Each month, Wisconsin beat reporter Jesse Temple will take a look at the Badgers’ recruiting to-do list here on Land of 10. This outlook focuses on three concerns for the program’s recruiting efforts in the weeks ahead. Today, we’ll look at what Wisconsin needs to accomplish in November.
Wisconsin appears to have its 2018 recruiting class wrapped up, but the Badgers will use two important home games in November to get as many 2018, 2019 and 2020 prospects on campus as they can. It represents the last opportunity for prospective recruits to experience the game-day atmosphere of Camp Randall Stadium until next season.
Hone in on 2019 (and 2020) prospects
Wisconsin was busy in October offering scholarships to 2019 prospects. Included in that group was outside linebacker Jackson Hannah (Nashville, Tenn.), defensive end Michael Fletcher (Flint, Mich.), cornerback Moses Douglass (Springfield, Ohio), wide receiver Jake Smith (Scottsdale, Ariz.), defensive end Brandon Smith (Mineral, Va.) and cornerback Tyus Fields (Cornelius, N.C.)
Many of those prospects already have lengthy scholarship lists, and that makes it more difficult for Wisconsin to land those players. Fields holds nine scholarship offers, including from Ohio State, Penn State, Clemson, Tennessee and North Carolina. Douglass has 25 scholarship offers, Brandon Smith more than 20, Jake Smith 13 and Fletcher 10.
Wisconsin is at its best in recruiting when it is able to identify talent early and get those prospects on campus. Badgers 2019 quarterback commit Graham Mertz (Overland Park, Kan.), had only three scholarship offers when he committed to Wisconsin on Oct. 8. The Badgers represented his second offer, and he visited campus for a home game against Northwestern on Sept. 30. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have earned more offers. Instead, Wisconsin’s coaches found someone they knew would be a good fit in the program.
On Monday, Wisconsin received its first 2020 commitment from offensive tackle Jack Nelson (Stoughton, Wis.). Nelson visited for Wisconsin’s home game against Maryland on Oct. 21. Wisconsin represented his first scholarship offer.
It will be interesting to see which prospects Wisconsin offers next.
Make good use of home-game visits
Wisconsin plays two big-time home games in November against Iowa (Nov. 11) and Michigan (Nov. 18). With the stakes rising for the Badgers every week, expect the atmosphere to be especially wild inside Camp Randall Stadium. That’s exactly what Wisconsin’s coaches hope to see when they bring recruits on campus.
Those two are the biggest home games on Wisconsin’s schedule, and the major recruits will be out in full force. There is no set visit list at this stage, but a couple uncommitted 2019 prospects to watch could be offensive tackle Logan Brown (East Kentwood, Mich.) and wide receiver Nolan Groulx (Cornelius, N.C.)
Groulx told Badger247 writer Evan Flood in October that he would be at the Wisconsin-Michigan game.
“That’s the one game I’ve been looking forward to the whole year,” Groulx told Flood. “It’s been on my schedule. Me and my family can’t wait to get up there. I just want to see the atmosphere of the game at Camp Randall. Just being able to talk to the coaches more in person, see the facilities, and what kind of people are there at the games. It should be pretty fun.”
Groulx has 10 scholarship offers, including from South Carolina, Duke, North Carolina State, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and West Virginia. But Wisconsin remains high on his list, and the game against Michigan could represent a turning point in his recruitment.
Brown was supposed to attend Wisconsin’s home game against Northwestern on Sept. 30 but rescheduled because he wouldn’t have had enough time to show his mom around campus. It’s possible he could make another visit to campus in November.
Badgers coaches have been involved with Brown from the start of his recruitment. Wisconsin offered Brown in June 2016, after his freshman season in high school, when he visited a camp in Madison. It marked Brown’s second scholarship offer behind Akron. Since that time, Brown has picked up offers from Michigan, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and Penn State, among others.
Brown is rated as the No. 3 player in Michigan and the No. 7 offensive tackle in the country, per the 247Sports composite. At this stage, Michigan and Wisconsin appear to be his top two schools.
Try to land another commitment
Ultimately, all the work Wisconsin’s staff puts into recruiting comes down to whether a player sees himself playing for the Badgers and fitting into the culture. Wisconsin is off to a strong start in 2019 and 2020 with three committed prospects.
Athlete Leo Chenal (Grantsburg, Wis.) was the first commitment in September. Mertz was the second commitment in October and Nelson the third. Will there be another commitment in November?
Anything is possible, but keep in mind that it’s not a huge deal if nothing happens. In Wisconsin’s 2018 recruiting class, only safety Reggie Pearson Jr. (River Rouge, Mich.) committed to the Badgers before the end of 2016. So Wisconsin is on track with its two 2019 commitments before the end of 2017. Most of the Badgers’ future commitments likely are to occur in the spring and summer. Still, November is an important month in laying the groundwork for what is to come on Wisconsin’s football team.