3 Biggest Questions Wisconsin Needs to Answer Before 2014 National Signing Day
With some dead time before Wisconsin's Jan. 1 bowl game against South Carolina, it's an opportunity for players to focus more on finals while coaches hit the recruiting trail to make one last-ditch effort at improving the class of 2014.
As of Dec. 15, the Badgers have 24 commitments from its upcoming class, according to 247sports, which would rank Wisconsin as the No. 22 class among FBS schools. That's an improvement from a season ago, but there are still some names floating around that would provide Wisconsin and head coach Gary Andersen with a significant boost.
But it's not just recruiting questions that need to be answered before the college football's national signing day on Feb. 6. Will there be any coaching vacancies? What are some areas of weakness that need to be addressed?
Those are just a few of the issues that could present themselves within the next couple months, and we'll see if they crack the list of the three biggest questions Wisconsin needs to answer before Feb. 6 arrives.
Will Melvin Gordon Enter the 2014 NFL Draft?
The Badgers know they are losing some significant talent to the NFL, but that's due to eligibility running out for players like Chris Borland, Jared Abbrederis and James White. There is only one player with eligibility remaining who submitted his name for a draft grade from the NFL draft advisory board—Melvin Gordon.
It doesn't necessarily mean that Gordon will enter the 2014 NFL draft. Players have the right to get a feel for where they will be selected should they choose to leave school early, and while Gordon is an intriguing NFL prospect, he could probably stand to put on some more muscle, plus the sophomore running back tailed off in the second half of the season.
We know where Gary Andersen stands. He told Gordon that he would like him to return for his junior season, according to a tweet from Zach Heilprin of ESPN Wisconsin.
This isn't breaking news by any stretch of the imagination, and Andersen said he would support Gordon regardless of his decision. However, that advice is also for his own good. Gordon needs to get bigger, develop more as a pass catcher and, most importantly, be convinced that he would be selected in the first two rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.
Should Gordon choose to leave Wisconsin, there are still some viable options at tailback, including true freshman Corey Clement, redshirt freshman Vonte Jackson and incoming recruit Taiwan Deal. The Badgers would survive, but it would be beneficial for both parties if Gordon decided to return for his junior season.
Is Another Big Signing in the Works?
Another important note is that Gordon has until Jan. 15 to decide if he will declare for the NFL draft. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is on Jan. 4, which is when 5-star recruit Joe Mixon will make an official decision on his college destination.
Wisconsin is in the running for Mixon's services, as he said the Badgers cracked his final four, along with Oklahoma, UCLA and Cal. It's still an outside chance, but should Wisconsin land Mixon, he would become the most prized recruit in the history of the program.
If Mixon joins the Badgers, that could push Gordon out the door, but if that was the case, it's likely a sacrifice that Wisconsin would be willing to accept. Then again, Mixon's final decision may have little, to no impact on that of Gordon's choice.
It's not just Mixon's trail which the Badgers are following. Jamil Kamara, a 4-star athlete out of Virginia, is also on Wisconsin's radar, and he could be an even more valuable pickup for the Badgers considering his primary position is wide receiver.
The blow of missing out on Kamara would be softened by the commitment of fellow 4-star athlete Dareian Watkins, who plans to play receiver at Wisconsin. Losing Abbrederis leaves a huge hole at wide receiver next season, and the Badgers will need a young player to step up and fill that void.
It should be interesting to see if Andersen has some more tricks up his sleeve and can reel in another big-time recruit for the 2014 class.
Will Any More Players Opt out of Their Verbal Commitment?
Back on Oct. 3, Wisconsin landed 4-star defensive end Joe Keels, a solid get for Andersen and his staff, as the front seven was bracing to lose all seven of its regular starters at season's end.
Just over two months later, Keels had a change of heart, decommitting from Wisconsin and going to future Big Ten West Division rival Nebraska. It's not a very popular move in Madison, but the fact of the matter is that one of the Badgers' top commits from the 2014 class is no more.
Unfortunately, it might not end there, and we're referring to yet another 4-star defensive lineman.
The commitment of defensive tackle Craig Evans became soft after Bret Bielema left for Arkansas, which is one of the three finalists in line for his services. Evans recently made an official visit to Madison and will also be considering Michigan State leading up to his announcement on Jan. 4.
While Andersen was able to maintain almost all of Bielema's recruits after taking over nearly one year ago, losing two 4-star defensive linemen would be a tough pill to swallow for Wisconsin, a team that is losing so much talent in that area following the 2013 season.
There aren't any signs that the Badgers should expect any more players to decommit aside from Evans. That being said, he could not only be a welcome (re)addition, but also a rather devastating loss for both Andersen and Wisconsin.