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Badgers target Jairus Brents ‘can do it all’ on the field
The best players on the high school football field need to be around the ball as much as possible. And for Louisville (Ky.) Waggener football coach Jordan Johnson, that meant trying something a bit different this season with star player Jairus Brents.
Brents, a Wisconsin target at defensive back, has been playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, blitzing off the edges or covering the other team’s best receiver. He also has emerged as an exceptional kick returner. But where Johnson really felt compelled to use Brents was as a quarterback.
“I’ve never let my quarterbacks play both ways,” Johnson told Land of 10. “But he’s so gritty. He can do it all. So he never comes off the field for us. He probably had a sub two or three plays Friday night, and he was mad when we took him out on those plays.”
Johnson, a 5-foot-10, 178-pound senior, holds 34 scholarship offers and is the top remaining uncommitted recruit in Kentucky for the 2018 class. He is such a prodigious talent that Kentucky’s football program offered him a scholarship when he was 13. Now, he is coming closer to making a college decision.
Brents released his top-10 list of schools on Aug. 22: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Oregon, Oklahoma, Alabama, Purdue, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Indiana and Southern Cal.
— Jairus Brents (@JiggaTheShow9) August 22, 2017
Wisconsin offered Brents a scholarship Sept. 21, 2016. He took an unofficial visit Oct. 15 and attended the Badgers’ home game against Ohio State in prime time. The atmosphere for the game stood out to Brents. But he felt particularly comfortable with then-defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard, who since has taken over as the Badgers’ defensive coordinator.
Leonhard, of course, became a Wisconsin legend when he ascended from walk-on to three-time All-American at safety. The 5-foot-8, 188-pound Leonhard then went on to a 10-year NFL career — something that resonates with current Badgers and high school prospects.
“He just really liked Wisconsin,” Johnson said of Brents. “He felt good. He loves Coach Leonhard. It really matches his style of play, and he loves the fact that Coach Leonhard played 10 years in the league and was a little undersized. Jairus, his one knock if you can say anything bad about him, it’s that he’s 5-9, 5-10. So playing for a coach where that doesn’t matter is extremely important to him. His skill set is a shutdown corner, and he doesn’t want to get stuck in the slot at all times being a nickelback just because he’s a little short.”
Johnson said he had been in contact with Leonhard about Brents. He previously spoke to former Badgers defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who visited the high school last season. But that took place before Wilcox left to become the coach at Cal.
“Jairus really didn’t know what was going to happen,” Johnson said. “But he was just glad Coach Leonhard stayed, and he’s going to keep on rolling with that.”
This season, Brents has been a terror on the field. According to the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, Brents opened his season Aug. 19 against Lexington Christian Academy by passing for 111 yards with 1 touchdown. He also rushed 24 times for 157 yards with 1 touchdown. On defense, he recorded 5.5 tackles.
Here are Brents’ highlights from that game, which demonstrate his all-around natural ability. In the opening highlight, Brents makes the entire defense miss him on a quarterback scramble — some on multiple occasions — before polishing off a lengthy run. He then drops in a perfectly thrown ball from the pocket down the left sideline for a touchdown pass. Two highlight plays later, he delivers a crushing hit on a scrambling quarterback and flips him over.
In Week 2, Brents continued to excel. He took a kickoff back 90 yards for a touchdown against Boyle County. Later in that game, he ran for a 3-yard touchdown.
Johnson said there are still several areas the coaching staff wants to help Brents improve on before he attends college.
“What we’ve really been trying to work with him on is some of the read defenses, the coverage switches and the traps and different things that occur in the secondary at that next level,” Johnson said. “We’re kind of a small school here in Kentucky, and so we run cover 3 and we run a lot of man because of him.
“But at the next level, he’s going to have to understand quarters coverage and how that works. We’ve really been pushing him on that stuff to try to get him acquainted with playing at safety, if that’s what he’s going to be doing.”
Johnson noted Brents wants to visit as many of the schools in his finalist group as possible, which will lead to him picking the five schools for his official visits.
“He’s really just worried about when he can get on the field,” Johnson said. “He wants to be a player. We’ve laid out all the pros and cons with different places. He’s got it down to 10 that he can really start to focus on now. I hope that’ll kind of take some of the pressure off him, and he’ll be able to fall in love with a place. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
2018 hoops forward Nate Laszewski lining up official visits
Wisconsin’s top remaining target in its 2018 basketball class has scheduled three official visits for September, but none of them are in Madison. Instead, forward Nate Laszewski (Northfield, Mass.) will use his first three official visits touring schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Inside Carolina reported Laszewski will visit Notre Dame on Sept. 9, Wake Forest on Sept. 16 and North Carolina on Sept. 23. Laszewski took an unofficial visit to Wisconsin on Aug. 9 with his father, Jay, who played for the Badgers from 1982-86. Laszewski’s sister, Abby, is a member of the Wisconsin women’s basketball team.
The 6-10, 190-pound Laszewski is a 4-star player, according to 247Sports, and is rated the No. 4 player in Massachusetts. He starred this summer on the AAU circuit with the New England Playaz and collected scholarship offers from Indiana, Arizona, Virginia, Wisconsin and North Carolina in a four-day span alone from July 28-31. Most recruiting experts believe Laszewski will commit to Notre Dame.
According to Inside Carolina, Laszewski shot 43.8 percent on 3-point attempts (41 of 94) during 21 games with the New England Playaz on the adidas Uprising circuit this summer.
If Wisconsin does not land Laszewski, the Badgers still have offers out to Isaiah Kelly (Atlanta) and center Joe Hedstrom (Hopkins, Minn.). Hedstrom was offered a 5-for-4 scholarship, which means he would be a walk-on next season before earning his full-ride scholarship. Hedstrom, a 6-10 senior, took an unofficial visit to Wisconsin earlier this month.