. “They aren’t good at just one thing … The days of a guy just being in-state and nobody else recruiting him are long gone with the access to film. Guys are going to come into this state and find good football players. There are no boundaries anymore. We have to work our tail off and can’t take for granted that just because they are in-state, they’ll be at Wisconsin.”

Stokke can play multiple positions, Van Lanen can play all five offensive line positions and Biadasz and Benzschawel can develop into big guys on either side of the ball. Of that group, Van Lanen was the biggest score, picking UW over multiple power five conference offers and was ranked top 75 in the rankings.

Haering – with the assist of Taylor Mehlhaff – convinced Lotti to come to a specialist camp and compete for a scholarship. The three-star punter was so good that he was the only punter that UW offered during the recruiting cycle.

Grade: B+

Daronte Jones

Committed targets responsible for: Eric Burrell, Patrick Johnson

Responsible for opening a pipeline to the Maryland/DC area for Wisconsin, Jones landed two three-star safeties who could make an immediate impact with the defense this season. Burrell’s comfort level is playing closer to the line of scrimmage in the running game and with contact, while Johnson loves to be a centerfielder and make plays in the air, but they both have solid ball skills, athleticism and competitiveness.

Jones was going to be a key figure in Wisconsin being able to set up a recruiting shop on the East Coast, so it’ll be interesting to see what Chryst will do now with Jones headed to the Miami Dolphins coaching staff.

Grade: B+

Joe Rudolph

Committed targets responsible for: Seth Currens, Griffin Grady, Kare Lyles, Garrett Rand (partial), Cole Van Lanen (partial)

Recruiting the state of Ohio was nonexistent under Gary Andersen and former secondary coach Bill Busch recruiting Arizona was not providing dividends. Leave it to Rudolph to rescue both states for UW in one recruiting cycle. Usually the best recruiter on Bret Bielema’s staff, the former Wisconsin lineman dipped into his connections to bring in substantial quality to the program.

Both Currens and Grady had connections with Rudolph when UW’s offensive coordinator was at Pittsburgh, making both feel very comfortable with him. Currens was viewed as a project when he committed in June but his impressive senior season leads people to believe he could impact the program sooner rather than later with his on-the-field and leadership qualities. Grady, in my opinion, is the most talented player in the class with his ability to play sideline-to-sideline, his on-the-field intelligence and his propensity to always be around the ball making plays. He reminds me a lot of Chris Borland.

Rudolph played with Kare Lyles’ dad at Wisconsin, so having that connection made landing the three-star quarterback (not to mention his younger brother – four-star 2017 offensive lineman Kayden Lyles) significantly easier. Rand had family ties to the state, but Rudolph still was one of the comfortable liaisons Rand could talk to about the program.

Van Lanen knew he wanted to commit to Wisconsin for several weeks but waited until he could find the time to drive down and tell head coach Paul Chryst and Rudolph in person. That tells you all you need to know about Rudolph’s ability to recruit and build relationships.

Grade: A

John Settle

Committed targets responsible for: None

Is it the cook or is it the groceries he’s given to work with? Settle is far from the strongest recruiter on Wisconsin’s staff, but the Carolinas and upper Georgia aren’t exactly a fertile recruiting ground for the Badgers. In Settle’s previous coaching stop at Wisconsin, the only prospect that was arguably his from start to finish was receiver Kenzel Doe, who was drawing interest from very few power five schools. Settle also developed a solid relationship with four-star tailback Antonio Williams, who the staff inherited, but that relationship soured on both sides.

However, UW is never going to draw much talent out of that region, so is the lack of success due to the area he’s assigned or is it Settle himself? Settle was close with C.J. Freeman before the three-star back ultimately decided to stay committed to South Carolina. Other than that, there wasn’t much to write about from the southeast part of the country.

With a full year to recruit tailbacks, let’s see if Settle can land some big-time prospects for him to work with before truly grading him.

Grade: Incomplete

Tim Tibesar

Committed targets responsible for: Sam Brodner, Noah Burks, Patrick Kasl, Kendric Pryor (to finish).

After coaching with the Chicago Bears two years ago and out of coaching in the 2014 season, there was some question about how Tibesar was going to be able to do on the recruiting trail. He’s answered those questions in the year that he’s been here, as he was another assistant who delivered quality and quantity in his Midwest areas.

Burks was rated the No.1 outside linebacker in the state of Indiana and it’s evident watching his tape that he has the talent to play at UW’s level. He’ll be able to slide in naturally to UW’s scheme because it’s similar to the defense Burks ran in high school.

Kasl was a physical mauler that Wisconsin was able to get to camp and see firsthand.  With an assist from Rudolph, Tibesar made sure Minnesota couldn’t sneak in the door late once the Gophers found out what they were missing in the three-star prospect.

“Patrick earned his scholarship off his junior tape,” said Tibesar. “We really liked his tape. He was close enough. We got him on campus so we could get to know him. We always prefer to sit down face-to-face with a player, talk to him, visit with him, get a better feel for who they are as a person to see if they would be a good fit in our locker room. He confirmed all those things we saw on tape.”

Arguably his most important recruit was Brodner, who filled a major need at the tailback position after Williams jumped ship. Although he evaluated him as a linebacker during the summer, Tibesar knew that from what he saw firsthand and in his senior film validated that the four-star Brodner’s natural ability, size, power and ability to run downhill was force.

Tibesar also was involved with outside backers Grady and Stokke, so his fingerprints are on a lot of key pieces in this class.

Grade: A

Mickey Turner

Committed targets responsible for: Deron Harrell, Jake Hescock, Kendric Pryor (to start)

In his first year as an assistant coach on the college level, the former Wisconsin tight end delivered a couple nice finds for the program in traditional non-recruiting areas. Turner was active in the upper Northeast and offered a handful of tight end prospects before landing the 6-7 Hescock, who could turn out to be a tremendous prospect in UW’s class. He’s a big guy who can run and is athletic, which is a really good start.

To find Harrell out of Denver, Turner heard from some Wisconsin alumni who brought up the name of a kid that was worth looking at. Studying the film with Rudolph, the two coaches decided Harrell’s athleticism was worth taking a closer look at in person.

“Anytime you see a guy who is the leader of his basketball team, leader of his football team, he’s playing quarterback, he’s playing corner, he’s worth at least checking on,” said Turner. “I’m glad we did.”

Pryor’s film was mostly of receiver to start with, so that’s where UW had him pegged. Once Turner watched more of him, including seeing him dunk all over the court on his basketball tape, and felt he was a good personality fit, he recruiting the three-star prospect aggressively.

“It’s a good problem to have (not knowing where he’ll play),” said Turner.

Turner was eventually switched to the Detroit area and will work that region moving forward. That region typically doesn’t yield prospects for the Badgers, as the in-state prospects have a good grasp on the upper echelon talent that’s produced there.

“I do think those kids will connect with us once they learn about it,” said Turner. “It’s going to take a little leg work, but I think we’ll be ok there.”

Grade: B+

Justin Wilcox

Committed targets responsible for: Garrett Rand (late)

The day after his hiring, Wilcox flew out to Chandler, Ariz., to meet up with some other UW assistants to meet with the four-star defensive tackle to answer any lingering questions. As Chryst said on signing day, “he didn’t screw it up.”

Wilcox entered the picture too late to have any impact, so we’ll see where he recruits and how he relates to prospects in the coming months.

Grade: Incomplete 

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