Past Recruting Classes Evaluations

Badgermaniac takes a look back at the past recruiting classes in his annual update. Which class was the best? Which class disappointed? Who were some of the most underrated/overrated recruits? How did each class fare relative to their signing day ranking?

In retrospect, which recruting classes turned out to be outstanding and which turned out to be duds? How do the different classes of the Alvarez/Bielema era rank? Well, here is the latest update to this running study that I have been doing for many years.

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.

  • If the player was a star, one of the best to play at Wisconsin, an All-American they received an "8".
  • If the player was an all-conference performer, NFL type player, they received a "6".
  • If the player was a full time starter, they received a "4".
  • If the player was a part-time starter, they received a "2".
  • If the player was a reserve and contributed here and there, they received a "1".
  • All players who quit, transferred, never got off the scout team, etc. before contributing received a "0".
  • In the most recent classes, we know very little about where most of the players will end up grading out at because they simply haven't had an opportunity to fulfill their potential yet. So, most of the current freshman/sophomore class presently grades out as a 0 (because they haven't contributed yet...not because they won't).

  • Then, once each player was graded, I tallied how many TOTAL CONTRIBUTION POINTS each class was worth. This is often more a measure of a class' quantity rather than individual quality. To measure quality, I have given an AVERAGE SCORE for the class as a whole. You might be surprised to see that the average grade for most classes ends up being around a "2" (part-time starter status). It just goes to show how many recruits wind up doing absolutely nothing on the college level. I call it the "1/3 Theory", as your typical ratio is about 1/3 frontline players, 1/3 moderate contributors, and 1/3 busts.

  • Here are the UPDATED individual ratings if you are interested.

    Individual player ratings

  • New for 2008 are some additional team rankings for how each class was rated at the time of their signing. I have also listed the top handful of recruits based on their pre-college ratings.

  • This entire exercise is of course, very inexact and subject to my personal evaluations of players, but I thought it would be interesting nonetheless. Now, for the results and comments:

First, let's take a look at the movement that took place this past fall.

Class of 2004:Much as last year, there wasn't much movement in this class as the bulk of these players have been in the their current roles for a few years now. Newkirk and Langford were bumped to 6-point status due to their All-Big Ten mentions.

Class of 2005:Some solid gains from this class. Graham moved to a 6 point player while players like McFadden and Schofield picked up starter points. There were a couple others such as Dustin Sherer who gained reserve or part-time starter points.

Class of 2006: These third year program guys moved into some starting roles, namely Valai and Moffitt, while players like Brinkley, Isaac Anderson, Kenricks, Nagy, etc. moved into reserve/part-time starter status.

Class of 2007:Gilreath and Welch were the big gainers in this class, while a bunch of guys were bumped into "on the doorstep" status (Clay, Toon, Ogelsby, Maragos, etc.). They have a chance to make a big move next year.

Class of 2008:Nortman won the punting job and eight others played on special teams or in backup roles. They didn't have much impact, but a lot got a taste of action this year. Like the class of 2007, there will be some great opportunity to play next year.

Now let's take a look at where our rankings stand.

  1. 1990: 90 points, 3.1 AVG/player

    Key Players: JC Dawkins, Mark Montgomery, Carlos Fowler, Lamark Shackerford, Yuseff Burgess, Mike Roan, Mike Verstegen, Joe Rudolph, Brent Moss, Mike Thompson, Jeff Messenger, Joe Panos, Melvin Tucker, Chad Cascadden

    Comments: Stunning. There are not words to describe how amazing this class was. Alvarez's first recruiting class, arguably remains 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. This class had incredible depth along with All-American performances from Shackerford, Moss, and Panos. Note the walk-on influence was good with Panos, Hein, and Zullo.

  2. 1997: 67 points, 3.2 AVG/player

    Athlon Team Recruiting Ranking: 30th (6th in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Chris Chambers, Josh Jakubowski, Jeremy Dox, Aaron Haberman

    Key Players: Chambers, Kevin Stemke, Mike Echols, Jamar Fletcher, Roger Knight, Chad Kuhns, John Sigmund, Mark Anelli, Delante McGrew

    Comments: Big senior years from Mark Anelli and Michael Echols' pushed this group to near the top of the ratings. Their depth was excellent with the highest per player rating, while the total quantity is right there with the best of Alvarez's classes. Not too shabby when you combine them with the '96 group. Obviously, they led the team to a lot of success. Interesting to see who the highest regarded players were in hindsight and the unspectactular recruiting team ranking.

  3. 1996: 80 points, 2.7 AVG/player

    Athlon/Collegiate Sports Team Recruiting Ranking: 34th (6th in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Ron Dayne, Mike Solwold, Joe Gribowski, Yusuf Shakir, Shad Washington

    Key Players: John Favret, Casey Rabach, Dayne, Dave Costa, Chris Janek, Bill Ferrario, Chris Ghidorzi, Ross Kolodziej, Donnell Thompson, Erik Mahlik, Jason Doering, Matt Davenport, Vitaly Pisetsky

    Comments: A really good class! This class was deep and talented and formed the nucleus of the Rose Bowl Champion teams of '99 and '00. Even the walk-ons in this class were good. Tremendous group when combined back to back with the '97 class. Now, what is really stunning about this class is take a look at who the highest rated players were. Dayne of course was considered a fullback, but after that, every one of the highest rated guys was a bust. Also part of this class was future solid pro Ed Hartwell, who transferred when he didn't see the early playing time he wanted. Not often you hit on two kickers in one class.

  4. 2001: 80 points, 2.8 AVG/player

    Athlon Team Recruiting Ranking: 18th (4th in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Antajj Hawthorne, Brett Bell, Johnny Sylvain, Owen Daniels, Darrin Charles

    Key Players: Scott Starks, Hawthorne, Charles, Jon Orr, Jim Leonhard, Daniels, Donovan Raiola, Matt Bernstein, Bell, Dontez Sanders, Matt Lawrence, Jason Palermo, Robert Brooks, Mike Allen

    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 '96 class despite comparable numbers. Still, one of the best classes in the Alvarez era.

  5. 2005: 65 points, 3.0 AVG/player

    Scout Team Recruiting Ranking: 35th (6th in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Travis Beckum, Elijah Hodge, Dustin Sherer, Terrance Jamison, Andy Kemp

    Key Players: Jonathan Casillas, DeAndre Levy, Matt Shaugnhessy, Andy Kemp, Eric Vandenheuvel, Beckum, PJ Hill, Garrett Graham, Shane Carter, Jaevery McFadden, O'Brien Schofield

    Comments: A top five class as of now, but for all of their solid ratings, I think in some ways they left the program as a disappointment. They received a ton of points early in their career, but guys like Casillas and Levy could not get over the hump and get to star status, while players like Shaughnessy and Beckum and the OL duo had uneven senior years for various reasons. Overall, a nice class though with still a chance to pick up a few more points should the 5th year guys really excel next year. Most of the best players were not all that highly rated coming out of high school.

  6. 1992: 69 points, 2.7 AVG/player

    Key players: Jamie Vanderveldt, Darrel Bevell, John Hall, Manny Castro, Bryan Jurewicz, Derek Engler, Cyril Weems, Kenney Gales, Rod Spiller, Jerry Wunsch

    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 that did not have a lot of NFL type talent beyond Wunsch, but certainly got a lot of their ability and ranks right around the top 5-7 of the Alvarez/Bielema era.

  7. 1998: 65 points, 2.6 AVG/player

    Athlon Team Recruiting Ranking: 32nd (6th in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Ben Johnson, Al Johnson, Terry Stephan, Wendell Bryant

    Key players: Joey Boese, Brooks Bollinger, Michael Bennett, Nick Greisen, Wendell Bryant, Nick Davis, Jake Sprague, Al Johnson, Ben Johnson, Bryson 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. Good depth with a nice mix between skill players and line players including some nice pros who are still hanging around the NFL 10 years later.

  8. 2000: 65 points, 2.4 AVG/player

    Athlon Team Recruiting Ranking: 21st (5th in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Darius Jones, Travann Hayes, Jerron Smith, Kalvin Barrett, Tyron Griffin

    Key Players: Jones, Anthony Davis, Dan Buenning, Jon Clinkscale, Ryan Aiello, Jason Jefferson, Erasmus James, Jonathan Welsh, Mike Lorenz, Tony 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 with solid contributors all over the place. In hindsight, it is ironic that of the few non-contributors, most of them were the highest rated players in the class.

  9. 2004: 60 points, 2.5 AVG/player

    Scout Team Recruiting Ranking: 37th (6th in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Kraig Urbik, Taylor Mehlhaff, Sean Lewis, Bryan Savage, Marcus Randle-El, Nick Hayden

    Key Players: Jason Chapman, Andy Crooks, Hayden, Urbik, Mehlhaff, Allan Langford, Jack Ikegwuonu, Chris Pressley, Paul Hubbard, Mike Newkirk

    Comments: Only made a small jump their senior year (Langford). They had some really good players of course, but quite a few busts as well. The much hyped QB duo of Lewis and Savage proved to be very disappointing while the Wisconsin kids on the list came through as hoped.

  10. 1991: 56 points, 2.3 AVG/player

    Key players: Lee DeRamus, Terrell Fletcher, Dwight Reese, Cory Raymer, Matt Nyquist, Jason Maniecki, Steve Stark, Same Veit, Eric Unverzagt, Mike 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. Looking at the star power of this group (DeRamus, Flethcer, Raymer), I think you could argue bumping them up a spot despite the numbers.

  11. 2002: 53 points, 2.3 AVG/player

    Scout Team Recruiting Ranking: 53rd (7th in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Alex Lewis, Reggie Cribbs, Enrique Cook, Elliott Goode, Phillip Fuller

    Key Players: Lamar Watkins, Brandon Williams, Lewis, John Stocco, Joe Monty, Mark Zalewski, Joe Stellmacher, Levonne Rowan

    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. The linebacker group was very highly thought of entering college but overall disappointed. Despite the unspectacular performance, this group had some very tough players.

  12. 1993: 48 points, 2.4 AVG/player

    Athlon/Lemming Team Recruiting Ranking: 10th (2nd in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Royce Roberson, Carl McCullough, Rob Lurstema, Tony Simmons, Tarek Saleh

    Key players: Saleh, Simmons, Pete Monty, Donny Brady, Daryl Carter, John Lysek, Jason Suttle, McCullough

    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 so-so class despite their lofty ranking (2nd in the Big Ten).

  13. 2003: 40 points, 2.5 AVG/player

    Scout Team Recruiting Ranking: 36th (6th in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Joe Thomas, Justin Ostrowski, Danny Kaye, Andrew Weininger, Michael Turner

    Key Players: Roderick Rogers, Thomas, Jamal Cooper, Marcus Coleman, Tyler Donovan

    Comments: A small class without a ton of depth. Donovan gave them a nice boost at the end of their run. 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 I suppose.

  14. 1995: 49 points, 1.9 AVG/player

    Athlon/Blue Chip Illustrated Recruiting Ranking: 25th (3rd in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Tim Rosga, Chris McIntosh, Marcus White, Tom Burke, Mark Zanders

    Key Players: McIntosh, Aaron Gibson, Burke, Ahmad Merritt, Bobby Myers, Mark Tauscher

    Comments: This class rates as the third worst of Alverz's tenure so far. What is amazing is that there are three All-Americans in the class, not to mention a walk-on that is still an NFL starter, accounting for a gob of "recruiting points". This class had 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 solidly by the "experts".

  15. 1994: 35 points, 2.3 AVG/player

    Athlon/Blue Chip Illustrated Team Recruiting Ranking: Not in Top 40 (7th in the Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Donald Hayes, Mike Samuel

    Key players: Lamar Campbell, Hayes, Samuel, Bob Adamov, Cecil Martin, Leonard 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 some points late in their careers. The only big timer in retrospect was Hayes and arguably Cecil Martin. 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.

  16. 2007: 32 points, 1.7 AVG/player

    Scout Team Recruiting Ranking: 41st (6th in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Josh Ogelsby, John Clay, Kevin Rouse, Blake Sorenson, Quincy Landingham, Aaron Henry

    Key Players: Kyle Jefferson, David Gilreath, Henry, Zach Brown, Phillip Welch, Clay, Nick Toon, Ogelsby

    Comments: A very solid start with a lot of upside left. They already aren't "last" after just two years and I expect them to make a big jump as redshirt sophs/juniors.

  17. 2006: 34 points, 1.5 AVG/player

    Scout Team Recruiting Ranking: 37th (5th)

    Top Rated Recruits: Lance Kendricks, Jake Bscherer, Kim Royston. Lance Smith, Brandon Hoey, Bill Nagy

    Key Players: Carimi, Moffit, Jai Valai, Isaac Anderson, Niles Brinkley, Nagy, Smith

    Comments: They moved up two spots this year due to the emergence of Moffitt and Valai and supporting contributions from players like Niles Brinkley and Isaac Anderson. The losses of Kirk DeCremer and Lance Smith and perhaps someone like Kim Royston hurt this groups early progress. They still look ok to this point, though the class behind them has passed them at this point.

  18. 1999: 32 points, 1.6 AVG/player

    Athlon/Blue Chip Illustrated Recruiting Ranking: 45th (7th in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Jesse Mayfield, Isaac Booker, BJ Tucker, Scott Willie

    Key Players: Lee Evans, Jeff Mack, Jim Sorgi, Tucker, Morgan Davis

    Comments: What a disaster. Entering into a period of arguably the most pure talent in program history and coming off of the very good recruiting class of 1998, Alvarez and staff shot for the stars and simply could not close the deal. Only Lee Evans saved this class from total disgrace. Sorgi, Mack, and Tucker were solid players, but after that.....ick. This class was typified by players like Jael Speights who wound up in prison before every playing for the Badgers and Lance Young, a quality receiver who could not gain admissions. Following the success of Dayne, it also featured the new two-headed battering rams of Isaac Booker and Wendell Davidson, both of whom became busts. The class did not rank highly amongst the experts, and for good reason.

  19. 2008: 12 points, 0.5 AVG/player

    Scout Team Recruiting Ranking: 26th (4th in Big Ten)

    Top Rated Recruits: Tyler Westphal, Leonard Hubbard, Kevin Zeitler, Jake Current, Dex Jones, Peter Konz

    Key Players: Nortman

    Comments: Eight players got spot time this year. Obviously too soon to tell this early in the game..

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