Recruiting never stops in Badgers country, and we’re here to help put it all in perspective. Join us every Tuesday and Thursday night for a recap of Wisconsin recruiting news, insight on what’s happening behind the scenes and a glimpse at what’s coming next.
Badgers offer 4-star OLB Javontae Jean-Baptiste
Wisconsin’s push to enhance its 2018 recruiting class is barreling toward the finish line with National Signing Day approaching on Feb. 7. But that hasn’t stopped the Badgers from making a late charge at a heavily recruited prospect.
On Monday, Wisconsin offered a scholarship to outside linebacker Javontae Jean-Baptiste, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior from Bergen Catholic in New Jersey. Jean-Baptiste now has 23 scholarship offers, which include Nebraska and Ohio State.
— dontMessWithOcho (@Javontae_JB) January 15, 2018
The likelihood of landing Jean-Baptiste appears to be slim, but Wisconsin isn’t completely out of the race. Jean-Baptiste has taken three of his five allotted official visits: Boston College (Dec. 8), Virginia Tech (Dec. 15) and Nebraska (Jan. 12). He is scheduled to take his fourth official visit to Ohio State this weekend. Jean-Baptiste told Evan Flood of Badger247.com that he would use his fifth visit on either Texas A&M or Wisconsin.
Jean-Baptiste is a 4-star prospect who is rated as the No. 7 player in New Jersey and the No. 21 outside linebacker in the country, according to the 247Sports composite.
Michigan pushing for Wisconsin QB commit Graham Mertz
Quarterback Graham Mertz (Overland Park, Kan.) committed to Wisconsin on Oct. 8 as a member of the 2019 recruiting class. But until he officially signs on the dotted line a year from now, it’s fair game for any college program to try to sway him from making that decision.
Given how well Mertz has performed in the months since making his commitment, it’s no surprise that he continues to generate more interest.
Steve Lorenz of 247Sports reported that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and new assistant coach Dan Enos visited Mertz last Friday during a recruiting trip to the Kansas City area. That’s notable because Michigan offered Mertz a scholarship on Dec. 16.
Mertz led Blue Valley North to the Kansas Class 6A state championship and finished his junior season completing 269 of 434 passes (62 percent) for 3,684 yards with 45 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He participated this month in the U.S. Army National Combine in San Antonio and was deemed by recruiting analysts as one of the best quarterbacks there.
Mertz is a 4-star prospect and is rated as the No. 7 pro-style quarterback in the country, according to the 247Sports composite. If he signs with Wisconsin, he would be the second-highest-rated signal caller for the Badgers since 2005, behind only Bart Houston. It appears Wisconsin will have to hold off other programs in the coming months.
5 early enrollees on campus
Of Wisconsin’s 19 signees in the 2018 recruiting class, five opted to enroll at Wisconsin early so they could acclimate to classes and begin preparations for spring practice. Those five are safety Reggie Pearson Jr. (River Rouge, Mich.), wide receiver Taj Mustapha (West Bloomfield, Mich.), nose guard Bryson Williams (Lincoln, Neb.), cornerback Donte Burton (Loganville, Ga.) and wide receiver Aron Cruickshank (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
All five of those players are on campus and ready to begin school next week. Andrew Marlatt, Wisconsin’s senior director of operations and recruiting, posted a photo of them Monday to Twitter.
— Coach Marlatt (@CoachMarlatt) January 16, 2018
Land of 10 spoke with Pearson, Williams, Burton and Cruickshank before they left their hometowns for campus, and each player acknowledged the importance of enrolling early and participating in practice.
“It’ll be great because then I’ll get to adapt to the new surroundings and stuff,” Cruickshank said. “I’ll get to feel more into the atmosphere. It’s not like high school where I get to go home. I’ll be there for four years.”
Cruickshank comes from an Erasmus Hall program that once was home to Curtis Samuel, who enrolled early at Ohio State in 2014 and then became a star player and NFL draft pick. Erasmus Hall football coach Danny Landberg said that, since that time, he and his staff have encouraged every Division I player to enroll early.
“We don’t want him sitting around in Brooklyn doing nothing while other kids are in spring ball,” Landberg said. “We want him out there as fast as possible. This is business. We don’t have time for games. We want him to get out there and make an impact as soon as he can.”
Loganville football coach Mike Humphreys said Burton took extra classes online, including Spanish, so he could acquire enough credits to graduate early. Burton hopes that decision pays off in the form of playing time.
“I think it’ll be a big part,” Burton said. “It’ll let me get a head start on everything that they have going on up there. The workouts. Just getting an opportunity to try to work into a role on the first team. It’s really a blessing that I was able to become an early enrollee. I’m just happy to be a part of the team. I can’t wait to really get started. I think me coming early will give me a little bit of an edge. It will basically give me the opportunity to go in and compete.”
Next Chapter… pic.twitter.com/5TqshXIJCx
— Clamp Captain ™🏝 (@burton_donte) January 16, 2018
Williams could be in the best position to play early among the group of five, given Wisconsin’s need at nose guard. He’ll have an opportunity to serve as the backup to Olive Sagapolu and take over as the starter in 2019.
“As far as being able to try to contribute right away next fall, obviously I think that was something that was really important to him,” said Ryan Gottula, Williams’ high school football coach at Lincoln Southeast. “It’s a huge adjustment for any kid going from the high school level to the Division I level.
“But having that time to get to know your teammates, get to know your coaches, learn the scheme ― I think asking a freshman to do that in just a few weeks in the fall is really tough. This would allow him to get adjusted to school and learn that scheme and be a part of spring practices.”