First, here is how I evaluated each class. I gave each player in a particular recruiting class a numerical grade based on how they produced over their careers as a Badger. I have tried to make it as objective as possible, so the ratings are very general. We can always argue about who was better, but this system more or less tries to take some of the subjectivity out of the mix. There are always a few players who still can be argued one way or the other, but it doesn't really affect the overall rankings.
First, let's take a look at the movement that took place this past fall.
Class of 2002: Stocco moved from a 4 to a 6. Zalewski and Stellmacher were both stuck in that no man's land between 4 and 6. Zalewski played hurt but did not make even the HM list for the coaches team, while Stellmacher was HM for both the media and coaches. Stellmacher isn't even going to try to play in the NFL and Zalewski may have an uphill battle. I certainly wouldn't argue with anyone wanting to put one or the other as a 6, but for now, I am going to hold fast on them being 4's. This class is now put to bed. Stocco's year did bump them up one spot in the rankings.
Class of 2003: This small class received a very limited bump as well. Thomas moved from a 6 to an 8, while Coleman jumped from a 1 to a 4. Weininger picked up a reserve point. Thomas alone is going to allow this class to jump some really poor groups, but they are not looking very strong overall in hindsight.
Class of 2004: Ikegwuonu makes a nice leap from a 2 to a 6. Langford goes from a 2 to a 4. Mehlhaff goes from a 4 to a 6. Rentmeester goes from a 1 to a 4. Minton and Peck picked up a reserve point. Overall, their class made a significant jump, though they are probably now close to done. They have a few chances for some star points and a few guys that could sneak into reserve points or something, but this was probably their last big move.
Class of 2005: Beckum moved from a 1 to a 6. Casillas, Vandenheuvel, Levy, and Kemp went from a 1 to a 4. Hill went from a 0 to a 6. Shaughnessy went from a 4 to a 6. Hodge, Schofield, and McFadden picked up a reserve point each. On paper, this class is just shining with star power and they already have passed departing seniors in terms of impact. They made a nice jump this year and still have a long time left in their careers at Wisconsin.
Class of 2006: Anderson, Harris, Nettles, Royston, Smith and Bscherer picked up reserve points. Like every true freshman class, it is just too early to tell much of anything.
Now let's take a look at where our rankings stand.
- 1997: 65 points, 3.1 AVG/player
Key Players: Chambers, Stemke, Echols, J. Fletcher, Knight, Kuhns, Sigmund, Anelli, McGrew
Comments: Big senior years from Mark Anelli and Michael Echols' pushed this group to the top of the ratings. Their depth is excellent with the highest per player rating, while the total quantity is right there with the best of Alvarez's classes. Taken with the '96 group, not too shabby. One can see why they had so much success.
- 2001: 80 points, 2.8 AVG/player
Key Players: Starks, Hawthorne, Charles, Orr, Leonhard, Daniels, Raiola, Bernstein, Bell, Sanders
Comments: This group came on very late, with players like Sanders, Starks, Orr, and Daniels taking on new roles or improving their play fairly late in their careers to notch some steady points. This group was very deep and balanced with a lot of quality starter points. They produced very good but not great teams, which is why they rank behind the '97 class and arguably could rank behind the 1990 class. Still, one of the best classes in the Alvarez era.
- 1990: 78 points, 2.6 AVG/player
Key Players: Dawkins, Montgomery, Fowler, Shackerford, Burgess, Roan, Verstegen, Rudolph, Moss, Thompson, Messenger, Panos, Tucker
Comments: Stunning. Alvarez's first class, arguably remains one of his best. Granted, the fact that they were his first group gave them a leg up as they were granted tons of immediate playing time. Still, you can't underestimate what this class did for the program. Note the walkon influence was good with Panos, Hein, and Zullo.
- 1996: 74 points, 2.5 AVG/player
Key Players: Favret, Rabach, Dayne, Costa, Janek, Ferrario, Ghidorzi, Kolodziej, Thompson, Mahlik, Doering, Davenport, Pisetsky
Comments: Another truly marvelous class. This class was deep and talented and formed the nucleus of the Rose Bowl Champion teams of '99 and '00. Even the walkons in this class were good. Tremendous group when combined with the '97 class.
- 1998: 61 points, 2.4 AVG/player
Key players: Boese, Bollinger, Bennett, Greisen, Bryant, N. Davis, Sprague, A. Johnson, B. Johnson, Bry. Thompson
Comments: A good solid group that held the program together through some poor classes that followed. The class could have been even better if not for the losses of Terry Stephan and Clink Bakken.
- 1992: 62 points, 2.3 AVG/player
Key players: Vanderveldt, Bevell, Hall, Castro, Jurewicz, Engler, Weems, Gales
Comments: Good overall class with a lot of depth, especially in the line. This class provided much of the depth for the '94 Rose Bowl and Hall of Fame Bowl teams. A solid group. Did not have a lot of NFL type talent, but certainly got a lot of their ability.
- 2000: 61 points, 2.3 AVG/player
Key Players: D. Jones, An. Davis, D. Buenning, Clinkscale, Aiello, Jefferson, James, Welsh, Lorenz, Paciotti
Comments: Another good solid class, similiar to the '92 group. They didn't have a ton of star power beyond James who came on late, but were otherwise pretty good.
- 2002: 53 points, 2.3 AVG/player
Key Players: Watkins, B. Williams, A. Lewis, Stocco, J. Monty, Zalewski, Stellmacher
Comments: Not a terrible class, but not much more than average either. It had some really nice assets at the top, but also a lot of non-contributors.
- 1991: 52 points, 2.2 AVG/player
Key players: DeRamus, T. Fletcher, Reese, Raymer, Nyquist, Maniecki, Stark, Veit, Unverzagt, Bryan
Comments: Like the '90 group, this group had the benefit of immediate playing time due to the new coach. However, they also had some NFL type talent on board and decent but not great depth.
- 2004: 48 points, 2.1 AVG/player
Key Players: Chapman, Crooks, Hayden, Urbik, Mehlhaff, Langford, Ikegwuonu, Pressley
Comments: This group made a big leap, vaulting over a handful of classes as a number o of players move into or close to star category. It still does not really have much of a shot at being a great class, but if they can pick up some more of those star points from guys like Hayden, Chapman, and Langford, they could still move up a few more places.
- 1993: 42 points, 2.1 AVG/player
Key players: Saleh, Simmons, P. Monty, Brady, Carter, Lysek, Suttle
Comments: This class had some quality but without the depth of some of the other classes. A very top-heavy class with some excellent players but quite a few non-performers which brought down the overall score. This class was hurt by defections, as players like Reggie Torian, Royce Roberson, and Rob Lurstema did not fulfill their early promise. Overall, a mediocre class.
- 1994: 33 points, 2.2 AVG/player
Key players: Campbell, Hayes, Samuel, Adamov, Martin, Taylor
Comments: The "infamous" post-Rose Bowl class that supposedly wasn't as good as it needed to be. This was the year in which Alvarez had the fewest number of scholarships to work with (only 13 players on the official list). Actually, the quality was decent, with most of the players contributing. It gained some as guys like Taylor and Adamov added a some points late in their careers. The only big timer in retrospect was Hayes. A fair class given the raw numbers, but given the circumstances, it did not hit a "home run" like some had hoped and goes down as fairly disappointing.
- 2005: 39 points, 1.8 AVG/player
Key Players: Casillas, Levy, Shaugnhessy, Kemp, Vandenheuvel, Beckum, Hill
Comments: This class has a chance to be very special. They already have significant star power and have a number of guys that still can elevate to that level. They are really gong to pick up steam in the rankings when the guys without star potential but still project to be contributors start getting playing time. This class could move up 5-6 spots by as soon as next year. Can they get that per player rating into the upper 2's/low 3's that would qualify them as elite? They certainly could give it a run.
- 2003: 34 points, 2.1 AVG/player
Key Players: Rogers, , J. Thomas, J.Cooper, Coleman
Comments: A small class that looks to be just about done barring a few surprises. They are similiar to the '95 and '99 groups in terms of some top heavy quality, but the depth is just so limited. Joe Thomas alone however made this class worthwhile.
- 1995: 35 points, 1.4 AVG/player
Key Players: McIntosh, Gibson, Burke, Merritt
Comments: This class rates as the second worst of Alverz's tenure so far. What is amazing is that there are three studs in the class accounting for a gob of "recruiting points". Poor depth despite the obvious attributes of the stars. This should have been the real year when Wisconsin should have cleaned up, with the opportunity to recruit this batch for a full year following the first Rose Bowl year. This group was the main reason why so many freshmen and sophomores had to play in '97. Ironically, this class was rated very highly by the "experts".
- 1999: 30 points, 1.5 AVG/player
Key Players: Evans, Mack, Sorgi, B. Tucker, M. Davis
Comments: What a disaster. Terrible depth and terrible star power. Only Lee Evans saved this class from total disgrace. Sorgi, Mack, and Tucker were solid players, but after that.....ick. This was the year that Alvarez supposedly shot for the star players and came up short on most.
- 2006: 6 points, 0.3 AVG/player
Key Players: Anderson, Harris, Nettles, Bscherer, Royston
Comments: Too soon to tell much of anything of course.