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.
What’s up with Wisconsin’s football recruiting rankings?
When Wisconsin received a commitment last month from tight end Hayden Rucci, it appeared to represent yet another monumental moment for the program’s efforts in the 2019 recruiting class. Not only did Wisconsin have eight committed prospects, but four of them were considered 4-star players in the 247Sports composite.
Only once before during the online ranking era had the Badgers signed four 4-star prospects — back in 2012 — and it seemed as though Wisconsin was preparing to blow past that mark.
Fast forward to this week, and a look at Wisconsin’s 2019 commits reveals something different. There are only two 4-star composite players and six 3-star players. Rucci and offensive lineman Joe Tippmann now are rated as 3-star prospects instead of the 4-star status they held when they committed.
So, what the heck happened?
Allen Trieu, who covers Midwest football recruiting for 247Sports, said the star ratings change has nothing to do with anything either player has done since committing. Instead, he noted that Tippmann’s composite ratings had not yet been updated with information provided by Rivals.com. Tippmann is a 4-star prospect in the 247Sports rating but a 3-star player in the Rivals evaluation. He has not yet been given a grade in the ESPN recruiting ratings.
Rucci, meanwhile is listed as a 4-star player by Rivals and 247Sports but a 3-star prospect by ESPN. All three recruiting websites currently make up the 247Sports composite ratings.
Despite the recent shift in recruiting ratings, Trieu has been impressed with the class Wisconsin is putting together in 2019. Wisconsin still is No. 4 overall in the 247Sports composite team recruiting rankings. The Badgers have not ranked higher than No. 30 in previous seasons.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that this class has a chance to be the best Wisconsin has signed since Internet sites began ranking recruiting classes,” Trieu told Land of 10. “What’s different about it is they got in on some guys early, and since then, those guys have kind of blown up and schools are coming after them, like Logan Brown and Graham Mertz, pretty hard. Those guys are national-type guys.”
Even though Tippmann and Rucci are now considered 3-star composite players, they could improve that rating before the 2019 recruiting cycles closes. Trieu also had more good news about Wisconsin’s current commits by suggesting that running back Julius Davis, as well as Brown, could earn a major ratings boost in the coming months.
Davis, a 3-star player, committed to Wisconsin in November when he held scholarship offers from Wisconsin and Buffalo. He has since earned offers from LSU, USC and Notre Dame. While the analysts at 247 study prospects based on film and in-person evaluations, Trieu said those types of offers could cause them to take more notice of Davis.
Julius Davis highlights
“We did like him already on his film,” Trieu said. “I know he’s going out to some national-type camps in the next month or two. I think that’s kind of the last piece of the puzzle there, just seeing him against other kids that are similar in talent level to him.
“We put him as an 88, which is on the very high end of the 3-star range with the thought that it wouldn’t take much of a nudge to get him up into that 4-star range. As we look top to bottom in Wisconsin’s class, he’s the one that’s closet to making that move. And he’s also the one that we’re going to see next probably.”
Brown, meanwhile is rated as a 4-star prospect and the No. 7 tackle in the country, according to the 247Sports composite. In the 247Sports evaluation, however, he is listed as the No. 2 tackle and the No. 12 player in the entire 2019 recruiting class. If he signs with Wisconsin, he would be the second-highest-rated Badgers tackle behind 5-star prospect Josh Oglesby in 2007.
Trieu said that 247Sports generally awards 5 stars to players who rank in the top 32 in the country, which aligns with how many first-round NFL draft picks there are each year. If Brown stays in his position, he likely will wind up in the top half of all 5-star players when the final rankings are made before the cycle closes. The only reason he does not have 5 stars yet is because recruiting services like to give themselves as much time as possible to make final judgment calls in each class.
Trieu happens to live in Grand Rapids, Mich., which is the same hometown as Brown, and he has seen Brown play as much as any recruiting evaluator in the country.
Logan Brown highlights
“He’s just an incredible athlete,” Trieu said. “If you had to build an offensive tackle prospect from scratch, it would end up looking something like Logan Brown. Super flexibility, his strength coach in the school, they just rave about the things he can do at his size. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. So I think he has a really strong shot to end as a 5-star. If not, he’ll be a really, really high 4-star.
“Wisconsin has success developing guys who aren’t as talented on the offensive line. They develop a lot of guys who didn’t even play offensive line in high school. So you think about what they could do with a guy as gifted as Logan Brown. He has as much upside as any prospect that I’ve seen in the Midwest in this class.”
Brown and Mertz are currently the only 4-star composite players in Wisconsin’s class. Trieu said that Wisconsin fans are enamored with Mertz because of his high national ranking and the interest he has received from so many other programs, including Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama and Georgia.
Trieu watched Mertz at a Minnesota camp last year. He said he has been impressed with Mertz’s maturity and leadership in guiding his team to a state championship in his first season as a varsity starter.
“I think the excitement around him is Wisconsin has typically done very well on the field with quarterbacks who aren’t super highly rated,” Trieu said. “So I think the thought of, ‘If we can develop this guy the same way we did other guys who were on paper not supposed to be as talented,’ then you really have something there.
“When you consider the numbers he put up last year, and that was his first year, I think there’s still so much upside left there. He’s obviously got a good arm. He can make all the throws on the field.”
As the last month has shown, star ratings are still subject to change. But when the dust settles and prospects begin to sign at Wisconsin in December during the early signing period, Trieu said he expects Badgers fans to be quite pleased with their haul.
“When people think about Wisconsin, they think they’ll maybe wait a little bit longer in the recruiting process, find some sleepers, develop guys, even develop walk-ons,” Trieu said. “They don’t necessarily think they’ll recruit toe-to-toe with the big boys. And that’s not to say they haven’t in the past. But I think there’s more of that in this class than people are used to seeing with a Wisconsin recruiting class.”
Wisconsin offers 2020 RB Zachary Evans
Running back Zachary Evans is a 5-foot-11, 196-pound sophomore from Houston who has picked up a scholarship offer from Wisconsin. Evans is a 247Sports 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 4 tailback in the country and the No. 41 player in the 2020 class.
— 3Era🌹 (@Runzekerun01) March 12, 2018
Evans now holds 29 scholarship offers, and some of his leaders include Alabama, LSU, Texas and Texas A&M. He has gained offers in the past two months from Georgia, Florida, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Michigan, TCU, UAB, South Florida, Auburn and Wisconsin. Evans attended Texas A&M’s junior fay on Feb. 24.
Last season, Evans rushed for 1,483 yards and 27 touchdowns on 184 carries — an average of 8.05 yards per attempt. He added 12 catches for 270 yards.
Wisconsin has offered two other running backs in the 2020 class so far: Kendall Milton (Clovis, Calif.) and Miles Friday (Stone Mountain, Ga.).
PG Tai Strickland sets Rutgers visit, earns new offers
Offers are beginning to roll in for 2018 point guard Tai Strickland, which means the competition for his services is sure to increase before he makes his college decision. Up next, however, is an official visit to Wisconsin for Strickland, who is expected to be on campus this week.
That’s big news for the Badgers as they attempt to fill out their 2018 class. Wisconsin already has used a scholarship on forward Taylor Currie, and center Joe Hedstrom will be a walk-on in 2018 before accepting a scholarship in 2019. But Wisconsin continues to look for a playmaking guard. Strickland also is scheduled to visit Rutgers on March 23.
Strickland’s recruiting has heated up in the past month. Wisconsin offered him a scholarship on Feb. 15 after Badgers assistant coach Howard Moore watched him play in person. Rutgers offered Strickland on Feb. 23. Strickland earned a Minnesota offer on Friday and a DePaul offer on Monday. DePaul is the same school where Strickland’s father, Rod, played before he went on to a lengthy NBA career. Tai Strickland previously held offers from Boston College and South Florida.
— Tai Strickland (@taistrickland13) March 12, 2018
Strickland was a star player for St. Petersburg (Fla.) High School this season. His team lost 73-58 to Blanche Ely on Friday in a Class 8A state semifinal game. Strickland was held to 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the field.