Jonathan Taylor (Max Siker/BadgerNation)

BadgerNation grades Wisconsin offensive recruits in the 2017 signing class

BadgerNation grades out the offensive players the Badgers' coaching staff was able to add in the 2017 signing class.


It isn’t often that Wisconsin dips into New York for recruiting, but head coach Paul Chryst was able to successfully land the signature of Jack Coan, who was named New York’s Gatorade High School Player of the Year after throwing for 2,162 yards, completing 71.8 percent of his passes and 31 touchdowns.

It has become a common practice for quarterbacks to make a commitment early in the recruiting process and Coan was no different, becoming the fifth commit of the class when he chose UW over Miami, Michigan, Louisville, Nebraska and Northwestern.

It was clear that Coan was one of the top options for Wisconsin at the quarterback position considering Chryst only extended a handful of scholarship offers before Coan made his commitment. It is easy to see why Chryst targeted Coan, who has the right makeup to have a successful career at Wisconsin.

The first thing that pops quickly off Coan’s highlights is he’s able to place a pass where only his target can catch it, a trait that is evident by the fact that he only threw four interceptions as a senior. Coan has above-average arm strength that will continue to improve. He isn’t a statue in the pocket either, as he’s able to move around while keeping his eyes down the field and capable of getting his feet set before he releases his throw. If one of his intended targets can’t get open, he has the athletic ability to escape the pocket. Coan rushed for 2,551 yards and 33 touchdowns over his varsity career. It is clear Coan is a competitor, and his competitiveness shows up on the runs where he is willing to fight for extra yards.

Coan visited Wisconsin multiple times over his recruitment but it was an unofficial visit to Wisconsin in mid-March that helped seal his commitment roughly two weeks later.

“I really like everything about (the offense)," Coan said after his commitment. "I got to watch film with coach Chryst and talk about how he coached the quarterbacks. I like the way he coaches and I think I will fit into that system well. They said they would like to run the quarterback a few times a game, but they are not going to have running quarterback first.”

After unsuccessfully trying to land two quarterback in 2016, the staff was able to add preferred walk-on Danny Vanden Boom, Wisconsin’s Gatorade State Player of the Year, and later bumped him up to a scholarship offer. Like Coan, Vanden Boom is a winner, having led Kimberly to back-to-back Wisconsin Division-1 Championships.

A talented three-sport athlete, excelling also at basketball and baseball, Vanden Boom has a strong arm, possesses ideal size and makes smart decisions with the football. Over the last two seasons Vanden Boom has thrown five interceptions, which occurred this past season.

Chryst has done well over the last three recruiting cycles of identifying his quarterbacks and consistently hitting on his top target at the position. The combination of Coan and Vanden Boom will help bolster the quality of depth at the quarterback position.

Grade A

Running Back

The state of New Jersey has been good to Wisconsin when it comes to high school running backs, producing the likes of Heisman Winner Ron Dayne, Anthony Davis and Corey Clement. Jonathan Taylor will look to add his name to that list.

Unlike last year the only drama that surrounded the recruitment at the running back position was whether or not Taylor would flip his commitment from Rutgers. The persistence of running back coach John Settle was rewarded when Taylor committed November 1.

Taylor accomplished a lot over his senior year, setting a state record with 2,815 yards and 37 touchdowns. Taylor also broke Clement’s South Jersey single-season record of 2,510 yards, earning the South Jersey Times Offensive Player of the Year.  

Fitting the description of what Settle is looking for, Taylor’s improvement in the strength department will allow him to handle the bulk of the carries. He shows good speed, vision and patience on his film, as he’s able to read where the hole is before he hits it. Taylor’s size makes him hard to tackle, especially when he constantly fights for extra yards and requires multiple defenders to try and slow him. Like any high school back transitioning to college, Taylor will need to develop as a blocker and learn the blocking principles.

With Wisconsin losing Clement and Dare Ogunbowale to graduation, spring figures to be an opportunity for Bradrick Shaw and Chris James to battle for the starting spot. Who Wisconsin’s third running back be is a question mark between Taiwan Deal and Sam Brodner. Depending on how fast he can learn Wisconsin’s playbook and develop his body, Taylor has the right makeup to earn carries in his first year on campus.

Grade A

Wide Receiver

When wide receiver coach Ted Gilmore awoke Wednesday morning, he was fairly confident he would be receiving letters of intent from two talented under-the-radar prospects in Texas. He was hopeful, however, that UW’s duo would turn into a trio by day’s end.

Chryst and Gilmore spent a good amount of time in January recruiting Danny Davis and their efforts paid off when the four-star prospect became the last piece to the class signing day afternoon.

“It was exciting to get the news that he chose Wisconsin, and we’re excited about him,” Chryst said. “He’s got a ton of athletic ability that gets us excited, but also getting to know Danny and his mom and dad and family, you feel good about that. He was on an official visit and our guys really felt comfortable and Danny felt comfortable. I have no hesitation when I say I think he’ll fit in great on this team. He’s a really talented player.”

A tremendous late score for Wisconsin over Kentucky and West Virginia, Davis has shown he’s capable of high pointing the football and the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. With his school also using him as a tailback and a returner, Davis excelled in those roles with 1,195 rushing yards, 559 receiving yards on 22 receptions and 13 touchdowns (seven rushing touchdowns and six receiving touchdowns). That versatility netted him offensive player of the year in his conference.

Cade Green has drawn comparisons to former Wisconsin wide receiver Alex Erickson for his ability to be a strong route runner. Like Davis, Green does a good job of catching the ball with his hands. Showing to be smart and able to beat his defender off the line of scrimmage, Green’s ability to pick up yards after the catch helped him record consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (2,216 yards on 128 receptions and 27 touchdowns).

Davis and Green might see the field quicker than Emmet Perry, who didn’t see his first major game action until his senior year at the De Soto powerhouse, but he still brings height and play-making ability to the room. He registered 45 receptions for 830 yards and nine touchdowns for a state title team and can prove to be a dependent target within the offense.

Grade A-

Tight End 

It was always assumed Jake Ferguson would end up at Wisconsin after the Badgers offered him two Aprils ago, understandable since his older brother, Joe, will be a redshirt senior safety at Wisconsin next year and his grandfather is athletic director Barry Alvarez. To his credit Ferguson went through the process to make sure Wisconsin was the right fit for him, going on several visits before choosing the Badgers over Big Ten offers Iowa and Nebraska.

Wisconsin is getting a talented athlete who was invited to Nike’s The Opening, rating as the No. 2 tight end nationally and was a three-year team captain who finished his career with 1,795 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.

Another talented two-sport athlete (basketball), Ferguson’s size combined with his athleticism will provide a mismatch against opponents as he continues to develop. Because of his basketball background, Ferguson is able to catch the ball at its highest point and his size allows him to pick up yards after the catch.

A redshirt season is possibly to allow him to learn the playbook and focus on one position. If Ferguson uses his redshirt year wisely and continues to develop as a blocker, he should be able to find himself on the field early in his career after Troy Fumagalli graduates.     

Grade A

Offensive Line 

Much like the quarterback, running back and tight end position, Wisconsin was able to land its top four offensive lineman targets, as the Badgers were able to correct identify four high-quality players, aggressive recruit them and get them all to commit early in the process. With the addition of Tyler BeachLogan BrussAlex Fenton and Kayden Lyles, Wisconsin is now up to 16 scholarship offensive linemen, getting the program closer to its desired number.

Having been committed since the fall of 2015, Lyles is the only of the four scholarship lineman to enroll early. Enrolling early has paid dividends for the last two offensive linemen to do it for Wisconsin, as Michael Deiter and Jon Dietzen both utilized their redshirts wisely and started multiple games as redshirt freshman.

Lyles is certainly talented enough to push for playing time as a true freshman, not out of the question with the number of combinations Wisconsin has used over the last two years. And considering Dietzen will miss spring practice (ankle), Lyles will earn valuable reps as a guard and center.

Beach, Bruss and Fenton all will likely redshirt this coming season. All three have the tools to succeed at the college level but will need a year or two to develop and perfect their traits as linemen.

Beach possesses a good frame for tackle and has shown to be good in run protection, but he will need to continue in pass protection. Bruss was named offensive lineman of the year in his conference as a junior and senior and projects along with Fenton to play on the interior for Wisconsin. Fenton played tight end and defensive line as a junior for Menomonie before switching full time to offensive line as a senior. Fenton possesses good strength, which will help him win his battle in the trenches, but will need time to develop due to still being relatively new to the position.

At a school like Wisconsin, getting the top four targets on your recruiting board is a huge win. Getting all four to commit by the end of April is unprecedented.

Grade A

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