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.
John Chenal joins Badgers’ 2018 class as preferred walk-on
John Chenal held out hope this summer that he might earn a coveted scholarship offer from Wisconsin. When the Badgers didn’t offer and their 2018 recruiting class seemed full, he instead committed to play football at North Dakota.
The dream of playing for his home-state school, it appeared, was dead.
But 10 days ago, John’s younger brother, Leo Chenal, received a Wisconsin scholarship offer while visiting campus for a home game against Florida Atlantic. The following day, Leo became the first commitment in Wisconsin’s 2019 class.
That decision led to another one in the Chenal household: John knew he simply could not remain at North Dakota. And so, he gave up a scholarship opportunity to join Wisconsin as a preferred walk-on.
“I’ve always dreamed of going to Wisconsin, obviously, like every young kid growing up in Wisconsin has,” Chenal told Land of 10. “Seeing that my brother already committed on scholarship there, it was too good to be true. So I had to take what I could right there.”
The Chenal brothers live in Grantsburg, a town of roughly 1,300 people located 4 1/2 hours from Madison in the northwestern corner of Wisconsin. With the Badgers’ football team on a bye week, coaches have been able to travel and see prospective players. Badgers coach Paul Chryst and special teams coordinator Chris Haering visited the Chenal brothers at Grantsburg High School on Monday morning, where John Chenal told them the good news.
“I was going to commit last week,” Chenal said. “But I heard the coaches were coming up. I felt like it would be more special in person. And it really was. It definitely made a big difference and brought the true feeling of, ‘Wow this is really happening.’ ”
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Chenal has spoken with offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, as well as inside linebackers coach Bob Bostad, about where he might fit in at Wisconsin. Two potential spots, Chenal said, are at inside linebacker and fullback. Given the Badgers’ depth at inside linebacker, Chenal may begin his career at fullback. The team’s two fullbacks next season will be senior Alec Ingold and redshirt junior Jake Whalen.
Chenal believes he’ll have the potential to earn a scholarship down the line.
“They gave me a hint that there’s a big chance for me,” Chenal said. “I’ve just got to bet on myself to do that. I think I have everything I need to be able to earn a scholarship. There’s some spots that are on the roster that are still up for grabs, even for me in a couple of years possibility. I think there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll be able to earn one pretty quickly.”
John Chenal’s junior season highlights
Chenal has been an offensive force for Grantsburg early this season. He ranks seventh in the state with 947 yards rushing and is tied for first with 16 rushing touchdowns. Chenal also has 6 catches for 133 yards with 1 touchdown. One of Grantsburg’s games was cancelled, which means his statistics have occurred in four games, compared to everybody else that has played in five games. He is averaging 236.8 yards rushing per game.
During Grantsburg’s season-opening 72-52 victory against Cumberland, Chenal rushed for 435 yards and 6 touchdowns. Last Friday in Grantsburg’s 48-15 blowout of Elmwood/Plum City, he carried only 4 times but gained 113 yards and scored 3 touchdowns. Defensively, Chenal has 27 tackles with a forced fumble and two interception returns for touchdowns.
“I think I have good on-the-field vision, good ball carrier vision,” Chenal said. “I know I can read stuff before it happens sometimes. I feel like that’s something that will really help me at the next level. Also I hopefully have the physical tools necessary, and I think I do. I think that can translate pretty well at the next level.”
Chenal’s strength also should translate well. After he committed to Wisconsin, he went to the weight room and set a personal record by bench-pressing 405 pounds. His brother, Leo, captured the rep on video and posted it to Twitter.
— Leo Chenal (@LeoChenal) September 18, 2017
Chenal said de-committing from North Dakota was not easy, even with Wisconsin waiting in the wings, because he is not someone to go back on his word. He apologized to the North Dakota coaches and wished them luck in the future.
But Chenal finally achieved his dream of being a Badgers football player. And he can’t wait for the opportunity to continue that journey with Leo by his side.
“You can kind of get a feeling of what it will be playing high school,” Chenal said. “But I feel as though at the next level, it’ll be just a whole different experience. It’s like having someone to have your back, but it’s more than just a teammate. It’s your actual brother.
“There’s not going to be another feeling like it. That’s a big reason I committed to Wisconsin because I wanted to stay with my brother and keep the tradition going at Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin offers 2019 OT Trevor Keegan
Trevor Keegan, a 6-foot-6, 310-pound offensive tackle from Crystal Lake, Ill., tweeted Monday that he had earned a scholarship offer from Wisconsin.
— Trevor Keegan (@bigtrevk) September 18, 2017
Keegan has 15 scholarship offers, which includes nine Big Ten schools: Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue. He also has offers from Oregon, TCU, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Iowa State and Central Michigan.
Keegan is rated as the No. 2 player in Illinois, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He is the No. 20 offenisve tackle in the country. He attended a Wisconsin football camp in June.
Wisconsin now has offered scholarships to nine offensive tackles in the 2019 class. Last week, the Badgers offered Andrew Kristofic of Gibsonia, Pa.
Big-time performances from Badgers commits
Wisconsin’s Class of 2018 commitments are approaching the middle of their senior football seasons, and several continue to dominate each week. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more stellar performances.
Running back Nakia Watson ran for 172 yards and 4 touchdowns to help Austin Westlake (Texas) defeat Pflugerville 52-3. All 4 touchdowns came in the first half. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Watson has 564 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns through the first three games.
“Every time I get the ball, I just think, ‘Score, score, score,’ ” Watson told the American-Statesman. “That’s all that’s in my head is to get a touchdown.”
Check out this sweet highlight in which Watson hurdles a defender on a long touchdown run.
— Sports Night (@Sports_NightTX) September 16, 2017
Wide receiver Isaac Guerendo (Avon, Ind.) caught 5 passes for 76 yards and 2 touchdowns in Avon’s 63-7 victory against Whiteland. He also added a 91-yard kickoff return for a score. This season, he has 27 catches for 639 yards and 10 touchdowns in five games. You can read more about how dominant he has been during his senior season in my story from Tuesday.
West Bloomfield (Mich.) teammates A.J. Abbott and Taj Mustapha, who are both Badgers commits, helped their team defeat Clarkston 37-15. Abbott caught 8 passes for 145 yards with 1 touchdown.
Mustapha caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in the first half Friday night. Here is video of the score:
#3 Taj Mustapha with a great TD catch from #1 Bryce Veasley 7-0 WB over Clarkston 8 min in 2nd pic.twitter.com/sVibCKPBKg
— The D Zone (@TheD_Zone) September 15, 2017
Jaylan Franklin’s Gibraltar Carlson (Mich.) team defeated Melvindale 34-21 to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2012. Franklin ran for an 8-yard touchdown and recorded a sack.
Quarterback Chase Wolf completed 21 of 30 passes for 284 yards and 4 touchdowns to help St. Xavier (Ohio) defeat Indianapolis Cathedral 31-7. Wolf’s touchdowns came on passes of 40, 11, 68 and 49 yards.
Erasmus Hall (Brooklyn, N.Y.) defeated New Utrecht 47-6. Badgers commit Aron Cruickshank had a nifty rushing touchdown in the game, which was captured on video.
Wisconsin commit Aron Cruickshank puts on the jets 💨 pic.twitter.com/Ystbh5jXLs
— Overtime (@overtime) September 15, 2017
Finally, Jon McNamara of BadgerBlitz.com caught up with linebacker Jack Sanborn (Lake Zurich, Ill.) on Friday night after his team’s 36-6 victory against Zion Benton. Sanborn is a 4-star prospect and the highest-rated player in Wisconsin’s 2018 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Sanborn was asked what made Wisconsin the right fit for him.
“I could go on and on,” Sanborn said. “I believe they have everything that I need to succeed in life, not only on the football field but then also academically. When I went up there, I just felt at home. And it’s a close enough drive where friends, my family can come up and see me. All the boxes were checked.”
You can check out the full interview below.