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Badgers commit Keeanu Benton brings strength, quickness to D-line
At this time last month, Janesville (Wis.) Craig defensive tackle Keeanu Benton didn’t have any college football scholarship offers. He didn’t have a star rating and wasn’t on the collective consciousness of Wisconsin football fans.
But all of that changed for Benton when he earned a Badgers scholarship offer while on an unofficial campus visit April 20. Iowa also extended a scholarship offer, and Benton found himself with two incredible options to continue his playing career.
Ultimately, Benton needed little time to determine that playing for the home-state Badgers was what he wanted to do. He committed to Wisconsin on Friday night, three weeks after earning the offer.
“He had a couple things he was looking for,” Janesville Craig football coach Adam Bunderson told Land of 10. “I think Wisconsin checked all the boxes. He sat down with his family. They had a good, long discussion about what specifically he wanted.
“We kind of talked about, ‘Are there schools out there that if they did offer you, you would want to go to over Wisconsin?’ He really couldn’t come up with any. I think at that point, he kind of decided, ‘Well, Wisconsin is No. 1 on my list and they offered. Why wait?’ ”
Benton is a 6-foot-4, 290-pound prospect who is projected to play nose guard for Wisconsin, although Bunderson said Benton is versatile enough to play defensive end. Benton finished his junior season with 52 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries. He is rated as a 3-star prospect and the No. 4 player in Wisconsin for the 2019 class.
Keeanu Benton’s junior season highlights
“He’s the perfect combination of a big, strong kid that’s also really, really quick,” Bunderson said. “In some of the short burst-type drills, he’s just as good as some of our skill guys. Great hands. Really agile. Still developing. He’s only 16 years old. He’s a junior in high school, so we’ve got a lot of room to grow and get better, too.”
Benton seemed to elevate his level of play against the best teams on Janesville Craig’s schedule. He made 9 tackles against Middleton, which finished last season 9-2. He recorded a season-high 10 tackles against a Sun Prairie team that finished 13-1 with its only loss to five-time state champion Kimberly in the Division 1 championship game.
“We played some really good competition,” Bunderson said. “We played Middleton, Sun Prairie and Verona. Even watching him go up against Middleton and Sun Prairie’s linemen, he doesn’t just hold his own, he’s beating guys. He’s getting in the backfield. He had consistent week-in and week-out success no matter who we played.”
In addition to scholarship offers from Wisconsin and Iowa, Bunderson said Wyoming, Western Illinois, Northern Illinois, North Dakota State and South Dakota State were among the schools to express interest in Benton. Syracuse also stopped by the school while recruiting in the state.
Benton is an excellent high school wrestler and finished second in the state this year in the 285-pound division with a record of 46-2. Bunderson described his star defensive player as someone who has a high motor and can chase down smaller ball carriers and quarterbacks.
“I think one of the things that people like as they get to know him is he has one of those infectious personalities,” Bunderson said. “When he smiles, everyone kind of lights up with him. I think as he grows and matures, he’ll be a natural leader. Guys kind of flock to him just because he does have that personality that I think will be really good.”
Benton is Wisconsin’s eighth committed prospect in the 2019 class and the second defensive player, joining in-state linebacker Leo Chenal (Grantsburg). His commitment helps the Badgers gain some momentum in the class after two prospects de-committed during a two-week stretch. Safety Bryson Shaw (Potomac, Md.) flipped his commitment to Ohio State on April 28, and receiver Nolan Groulx (Cornelius, N.C.) re-opened his recruitment on Thursday.
Wisconsin football offers more scholarships
Wisconsin coaches extended scholarship offers to several more prospects since last week. Here’s a look at the latest offers:
2019 DT Kendall Wilkerson (Kentwood, La.)
Blessed to receive an offer from The University of Wisconsin🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/XoVzsb7KCR
— Kendall Wilkerson (@2019kendall) May 14, 2018
Kendall Wilkerson is a 6-5, 265-pound defensive end who holds scholarship offers from Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulane, UCF, Western Kentucky, Southeastern Louisiana and Wisconsin. He tweeted about his Badgers offer Monday.
2020 OL Dallas Fincher (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
I'm truly honored and blessed to say that i've received an offer from The University of Wisconsin!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/bVdZKiCMjy
— Dallas Fincher (@Dallas72D) May 12, 2018
Dallas Fincher earned a Wisconsin scholarship offer while on an unofficial campus visit Friday. Fincher visited Minnesota on Saturday and earned a Gophers offer. He also has earned offers in the last couple of days from Iowa and Boston College. Fincher, a 6-4, 260-pound guard, has 17 scholarship offers, including Michigan State. He is rated by 247Sports as a 3-star prospect and the No. 14 guard in the 2020 class.
Fincher plays on the same offensive line at East Kentwood High as 2019 Badgers commit Logan Brown, a 5-star prospect and the No. 2 tackle in the country, per the 247Sports composite.
2020 CB Hunter Sellers (Atlanta)
— Hunt 9️⃣‼️ (@huntsell_) May 11, 2018
Hunter Sellers earned scholarship offers Friday from Wisconsin, Nebraska and Purdue. He also earned offers last week from Boston College, Louisville and Pittsburgh and has 15 total offers. Sellers is a 6-foot, 175-pound cornerback who also played wide receiver for his team as a sophomore last season.
2019 WR Drake London (Moorpark, Calif.)
— Dråkë (@DrakeLondon_) May 11, 2018
Wide receiver Drake London earned a Wisconsin offer Friday, one day after 2019 receiver Nolan Groulx de-committed from the Badgers. London has at least 20 scholarship offers, including from Arizona State, Nebraska, Oregon, UCLA and USC. The 6-4, 200-pound London is a 4-star prospect and the No. 46 receiver in the country, according to the 247Sports composite.
2019 DT Gio Paez (Cornelius, N.C.)
— Gio Paez (@Gio_paez7117) May 11, 2018
Defensive tackle Gio Paez, who plays at the same high school as Groulx, earned a Wisconsin offer Friday. Paez has 17 offers, including recent offers from Temple, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. Paez is 6-3 and 285 pounds. He is rated as a 3-star prospect and the No. 63 defensive tackle in the 2019 class, per the 247Sports composite.
2020 OL Turner Corcoran (Lawrence, Kan.)
— Turner Corcoran (@turnercorcoran) May 11, 2018
Turner Corcoran has scholarship offers from Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Corcoran is a 6-6, 280-pound tackle that 247Sports lists as a 4-star prospect and the No. 15 tackle in the 2020 class.
2019 DE Adisa Isaac (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Blessed and honored to receive an offer from the University of Wisconsin 🔴⚪️@HOPChiefsFBall @CoachBEllis9 @Rivals @BrianDohn247 @alexgleitman @RivalsFriedman @CoachTurnerUW @BadgerFootball @DemetricDWarren @247Sports #GoBadgers pic.twitter.com/GRNGqMYcY9
— Adisa Isaac1 (@A1Isaac1) May 14, 2018
Adisa Isaac is the No. 1 player in New York and the No. 11 weakside defensive end in the 2019 class, according to the 247Sports composite. Isaac has 27 scholarship offers, with Wisconsin offering him Monday. He took unofficial visits to Texas A&M and Penn State in April.
2019 DT Isaiah Gibson sets official visit
— Isaiah Gibson (@IsaiahGibson75) May 14, 2018
Defensive tackle Isaiah Gibson (Springfield, Ohio) earned a Wisconsin scholarship offer May 9 and has set up an official campus visit. Gibson tweeted he is scheduled to take his official visit June 1.
The 6-4, 298-pound Gibson attends the same high school that Badgers wide receiver Danny Davis once did. Gibson holds 22 scholarship offers, including Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue, Iowa State, Kentucky and West Virginia. Gibson is a 3-star prospect and the No. 58 defensive tackle nationally, according to the 247Sports composite.
Point guard D.J. Carton excludes Wisconsin from top 6
— Dee Jay (@DJCarton) May 11, 2018
Wisconsin’s basketball recruiting efforts suffered a setback when point guard D.J. Carton (Bettendorf, Iowa) did not include the Badgers in his top six. Carton’s finalists are Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Marquette, Indiana and Xavier.
Wisconsin represented the first high-major scholarship offer for Carton last June, and the Badgers appeared to have a good chance of landing him. But he became one of the most sought-after point guards in the 2019 class. By the end of July, Carton had offers from Marquette, Northern Iowa, Nebraska, Iowa, Creighton, Minnesota, Kansas State and Missouri.
Since December, Carton has collected offers from Ohio State, Iowa State, Indiana, Michigan, USC and St. John’s. He has 19 scholarship offers in total. Carton is a 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 4 point guard in the country, according to the 247Sports composite.
Carton is coming off a junior season in which he earned Class 4A first-team all-state honors in Iowa. He averaged 23.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, which included a career-high 36-point effort in a substate semifinal loss.
Wisconsin has significant guard depth, and one has to wonder how much that played a role in Carton’s thought process with the Badgers. Wisconsin signed point guard Tai Strickland (St. Petersburg, Fla.) in its 2018 class as a late addition.
Badgers guards D’Mitrik Trice, Trevor Anderson, Kobe King, Brad Davison and Strickland each will have at least two years of eligibility remaining in 2019 when Carton enters college. Carton told Land of 10 last month that he was paying attention to which prospects committed in front of him at various programs.
“You’ve just got to look into that,” Carton said. “I feel like you have to look at the way the coaches play, whether it’s having two point guards out on the floor or things like that. You’ve got to see the other person’s game and see how well you can fit in with their game. I’m not going to go somewhere where I don’t think I will be able to compete for a starting spot or good minutes. So it’s definitely something you’ve got to look into in the process.”
2019 WR target Craig Young does not include Wisconsin in top 5
Top 5….. Top 5….. Top 5….. AGTG 🙏🏿💯 pic.twitter.com/q1TVzpiIHQ
— YoungStuna 😎 (CY) (@craig_young00) May 12, 2018
Wide receiver Craig Young (Fort Wayne, Ind.) released his top five list of schools Saturday and did not include Wisconsin. His top five: Ohio State, Iowa, Purdue, Michigan State and Indiana.
Young took an unofficial visit to Wisconsin for its regular-season finale against Michigan. The Badgers were among a handful of schools considered to be in decent shape for Young at the time. But he has since earned offers from Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State. Young took two unofficial visits to Ohio State in April.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Young is a 3-star 247Sports composite player and the No. 97 receiver in the country. Wisconsin currently has one committed player in the 2019 class — Marcus Graham — who could play receiver. Graham is a dual-threat quarterback in high school but is expected to play either receiver or defensive back for the Badgers.
TE Hayden Rucci sets official visit
— Hayden Rucci (@haydengucci) May 12, 2018
Tight end Hayden Rucci (Lititz, Pa.) is doing his part to calm the Wisconsin fan base amid the concern surrounding the Badgers losing two committed players in the 2019 class. Rucci, a Badgers commit in the 2019 class, reassured Wisconsin fans of his commitment by setting his official campus visit for June 8-9.
Rucci is a 3-star prospect and the No. 14 tight end in the country, according to the 247Sports composite. He finished his sophomore season at Warwick High School with 9 catches for 108 yards and 1 touchdown before becoming a more versatile threat as a junior.
Rucci caught 19 passes for 376 yards with 3 touchdowns and showed he wasn’t afraid to stick his nose in the ground and make the type of pancake blocks that fire up an entire offense.
“The only thing better than scoring touchdowns is pancakes,” Rucci told Land of 10 in February after his Wisconsin commitment. “That might be even better than scoring touchdowns. I love it.”
Rucci’s size created matchup issues with opponents down the field as well. Warwick football coach Bob Locker said the coaching staff decided to split Rucci out as a wide receiver and throw occasional jump balls to him because he was a good enough athlete to separate himself from defenders and make difficult catches.
“You’ve got a kid who has tremendous hands,” Locker said. “He’s going to be a pass-catching threat but will put his hand down in the dirt and get nasty and block when he’s asked to. And he plays with an edge. He’s one of those kids who is a very polite person in day-to-day life. But on a Friday night, he flips a switch and he becomes just a real competitor.”
CB Travian Blaylock wins state triple jump title
— Derrick Blaylock (@blaylock_23) May 13, 2018
Travian Blaylock, an incoming cornerback in Wisconsin’s 2018 class, capped a remarkable high school career with a state championship. Blaylock (from Humble, Texas) won the Texas Class 6A state title in the triple jump for Atascocita High School with a leap of 50 feet, 7 ¼ inches. Blaylock placed second in the same event as a junior when he recorded a jump of 49-7 ¼.
Blaylock finished his high school football career with 149 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 5 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles. His father, Derrick, played in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets from 2001-07.
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