Wisconsin’s 2018 recruiting class is officially in the books. The Badgers signed 20 players, including 19 during the early signing period Dec. 20-22. Wisconsin put the finishing touches on the class when cornerback Rachad Wildgoose sent his letter of intent Wednesday morning on National Signing Day.
Here is a look at how the offense, defense and team grade out:
The word that most comes to mind when breaking down Wisconsin’s offensive players in the 2018 recruiting class is potential. Wisconsin signed four wide receivers in the class, which adds to an already-loaded group. Aron Cruickshank (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Isaac Guerendo (Avon, Ind.) are listed as athletes on Wisconsin’s official Signing Day roster. Those two players should be among the fastest in the group. Cruickshank primarily played quarterback in high school because he was the best player on the team, but his cutting ability is breathtaking.
Guerendo’s blazing speed made him a nightmare for teams during his senior season, when he caught 54 passes for 1,258 yards with 16 touchdowns. He also excelled as a jet sweep runner out of the backfield, which Wisconsin loves to utilize.
High school teammates Taj Mustapha and AJ Abbott (West Bloomfield, Mich.) are the other receivers in the bunch. Both players have good size at 6-foot-2 and were versatile threats in high school. They combined for more than 2,000 receiving yards as seniors.
Running back Nakia Watson (Austin, Texas) looks like an absolute steal for Wisconsin after he ran for 1,938 yards with 27 touchdowns and averaged 7.2 yards per rushing attempt last season. Watson will have an opportunity to contribute sooner rather than later as a complement to Jonathan Taylor. That is how highly Wisconsin’s coaching staff thinks of him.
Wisconsin signed a pair of tight ends: Jaylan Franklin (Rockwood, Mich.) and Cormac Sampson (Eau Claire, Wis.). It is difficult to project how Franklin will develop because he played quarterback in high school. Sampson was a first-team all-state tight end. Both players are 6-5 and will become big targets for Badgers quarterbacks.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Chase Wolf (Cincinnati) is an intriguing prospect as the Badgers’ 2018 signal caller. Wolf threw for 2,532 yards with 27 touchdowns and is the No. 39 pro-style quarterback in his class. It will be interesting to see whether Wolf can push sophomore Jack Coan for the backup spot over the next two seasons, while Alex Hornibrook remains the starter.
Wisconsin didn’t need to pursue much in the way of offensive linemen, but the Badgers found a quality prospect with Michael Furtney (Milan, Mich.), who was a two-time first-team all-state selection. All nine of Wisconsin’s offensive players in the class are 3-star prospects. But, as we have seen before, the stars don’t really matter that much at Wisconsin. This is a talented group that will contribute significantly to the Badgers’ future success.
Wisconsin doesn’t often rely on true freshmen to immediately contribute, but there are some real impact players defensively in the 2018 class. Plus, the coaching staff earns solid marks for addressing positions of need.
In particular, the Badgers landed a gem in defensive lineman Bryson Williams (Lincoln, Neb.). Wisconsin fended off late interest from Nebraska, and having Williams in the fold substantially boosts the Badgers’ front. Williams (6-2 and 295 pounds) has an opportunity to earn the backup nose guard spot behind Olive Sagapolu. Williams could then become a three-year starter for the Badgers.
Wisconsin also helped build depth with its defensive line thanks to the signing of Boyd Dietzen (Combined Locks, Wis.) and Isaiah Mullens (Columbus, Ohio.) The Badgers lost their top three defensive ends from the 2017 team. Even if Dietzen and Mullens aren’t ready in 2018, the Badgers will need them in the future.
Another key pickup is cornerback Donte Burton (Loganville, Ga.), who became the 19th committed prospect in the class after visiting in late September. Burton’s high school statistics are misleading because teams rarely threw his way. He recorded 28 tackles with 3 interceptions as a senior but earned first-team all-state honors.
Wisconsin needs playmakers at cornerback considering the Badgers lost starters Derrick Tindal and Nick Nelson. Burton has a good opportunity to crack the two-deep, which is part of the reason he enrolled early at Wisconsin in time for spring practice. The Badgers also signed cornerbacks Travian Blaylock (Humble, Texas) and Alexander Smith (Culver City, Calif.) during the early signing period.
Wildgoose (Miami) became the last commit in the class on National Signing Day. Wildgoose de-committed from Georgia on Jan. 14 and looks like a strong late addition to the class. Safety Reggie Pearson (River Rouge, Mich.) was the first committed player in the class, and he is a hard worker who has a knack for intercepting passes and making tackles.
The highest-rated player in Wisconsin’s class is inside linebacker Jack Sanborn (Lake Zurich, Ill.), who is the only 247Sports composite 4-star prospect in the group. Sanborn won’t have to play right away because the inside linebackers are loaded with T.J. Edwards, Ryan Connelly and Chris Orr. But he is the type of signee who appears to be a slam-dunk contributor in the future — much in the same way that 4-star prospect Vince Biegel was in 2012.
Wisconsin showed how well it recruits in-state by landing four of the top six high school players. Three of those players begin their college careers on defense with Dietzen, as well as outside linebacker Mason Platter (Menomonie, Wis.) and CJ Goetz (Muskego, Wis.).
Wisconsin’s 2018 recruiting class isn’t the type that is going to wow national pundits. But when have the Badgers ever had a class that turned heads? Perhaps that will come in 2019, which already has four 4-star players committed. As for the 2018 class, this group is no slouch, even though it ranks No. 42 nationally and No. 9 in the Big Ten.
Eight of the signees rank in the top 10 in their respective states. And, collectively, Wisconsin’s 247Sports composite rating of 0.8648 is the highest it has been since the online ranking era began fully in 2002. That speaks to the level of quality among the Badgers’ 3-star players.
Wisconsin did well to add players on the defensive line and in the secondary. The Badgers continue to stockpile players at wide receiver and recruit big-time athletes at the skill positions. Players such as Watson, Williams and Burton have the potential to immediately contribute. And, as we saw last season when Taylor emerged on the scene, you never know who else could become a key piece to the team’s success as a freshman.