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 tight ends.
Editor’s Note: Not all prospects who have offers from Wisconsin are listed
Where Things Currently Stand
UW was thin at the tight end position entering last season, part of the reason why Zander Neuville was switched from defensive end and true freshman Jake Hescock was an injury away from playing. Even with Eric Steffes graduating after last season and top target Troy Fumagalli after next, UW appears to be in better position moving into 2017 and beyond, as the offensive coaching staff has some good talent in the room (Neuville, Kyle Penniston and Luke Benzschawel all had good springs) and will add a top-20 tight end nationally in Jake Ferguson this year.
Culpepper is a Florida legacy and the Gators are a school heavily favorite to land him. He recently visited LSU and is expected to visit Penn State and Nebraska next.
"There's no pressure from my family. What it comes down to is who is going to want me the most," he said. "Florida is an amazing place and they're really interested, and I'm really interested. They're a great college and they're all great options right now.”
Michigan State was the leader at the start of April for Franklin, but then the three-star athlete was offered by Wisconsin and visited in mid-April.
"I loved my visit and it has put them in my top five for sure," he said. "Wisconsin has always been a favorite growing up and hearing about them being the number one college town was always said, but until you arrive in Madison, you really don't know."
Franklin has a vast skill set. He played quarterback and linebacker at Carlson last year, but his size and athleticism could project to any number of spots in college. The Badgers discussed position with him before offering and settled on tight end.
With Northwestern, Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt joining the Badgers and Spartans in his top five, Franklin said he is looking commit in June or July.
Oweh earned second team Mid-Atlantic Prep League honors in just his first year of playing football. Considering he’s still raw to the game, schools have viewed him as either a defensive end or a tight end. Recruited by Wisconsin tight end coach Mickey Turner, the Badgers like Oweh’s athleticism, ability to catch the ball with his hands (not his body) and his frame.
“I know a bunch of things about Wisconsin,” he admitted. “I know JJ Watt went there, so they can produce some great players. I know they are power team in the Big Ten because Rutgers was telling me about them. It’s a big-time program, so I was ecstatic when they offered.”
Boston College, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Rutgers offered before Wisconsin, but Georgia, Maryland and Penn State, to name a few, have followed through with offers since.
One of the top players in the entire 2018 class, Ruckert had 58 catches for 807 yards and eight touchdowns. A true sign of his athleticism and versatility, he had 51 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions on defense and went 6-for-7 on his field goal attempts.
Ruckert has cut his list to an unofficial six - Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame Ohio State and Wisconsin – and got an up-close look at the Badgers in early March, including connecting with Long Island quarterback Jack Coan.
“He said it was awesome there and the guys were great," Nick Lombardo, his high school coach, said about Ruckert’s Wisconsin’s trip. “He said the campus was awesome.”
An extremely aggressive blocker, Takacs earned a coveted invitation to The Opening by displaying quick feet and his offensive ability. Wisconsin has made Takacs an important target with their visits to his school, and he rewarded them by putting the Badgers in his top four along with Florida, Georgia and Notre Dame.
“I love the offense at Wisconsin and I love the coaching staff,” he said. “I think I can fit in that offense really well.”
He’s originally from Indianapolis and has only been in Naples for three years, so a move back to the cooler temperatures of the Midwest is a possibility. Notre Dame has apparently made him its top target.
Culpepper will likely be staying in the south, and Ruckert seems to be trending to Ohio State over the last few weeks. The Badgers’ visit went well but Ruckert appears to love the prestige of playing in Columbus. Oweh has good things to say about Wisconsin but it feels like he might stay on the East Coast (if UW gets him to visit, they might have a chance). Takacs and Franklin appear to be the most likely candidate of the group mentioned because they both consider the Badgers one of the top programs in the country for tight ends.
If UW misses on Franklin or Takacs, the Badgers likely won’t reach on another tight end with the young depth at the position and needs elsewhere. That’s part of the reason UW swung for the fences with all of its tight end offers.