The most talented player right now in this class is who and why?
Burgos: Wisconsin has continued to obtain high quality tailbacks year after year on the recruiting trail, and Salem (NJ) running back Jonathan Taylor is poised to eventually be the next great Badgers back. Looking at Taylor’s game, it’s evident that he has the same attributes of a typical Wisconsin running back. His ability to continuously break tackles and make the proper cuts are extremely impressive. The top running back in the state of New Jersey, and the top tailback on UW’s recruiting board, Taylor is obviously a prospect with tremendous talent. Taylor needs to improve in his speed in getting to the second level of the defense, but his strength as a back is impressive, leading me to believe that Taylor could turn into an every down back for the Badgers someday.
Worgull: There are a number of players who can be put in this category and nobody would complain too much. For the longest time Kayden Lyles was the only four-star commit in this class, so it’s naturally easy to gravitate to him. Quarterback Jack Coan lit up New York with his passing numbers and there’s a lot of excitement around his future.
For me, and this could also go down as biggest steal, Wisconsin landing Springfield (OH) receiver Danny Davis on signing day is big moving forward. Davis can play in the slot or on the outside, and his characteristics and athleticism jump off the tape. The four-star receiver is elusive with the ball in his hands, has good speed and packs a punch.
Wisconsin hosted him on an unofficial visit previously and sealed the deal on his official a week before signing day, beating out schools like Kentucky, Michigan State, Penn State and West Virginia. Also a basketball player, Davis is still raw as a receiver but his abilities trump that in my opinion, especially since his upside is off the charts when you put him in Wisconsin’s offense.
Who is the biggest recruiting steal for Wisconsin and why?
Worgull: Wisconsin had its work cut in recruiting Detroit safety Scott Nelson, who had offers from Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and Penn State. The Hawkeyes were the other favorite for Nelson, causing him to go back and forth with his decision before ultimately deciding the Badgers held the edge.
“Everything that I wanted in a school they had,” Nelson told me after committing. “They have a great program there, it’s a great school where I can get a great education and socially it’s everything that you would want. Another big part was the people there really sold it. I think just for me those were the type of people that I wanted to be around and it was just a great fit.”
Anybody who has followed Wisconsin recruiting over the last decade will tell you that the Badgers recruiting lower Michigan was a waste of time. Outside of Zac Matthias in 2009, who played for a bad high school team in Hemlock, UW couldn’t pull any kid out of the Lower Peninsula. That appears to be changing with four-star David Moorman in 2015, Nelson and safety Reggie Pearson in 2018.
Who is the biggest sleeper in this class and why?
Burgos: It feels like Sayville (NY) quarterback Jack Coan is a sleeping giant just waiting to be awaken. Coan, the top quarterback in the state of New York, is a complete quarterback who is walking into a nice situation at Wisconsin. Redshirt sophomore Alex Hornibrook and redshirt freshman Kare Lyles are the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, so Coan enrolling early should give him an opportunity to compete and develop. Possessing good pocket presence, delivers a good ball and, while he’s not labeled a dual-threat quarterback, is far from a sitting duck with his ability to scramble away from would-be tacklers and gain a few extra yards from time to time. He’ll have to adjust to take snaps from under center, but Coan – only a three-star prospect – has a chance to be special.
Worgull: I think Madison Cone would have offers from every major school if he was 6-0 instead of three inches shorter. You can’t teach ball skills though, and Cone finished his career with 196 tackles, 27 interceptions and 51 pass breakups and was named all-state by Associated Press as a senior. Guys that are 6-0 don’t put up those kinds of numbers. On campus now, Cone has the potential to be a playmaker from an early age in Wisconsin’s secondary.
Who is the recruit that will perform above his current ranking?
Burgos: This was an extremely tough question to answer with 15 three-star prospects but I had to go with receiver Cade Green. I’ve had an affinity with Green’s game for months now, and I’m sure as more take a look at his film they will see why. Green is the definition of an underrated prospect with Scout’s Midland Region recruiting analyst Greg Powers calling him “one of the most overlooked players in the state (Texas).” Green just flat out knows how to make plays and how to win. His frame adds size to his already extremely physical game in the slot. Green can make the tough receptions in traffic that could easily end up being game-changing plays. His burst off the line of scrimmage combined with his agility in his route running make Green a deadly receiving option in any given area of the field.
Who is the biggest miss of this recruiting class?
Worgull: Wisconsin landed its top quarterback, running back, tight end, defensive end and offensive linemen in this class, so there aren’t many people UW missed on. However, James Houston IV stands out here. Wisconsin was Houston’s first offer and the three-star prospect – despite picking up dozens more – fell in love with the Badgers, so much so that he made multiple unofficial visits throughout the process (not the easiest on the pocket book).
Houston named Wisconsin and Florida as his two favorites, and the Badgers appeared poised to land him until he tore his ACL, which appeared to shake up his thought process. Houston no longer wanted to go far from home (despite his parents’ blessing and liking the Badgers), and he committed to Florida over the Badgers. UW kept at it and even got him to come on an official visit (which he promised the coaching staff he would do), but it wasn’t enough to change his mind.
Who is talented enough to play as a true freshman and why?
Burgos: Perhaps the best long snapper prospect in the country, Mesa (AZ) Desert Ridge prospect Adam Bay certainly has the talent to start as a true freshman. It’s rare for specialist positions to receive full ride scholarship offers, so Bay is the real deal. Teams don’t take scholarship specialists to sit them on the bench. Considering Bay is ranked the No.1 long snapper at the country and UW doesn’t have a long snapper on the roster, Bay will be starting for Wisconsin from day one.
Who is the biggest project in this class and why?
Worgull: Nobody is playing tremendously out of position in this recruiting class, which is a good sign, but offensive coordinator/line coach Joe Rudolph pointed out that Menomonie (WI) High offensive lineman Alex Fenton played a variety of positions for Menomonie High School, including offensive tackle, tight end and defensive end. I saw him play this past season and thought he was good but certainly has a lot of room to grow. The good news there’s no rush to hurry him into the rotation, so Fenton can build up his frame, good habits and confidence down the road.
Who is the prospect that Wisconsin will absolutely love five years from now and why?
Burgos: The lone tight end commit in the 2017 class, Madison Memorial’s Jake Ferguson will be a name to keep an eye on these next couple of years. Ferguson was the lone Wisconsin commit at perhaps the most prestigious summer recruiting showcase in Nike’s The Opening Finals and has shown consistently that he has all the tools to be an elite tight end in the Big Ten. Ferguson needs to continue to bulk up and get stronger, but his route running and catching ability are of top quality and should continue to stay that way. Ferguson has the necessary height and great athletic ability to function as a deep pass game threat, while also fanning out to the sides to reel in shorter throws for smaller gains.
What was the top recruiting weekend?
Worgull: With 10 of its 18 commits having deciding by the beginning of May, there was going to be little drama during the home portion of the schedule with official visit. Fortunately for the Badgers, Wisconsin had two primetime night games that it packed it the uncommitted recruits for. And while the Badgers’ home game against Ohio State ultimately impacted Taylor and Faion Hicks into committing, the home game against Nebraska two weeks later really provided dividends. UW hosted seven prospects that included eventual commits Bay, Nelson and Andrew Van Ginkel. Two of the other prospects were tailback Antwuan Branch and safety Christian Cumber, two prospects who wanted to commit to Wisconsin but couldn’t because there spot had been filled.