Every recruiting class brings certain challenges for a college coaching staff, but the University of Wisconsin has made things look easy thus far for 2017.
After signing 26 players in the 2016 class that ranked No.23 overall, resulting in Wisconsin having its first top-25 recruiting class in the history of Scout.com, the Badgers entered the 2017 cycle pinched with roughly only 14 scholarships.
By the middle of May, Wisconsin had landed 10 high school prospects and two transfers in cornerback Nick Nelson and tailback Chris James who have already made an impact during fall camp.
“The challenges are you don’t have enough,” head coach Paul Chryst said in a one-on-one interview with BadgerNation. “You don’t have any wiggle room on scholarships. What is helpful is because we had a big class, there aren’t a lot of positions where you say, boy, if you don’t take player at this position we’re in trouble.
“With all recruiting classes, you have to make sure who you are taking is a good fit. With a smaller class, you have to be more sure on the academic end of it.”
While the class isn’t ranked high nationally (currently 44th by Scout.com), the Badgers have added depth at every spot. Including James and Nelson, the Badgers’ 2017 class currently includes a quarterback, a tailback, a wide receiver, a tight end, four offensive linemen, two defensive ends, an outside linebacker and two cornerbacks.
Chryst can’t comment publicly on the high school prospects who haven’t signed their national letter intent but didn’t deny the Badgers’ aggressiveness early yielded a payoff.
“I appreciate and am happy with the work we’ve done in recruiting this year,” Chryst said. “I think they are great fits for this program.”
With Hoover (AL) defensive end Christian Bell transferring to Wisconsin, the Badgers appear to have one scholarship remaining, with Salem (N.J.) tailback Johnathan Taylor (a Rutgers commit) and Cypress (TX) Ranch receiver R.J. Sneed (a TCU commit) looking like the top two targets.
With UW’s work in the 2017 class practically done by the middle of the spring evaluation period, Wisconsin was able to get a head start on the 2018 recruiting class (UW has offered roughly 50 juniors for what will be another small class in the mid-teens) and targeting in-state walk-ons. Usually not getting players to commit to walk-ons until later in the fall, the Badgers have already seen four players jump on the opportunity to join the program.
Needless to say, Wisconsin is well ahead of the curve.
“If you are recruiting 25 (players), that’s more days of spring you have to go to see more kids to get those 25,” Chryst said. “Now we can narrow it down. And then when we have kids commit early, that allowed us to start working on our walk-ons and our next class. You’re seeing that a little bit. You can only recruit so many people.”