Corey Bender

Breaking down Wisconsin's recruiting efforts on the defensive line for the 2018 class.

BadgerNation takes a look at the 2018 recruiting class at each position. Today we look at the defensive line.

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 first take a look at the defensive ends and tackles

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

Where Things Currently Stand

Losing three seniors in the starting lineup after this upcoming season, Wisconsin defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield used the spring to move Garrett Rand from nose to end and get redshirt freshman Isaiahh Loudermilk a ton of reps, which the former eight-man football star took advantage of. While UW will also have David Pfaff and Kraig Howe in the mix, the Badgers entered the 2018 recruiting cycle wanting to sign two ends after only needing one (DePere’s Aaron Vopal) in 2017.

While UW missed on top 300 targets Devin O'Rourke (Northwestern) and Malik Vann (Cincinnati), the Badgers offered and quickly got a commitment from Kimberly (WI) High’s Boyd Dietzen, a former teammate of 2017 commits Logan Bruss and Danny Vanden Boom.

“It always was my dream to go (to Wisconsin),” Dietzen said. “I knew that it would be the right fit.”

At 6-3 and 240 pounds, Diezen has the potential to really blossom in the strength and agility department. Some of UW’s best edge rushers the last few seasons have been in-state players, and there’s no reason to think Dietzen can’t become one of them.

While the Badgers are 50 percent done with their ends, Wisconsin is still looking to land a nose tackle prospect, as Brecketfield will see Billy Hirschfeld, Olive Sagapolu and Jeremy Patterson graduate after 2018.

Top Prospect - Ends

http://www.scout.com/player/206191-isaiah-mullens?s=193

Considering the Badgers were his first Big Ten offer, Mullens wanted to make sure to take advantage of UW’s offer to have him visit for a spring scrimmage.

“I loved it!” Mullens told BadgerNation. “I saw the facilities, the campus and met the coaches. All are great guys. I loved the practice and the way they work. What I really loved was how disciplined they were and well coached they were.”

Although raw, Mullens is lauded for his size and athleticism, even though the Badgers and Iowa State are his only Power Five offers from his list of 10 offers. He’s also drawing interest from Michigan State and West Virginia.

Listing a top group of Bowling Green, Kent State, Toledo, Western Michigan and Wisconsin, Mullens wants to decide before the start of his senior year.

“Me and my coach talked about when I want to make my decision, and I believe we said before football season before my senior year, just so we can get that out of the way and not have to worry about narrowing my schools down,” Mullens said. “So I believe right before football season I’ll start narrowing my choices down and choose where I want to go for the next four or five years.”

Top Prospects – Tackles

http://www.scout.com/player/212982-tola-banjoko?s=193

Banjoko is planning to narrow down his list this summer in order to make a commitment prior to his senior season. According to him, Wisconsin is one of the schools showing him the most interest (along with Georgia, North Carolina, NC State and Vanderbilt). Banjoko visited Wisconsin in early March and said he spent the most time with defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard.

“The visit was great,” Banjoko said. “I got to go around the athletic facilities and the stadium. Then we toured the campus and saw the basketball game. The campus was beautiful and the facilities are top-notch. I'd say my favorite part was talking to the players and coaches. I really enjoyed the trip overall and plan to get to a game this fall.”

http://www.scout.com/player/214161-tyler-bentley?s=193

Bentley listed Kentucky, Louisville, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin his top five at the beginning of March, saying the Badgers were “another huge offer to me.”

“They're one of the powers of the Big Ten, and they can play with anyone in America,” he said. “It's a great school and I want to visit there either this spring or summer, and I'm definitely interested in Wisconsin.”

Planning to start scheduling out some visits soon, Bentley recently added an offer from Florida – a program he grew up watching – and says Kentucky and Tennessee are the schools that remain the most in contact.

“Right now I'm just evaluating,” he said. “I really need to see a big thing with academics. See what is going to help me. Am I going to get a real degree or a general studies degree. I'm going to see what I am going to get. Also what is going to happen to me after football, because football doesn't last forever - so how does the alumni base help you out.”

http://www.scout.com/player/208695-paul-maile?s=193

Maile was offered in February and the interest appears to be strong enough that he’s planning to visit Wisconsin’s campus at some point this offseason. The 6-3, 250-pound prospect from Salt Lake City East has only taken unofficial visits to nearby BYU and Utah, so there aren't any standouts in his recruitment early on. 

http://www.scout.com/player/204923-jordan-redmond?s=193

Getting comfortable with his recruiting region in Florida (Tampa, Orlando and the northern part of the state), Leonhard extended an offer to Redmond in March.

“I know they are an amazing athletic program,” Redmond said. “I'm not too sure about the school from an academic standpoint. A former teammate of mine, Carlos Becker, went there on an official visit and really enjoyed it, so I guess it's a great place today.”

With over 20 offers, Redmond is looking to make his decision after his football season.

http://www.scout.com/player/216406-nazir-sy?s=193

Breckterfield has become the point man on Sy, hoping he can adjust from primarily being a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme.

“It’ll be a learning experience for me (playing in a 3-4), but I think I can do it,” Sy said. “(Coach Breckterfield) was telling me how he liked my size and my athleticism. He said he thinks I’ll be able to fit at that nose guard position. I like hitting people, getting the ball back and the aggression of the defensive side of the ball, just going on the attack.”

Arkansas State, Charlotte, Georgia State, Memphis, Troy and Tulane have also extended scholarships to Sy. He lists Memphis as his top school based on how much he liked the campus and the coaches when he visited in mid-February, but says Wisconsin is close behind and that he’ll try and visit the Badgers in the summer.

http://www.scout.com/player/207464-tommy-togiai?s=193

The Badgers kind of came out of left field when Togiai named his top eight, as he put Big Ten schools Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, Pac-12 schools USC, Utah and Washington and TCU in his top eight. Right now, however, it seems like USC and Washington are the clear front runners.

Prediction

Mullens highly values academics and athletics, and many think Wisconsin is in the driver’s seat of his commitment. If for some reason Wisconsin doesn’t land Mullens, the Badgers might make a push at Chicago Marist’s Gavin McCabe, who took an unofficial visit for a Badgers spring practice. Given his strength and size, McCabe offers possibilities as a strongside end or he could move inside, and he currently holds Power-Five offers Arkansas, Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, Washington State and West Virginia.

“It’s a school that I would have to really, really consider if it would come up even though they came later,” McCabe said of Wisconsin. “They are a top-25 school every year and want to try to get their four-star and five-star guys first. If they don’t get that, they’ll come to guys like me who might not be as good or as big as other guys.”

As far as the defensive tackles listed, Banjoko and Sy appear to the strongest candidates for Wisconsin’s 2018 recruiting class. Former Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen tried to recruit top-end players from Utah and the region when he was here but there’s simply not that big draw there.


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