Brad Fedle/247Sports
Wisconsin running back signee Nakia Watson compares favorably to Corey Clement out of high school.

Wisconsin mailbag: Biggest impact players among signees, hoops recruiting future, Nakia Watson’s potential

Jesse Temple

Have Wisconsin football, basketball or recruiting questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Wednesday for the Land of 10 Wisconsin mailbag to talk all things Badgers. This week, we discuss running back Nakia Watson’s potential, which incoming freshman will make the biggest football impact, recruiting concerns with the basketball team’s on-court struggles, the development of Badgers hoops players and kicker Rafael Gaglianone’s NFL potential.


Question 1

Answer: I’ve only seen Nakia Watson on high school highlight films, but if I had to pick one Wisconsin tailback in recent memory, I would go with Corey Clement. Watson is listed as 5-foot-11 and 212 pounds. Clement came into Wisconsin’s program at 5-11 and 205 pounds. Both players are physical tailbacks with good body control and balance that show a knack for running through tacklers.

The knock on Watson, as it was with Clement out of high school, seems to be not that he doesn’t have the extra gear to run away from defenders, or “top-end speed,” as the evaluators call it. But Watson decimated opponents all season at Austin (Texas) Westlake. He rushed for 1,837 yards with 27 touchdowns and averaged 6.9 yards per carry. He also caught 18 passes for 327 yards and 6 touchdowns. Having some pass-catching skill will be a major asset at Wisconsin, which loves to utilize tailbacks in that manner.

Question 2

Answer: Jordan Poole is a 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard who is playing about 10 minutes per game for Michigan in his freshman season. Wisconsin definitely showed some interest in Poole but did not offer a scholarship. Poole took an unofficial visit to the Kohl Center on March 1, 2015, to watch Wisconsin beat Michigan State and clinch a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship. He also attended a team camp there in June 2015.

Poole committed to Michigan on Oct. 23, 2015, and averaged 18.2 points per game in his junior season at Milwaukee’s Rufus King. He then transferred to La Lumiere, a prep school in Indiana, to better prepare for Michigan. I don’t know if Wisconsin planned to grow more involved but then didn’t because of his Michigan commitment. Wisconsin did have a commitment from in-state prospect Kobe King already, however. King committed on Sept. 16, 2015.

Overall, Wisconsin’s 2017 recruiting class of King, Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers has a chance to be one of the best to come through the Badgers program.

Question 3

Answer: I’m going to pick a senior who already has played in 39 games but hasn’t really made the impact Badgers fans anticipated: linebacker Arrington Farrar. He was the highest-rated recruit in Wisconsin’s 2015 class and opened his career as a defensive back. Farrar moved to inside linebacker last season, but the position is stacked. Given that T.J. Edwards opted to return for his senior season, there still might not be a ton of reps for Farrar behind Edwards, Ryan Connelly and Chris Orr. But you never know what can happen.

With another year to prepare as a linebacker, he could be ready to step in at any time. Farrar recorded 5 tackles in the regular-season finale against Minnesota, so he’s capable of making an impact. It’s just a matter of whether he earns an opportunity in 2018.

Question 4

Answer: I’ll preface this one by saying it’s almost impossible to project which players will make the biggest impact by the time their careers finish in 2021 or 2022 or even 2023 For example, seven out of Wisconsin’s top 10 signees in the 2014 recruiting class didn’t make much of an impact at all, for various reasons: offensive tackle Jaden Gault, quarterback D.J. Gillins, offensive guard George Panos, wide receiver Krenwick Sanders, nose guard Jeremy Patterson, running back Caleb Kinlaw and defensive back Serge Trezy.

Meanwhile, two of lowest-rated scholarship players in the 2014 class were linebacker T.J. Edwards and offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel – two guys who have become All-Americans.

Of the signees in the 2018 class, I would guess Bryson Williams will play the most early as a backup nose guard to Olive Sagapolu. He’ll then have an opportunity to be a three-year starter if everything goes according to plan. Inside linebacker Jack Sanborn has a great opportunity to make a big-time impact in a couple of years, given that the team’s veterans will have moved on by then. Eight of Wisconsin’s 19 overall signees will play on offense. From that side of the ball, I’ll take running back Nakia Watson and receiver Isaac Guerendo, both of whom had monster senior seasons.

Question 5

Answer: I wouldn’t be that concerned about what one down season means for recruiting. If anything, coaches can use Wisconsin’s struggles as a selling point to potential recruits. In fact, here’s what 2018 point guard recruit Xavier Pinson told Evan Flood of Badger247 after he watched Wisconsin’s collapse against Nebraska on Monday night: “They need a point guard real bad. I noticed that when they were struggling in the second half. They said they need a guy like me real bad.”

Wisconsin is still a Big Ten program that ― until this season ― reached 19 consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Coach Greg Gard has shown his ability to recruit. I know people are worried because the 2018 class right now doesn’t have immediate impact players. Pinson could be a nice addition, and Wisconsin appears to have a legitimate chance to land him considering he has six scholarship offers in total: Wisconsin, Missouri, Dayton, DePaul, Georgetown and Memphis.

As long as Wisconsin doesn’t make a habit of finishing with a losing record, recruiting shouldn’t be substantially impacted. Wisconsin returns nearly all of its contributors next season. And, unlike in football, it only takes a couple of key recruiting pickups to help turn a team’s fortunes.

Question 6

Answer: Of the players you mentioned, we’ve seen some obvious development from Khalil Iverson, Aleem Ford and Nate Reuvers. Let’s start with Iverson, whose numbers are up across the board. Yes, much of that has to do with the fact that he’s playing 28.5 minutes per game as a starter instead of 15.3 minutes as a reserve. But he has more than doubled his scoring average from 3.9 points to 9.0 points and has played aggressively of late.

Even though Iverson is a head scratching 0 for 20 on 3-point attempts, he’s shooting a career-best 55.3 percent from the field. Take away his 3-point tries, and he’s at 61.4 percent from the field. Plus, Iverson’s free-throw shooting has dramatically improved. He was at 56.1 percent last season from the charity stripe. Now, he’s at 70.8 percent. Iverson appears to become disengaged in the game sometimes, which fans have noticed. But he has improved much as a player overall.

Ford’s play has looked like that of a lot of redshirt freshmen playing their first college season: uneven. But in terms of overall development, he has come a long way. He also has become Wisconsin’s most consistent 3-point shooting threat. Ford has connected on 28 of 63 attempts (44.4 percent). He needs to become a more versatile player as a 6-foot-8 forward, but he has three years left to enhance his game.

As for Reuvers, he is the most improved player in the shortest time span. In fact, that’s exactly what Greg Gard told me after a game a couple of weeks ago. Reuvers wasn’t even supposed to play this season but burned his redshirt after five games because Wisconsin didn’t have any front-court help. Despite playing the seventh-most minutes on the team, he leads the Badgers with 21 blocks. He has been thrown around some by bigger bodies, but remember that he should be in his redshirt season. Reuvers shows a certain fearlessness out there that Wisconsin needs. He can score inside and out and is an excellent free-throw shooter at an impressive 93.3 percent (14 of 15).

Question 7

Answer: Accuracy and length strength are generally the two most important factors in a kicker earning an NFL opportunity. Rafael Gaglinaone possesses both of those skills, so it seems likely that he’d at least be granted a chance somewhere in the pros.

Gaglinaone put together a great junior season in which he made 16 of 18 field goals and all 59 of his extra-point tries. Other than a subpar sophomore season, which was the result of some weight gain and loss of leg strength following a back injury, he has been tremendous. Gaglianone ranks third in program history for field goal accuracy at 80 percent (60 for 75). His extra-point percentage of 98.8 is No. 1 in program history. Plus, he can hit 50-yard field goals and has four game-winning field goals.

Question 8

 

Answer: Wisconsin will return its top four guards next season: Brad Davison, Brevin Pritzl, D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King. Trevor Anderson obviously is capable of scoring. He finished his high school career with 2,360 points and averaged 9.8 points in 20 games as a freshman at Green Bay. I do wonder, though, whether there is room for five guards to see playing time next season.

I’m only guessing here, but my starting lineup next season would consist of D’Mitrik Trice at point guard, Brad Davison or Brevin Pritzl at shooting guard, Khalil Iverson at guard/forward, Ethan Happ at forward and Nate Reuvers at center. Davison, Pritzl or Kobe King would be the top reserve guards. Would there be room for Anderson to play in that scenario? If Wisconsin uses a three-guard lineup, then perhaps he could play.

Anderson knew when he gave up his scholarship at Green Bay to become a Wisconsin walk-on that there were no guarantees of playing time. He’ll have to earn whatever minutes he plays. But he certainly has the talent to see the floor.

Question 9

Answer: I know this is sarcastic, but at the rate Wisconsin is going, it just might pull off such a feat. I kid, of course. But what the Badgers coaching staff has been able to achieve with the 2019 recruiting class is remarkable.

Over the weekend, Wisconsin secured commitments from safety Bryson Shaw (Potomac, Md.) and wide receiver Nolan Groulx (Cornelius, N.C.). Wisconsin now has seven players committed in the class, including three 4-star prospects: quarterback Graham Mertz (Overland Park, Kan.), offensive tackle Logan Brown (Grand Rapids, Mich.) and offensive tackle Joe Tippmann (Fort Wayne, Ind.). At this time last year, the Badgers had one committed prospect in the 2018 class.

Wisconsin has done such a good job that the Badgers rank No. 3 in the country for the 2019 recruiting class and No. 1 in the Big Ten, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. That mark obviously will change as more programs begin to secure commitments from 4- and 5-star players. But it’s still a big deal. Wisconsin has never had a class rank higher than No. 30 overall and No. 5 in the Big Ten. The 2019 class has a good chance to surpass both of those thresholds.

Have a question about Wisconsin football, basketball or recruiting? Tweet us @Landof10Badgers and we’ll try to answer your question in a future mailbag. Check to see if your question already was answered by reading previous Wisconsin mailbags here.