Each month, Wisconsin beat reporter Jesse Temple will 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. In this edition, we look back on what happened in those three areas in December.
Wisconsin’s month on the recruiting trail was quite eventful. The Badgers signed all 19 of their committed prospects in the 2018 class, landed a big-time offensive lineman commitment for 2019 and continued to monitor dozens of other prospects.
Sign 2018 Badgers commits
For the first time, the NCAA allowed high school seniors to take part in an early signing period, which occurred from Dec. 20-22, and Wisconsin took full advantage. All 19 of Wisconsin’s committed players in the 2018 class signed by 10 a.m. CT on the first day of the signing period.
Student-athletes didn’t necessarily have to sign early and could have waited until National Signing Day on Feb. 7. But signing in December allowed players to secure their spot with Wisconsin a full 1 1/2 months earlier. It’s also clear the Badgers coaching staff strongly encouraged those committed players to sign in December. Quarterback Chase Wolf, for example, was initially supposed to sign in February so he could take part in a ceremony with fellow classmates. But he ultimately signed in December.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst has been in favor of the early signing period because it shows the commitment is real from both parties involved. It was the perfect development for a place like Wisconsin, which routinely has its players committed several months before signing day. Of Wisconsin’s 19 commits, 18 pledged to the Badgers by July 6. Signing early also prevents other schools from trying to poach those commits in the weeks leading up to the February signing day.
Continue pursuing new 2019 prospects
Wisconsin had a great November on the recruiting trail, securing commitments from two offensive players in the 2019 class: tackle Logan Brown (Grand Rapids, Mich.), and running back Julius Davis (Menomonee Falls, Wis.). With Wisconsin finishing the regular season undefeated and then playing in the Big Ten Championship Game and the Orange Bowl in December, the Badgers’ national profile is as high as it has been in recent seasons.
Wisconsin capitalized on that momentum by securing a commitment from offensive lineman Joe Tippmann, a 6-foot-6, 283-pound junior from Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger. Tippmann is a 4-star prospect who received scholarship offers from Wisconsin, Purdue, Iowa and Indiana in the past month. Part of what swayed Tippmann was the recruiting pitch from Badgers inside linebackers coach Bob Bostad, who cited Wisconsin’s offensive line tradition and its ability to be physical in the run game.
Tippmann is a dominant lineman who appears to fit the mold as a future Badgers standout.
“When you look at guys who are so much bigger and stronger than the average guys, you also when it comes to playing at the next level look at their footwork, you look at can they bend their knees and are they tough?” Bishop Dwenger coach Chris Svarczkopf told Land of 10 this month. “He’s all three of that.
“He’s a very, very good athlete. He moves very well. Good pass blocker. He can double-team and climb to the next level. He can block the linebackers. He’s always played offensive left tackle for us, even as a sophomore. He was a 15-year-old sophomore, which tells you that he’s got very good footwork.”
Tippmann is the third 4-star prospect committed in the 2019 class, joining Brown and quarterback Graham Mertz (Overland Park, Kan.). It’s early, but the Badgers have a chance to put together their highest-ranked recruiting class ever.
Stay active on currently offered players
The recruiting cycle never really stops, and Chryst said coaches at this stage essentially were recruiting 2 1/2 classes. That means prospects in 2019 and 2020, as well as uncommitted players in the 2018 class.
Wisconsin’s most well known remaining targets for 2018 are wide receiver John Jackson (Gardena, Calif.) and cornerback Jairus Brents (Louisville, Ky.). Jackson is expected to take an official visit Jan. 20, which is quite a coup for the Badgers. It remains to be seen whether the frigid temperatures in Madison will prevent him from picking Wisconsin. One week later, Jackson visits UCLA.
Brents could visit Wisconsin in January as well. He is the top-ranked player in Kentucky and is high on the Badgers. He visited for Wisconsin’s final regular-season home game against Michigan on Nov. 18. Brents would represent a major pickup for Wisconsin, particularly because the Badgers need depth and talent at cornerback in future seasons.
While Wisconsin remains active with those 2018 prospects, the Badgers also continue to stay on top of multiple 2019 players.
Among the offered prospects that appear to be seriously considering Wisconsin are wide receiver Nolan Groulx (Cornelius, N.C.), wide receiver Craig Young (Fort Wayne, Ind.), tight end Hayden Rucci (Lititz, Pa.), tackle Trevor Keegan (Crystal Lake, Ill., tackle Bryce Benhart (Lakeville, Minn.), tackle Andrew Kristofic (Gibsonia, Pa.), guard Zeke Correll (Cincinnati), defensive end Michael Fletcher (Flint, Mich.), inside linebacker Nick Henrich (Omaha, Neb.) and safety Lewis Cine (Everett, Mass.).
Several of those players took unofficial visits for games during Wisconsin’s season. Wisconsin already is ahead of its normal pace with five commitments in 2019. We’ll see if the Badgers can land a sixth in January.