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Breaking down Wisconsin's recruiting efforts at the running back position for the 2018 class

BadgerNation takes a look at the 2018 recruiting class at each position. Today we look at the running backs.

With eight players already committed in the 2018 recruiting class, Wisconsin appears to have the bulk of its recruiting work done with nine months to go until national signing day.

The Badgers will likely only have 13 scholarship seniors (D’Cota Dixon and Rafael Gaglianone will likely be granted a medical redshirt), meaning that the coaching staff – barring attrition – only has to fill five more spots.

Taking a look at where things stand with each position on the recruiting trail over the next week, we next take a look at the running backs.

Editor’s Note: Not all prospects who have offers from Wisconsin are listed

Where Things Currently Stand

Even with the Badgers losing two seniors after this season, Wisconsin’s addition of junior Chris James last spring was huge. Running back coach John Settle will go into next season with James and redshirt sophomore Bradrick Shaw fighting for the starting spot and junior Taiwan Deal looking for a bounce-back season. More importantly, UW isn’t graduating any tailbacks.

Wisconsin likes to add a tailback prospect every season but the depth of the room means it can afford to be selective at this position

Top Prospects

http://www.scout.com/player/212228-elijah-collins?s=193

A solid running back who can succeed on the ground and in the passing game, Collins just visited Wisconsin for its spring game (his first trip to Camp Randall) and said he had a good conversation with Badgers head coach Paul Chryst. The Badgers have made it clear to Collins that they are recruiting him as a tailback, while some other schools have mentioned him as an athlete or on defense.

“It plays a lot into my decision," he said. "Wisconsin is Running Back U. They run the ball a lot and they always have a big offensive line to put in front of them and good holes and things like that. It's a place that really appreciates the running back position.”

The Badgers also have an edge considering teammate Scott Nelson is headed there in the 2017 class. 

Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan State are the other schools in his top four right now, but Collins has said he wants to take his official visits before making his commitment.

http://www.scout.com/player/213742-chris-curry?s=193

After rushing for over 100 yards three times in five games, Curry dislocated his shoulder and missed the rest of his sophomore year. He rebounded with 1,158 yards, 11 yards per carry, 165.4 yards per game and 13 touchdowns this past season, showcasing his ability as a physical runner with good speed and vision.

Based on how the school’s run the offense, Curry said his early top five was Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon and Wisconsin but that he was open to all schools. The Gators appear like the favorite, but Curry is hoping to take visits and make his decision on national signing day in February.

“I really got to get a feel of it,” Curry said. “If I don't feel a school I am not going to go there. If I can't connect with the coaches I'm not going there. It's about what they can offer me as a person." 

http://www.scout.com/player/213382-jahmir-smith?s=193

A powerful back with breakaway speed, Smith’s highlight tape is full of him making plays on the jet sweep, breaking through contact in crowds and speeding away from would-be tacklers. Smith can bounce runs outside but his best work is done between the tackles. Holding 23-plus offers, Smith took an unofficial visit to Wisconsin for the start of the Badgers’ spring practices.

“They gave me a tour of the school and I'd say that was my favorite part,” Smith said. “It was great having a chance to see everything. It was also cool learning about the history and tradition of the program. The facilities were really nice, too."

Smith said his conversation with Chryst and Settle was “real laid back,” adding that Settle conveyed to him that Smith is Settle’s “top back.”

There are no early favorites for Smith, who continues to pull in Power Five offers through the month of April.

http://www.scout.com/player/212872-tavion-thomas?s=193

After watching him develop for several months, including seeing him rush for 1,606 yards and 17 yards during his junior year, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph extended Thomas an offer in January

“It really is amazing,” Thomas said at the time. “I never thought I would get a Wisconsin offer that it makes me really thankful. It really means the world to me. I’ve been waiting for an offer from them since a coach visited my school in 10th grade and asked about me.”

In the following weeks, Thomas – labeled as “very fluid for a 225-pound kid” - saw his offer list explode with schools like Alabama, Michigan and Ohio State. He came out with a top 12 in mid-April that included the above-mentioned schools, Wisconsin, USC, Georgia, LSU, Arizona State, Nebraska, Oregon, Kentucky and Michigan State. He also just picked up an offer from Oklahoma.

Speaking to Thomas this week, the newly-minted four-star prospect said the Badgers are still in active contact with him as he begins to narrow his list further in the coming weeks.

Prediction

Wisconsin has extended other offers to four-star tailback Asa Martin (Decatur, AL) and three-star Mychale Salahuddin (Washington DC) but both players haven’t expressed as much interest in Wisconsin as other schools they have offered from.

While Curry and Smith appear like long shots, Wisconsin has done well in maintaining its good standing with Thomas, but the Buckeyes have been trending for the Ohio product. One thing helping the Badgers here is Thomas’ familiarity with the school, and the fact that Wisconsin was the first major offer for the tailback. Wisconsin also did well impacting Collins during the spring game, likely putting them in a dead heat with Michigan State. Don’t be surprised if UW lands one of the two.


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