MADISON – Even when he knew he didn’t have a scholarship spot available for Danny Davis in Wisconsin’s 2017 recruiting class, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph wanted to make sure he was up front and honest with the Springfield (OH) receiver.
Rudolph didn’t have to be but considering how badly he and his fellow coaches wanted Davis, honesty turned out to be the best policy.
“We flat out wanted him,” Rudolph told BadgerNation. “We could have taken his commitment and hoped something would happen down the line, but without knowing it, we had to be upfront and honest with him. I think he did appreciate that because we didn’t have to tell him anything. The interest was not lacking. We had a ton of interest.”
With Rudolph leading the recruitment, Davis was the final piece of Wisconsin’s 2017 recruiting class when he announced his commitment on the afternoon of national signing day and faxed in his national letter of intent.
In a receiver group that needs playmakers, Davis fits the billing. A second-team all-state pick by the Associated Press as a junior and senior, Davis played running back, receiver and returner in high school, rushed for 1,195 yards and seven touchdowns on 171 carries (7.0 average), caught 22 passes for 559 yards and six scores and averaged 22.1 yards on kickoff returns.
Even with all that talent, the Badgers were unlikely to take him a month earlier. With scholarships at a premium and the program having already secured verbal commitments from two players in Texas, the Badgers had no spots available. UW was facing scholarship pinch with Detroit safety Scott Nelson, who has already taken his official visit in October and was waiting to see if something opened up.
When juniors Ryan Ramczyk and T.J. Watt declared for the draft at the beginning of January, Rudolph got the wheels in motion. The staff made an in-home visit with Davis and his family January 19 and scheduled him for an official visit that upcoming weekend.
“I thought he had a really good visit,” Rudolph said of Davis’ official. “I thought he connected with our players, and that’s what you’re hoping to find. And I thought our players connected with him.”
A long-time recruiter in Ohio, Rudolph first saw Davis in the spring and thought he stood out right away, resulting in multiple more visits during contact periods.
“His skill set was there,” Rudolph said. “He had great ball skills. I thought he had great body control, was able to track the ball extremely well. He plays a lot of tailback, so I wanted to go see his body type to see quite what he is from his junior film. It was pretty apparent that he was a wide receiver, and I liked his toughness. He’s a play maker. I liked how he worked.”
Rudolph recalled going to the high school during one of Davis’ weight room sessions. The four-star receiver lifted 315 on the squat rack.
“He’s getting after it,” Rudolph said. “Sometimes you a receiver finding a way to ease around the heavy workloads. He embraced it and got after it. I liked it. I liked how he interacted with the guys on the team, so we decided to pursue him.”
David had multiple options to commit while Wisconsin was stuck. He took close looks at Kentucky and West Virginia and had offers from Iowa, Louisville, Michigan State, Penn State and others. According to Rudolph, the Badgers’ steady approach delivered a strong message to the family.
“It was funny, his mom mentioned that he figured the schools that were truly interested in him would be there in the end,” Rudolph said. “It worked out that way for us. He had a lot of confidence that he was going to make the right choice for him.”