Wisconsin Football Recruiting: Everything You Need to Know for 2014 NSD
Gary Andersen just completed his first season as the head coach of Wisconsin football, and now it's time for him to put the finishing touches on his first true recruiting class.
While it was up to Andersen to finish what former Badgers head coach Bret Bielema had started as far as Wisconsin's 2013 recruiting class was concerned, that resembled damage control more than actual recruiting. There have been a few bumps in the road assembling the 2014 class, but all in all, it's evident Andersen is beginning to put his stamp on the program.
As of this writing, the Badgers have 24 verbal commitments, including four players who have already enrolled in the spring semester. This will allow these early enrollees to participate in spring practice and get a head start on the rest of the class of 2014.
Even with 24 players seemingly locked down—although it was recently 25—there is still some work to be done for Andersen and his staff. Let's get you primed and ready for the 2014 national signing day and tell you everything you need to know about Badger football recruiting.
Top Remaining Targets
CB: Chris Lammons
A recent decommit from Florida, the Badgers are now very much in the running for 4-star cornerback Chris Lammons, according to 247Sports. Just like in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl, it appears the Badgers will duke it out with South Carolina for Lammons' services.
Lammons attends Plantation High School in Florida, and if that sounds familiar to you, it should—that's also where current Wisconsin cornerback Sojourn Shelton went to high school. Like Shelton, Lammons lacks in size, measuring in at 5'9" and 170 pounds, but should the Badgers find a way to earn Lammons' commitment, he would become one of their most prized recruits from the 2014 class.
OT: Frank Ragnow
The race is wide open for 4-star offensive tackle Frank Ragnow, and Wisconsin is one of many teams in line to nab the Minnesota native. Speaking of Minnesota, the Golden Gophers are considered to be one of the front-runners for Ragnow along with Florida State and the Bret Bielema-led Arkansas Razorbacks.
Ragnow has already paid Madison an official visit, and offensive line coach T.J. Woods also made a trip to Ragnow's neck of the woods in December. In a class that, besides Jaden Gault, is lacking in top-of-the-line offensive linemen, Ragnow's commitment would give the Badgers a heck of a one-two punch.
WR: George Rushing
The secret's out—Wisconsin is desperate for some help at wide receiver, especially with Jared Abbrederis running out of eligibility following the 2013-14 season. After Charlie Strong recently bolted for Texas, 3-star wide receiver George Rushing reopened his recruiting and now has Wisconsin on his radar.
The Badgers already have a couple of verbal commitments from wide receivers, but Rushing would surely be in the mix if he were to attend Madison. Andersen has a strong desire to obtain high school recruits out of the state of Florida, and Rushing's commitment would fit the bill and give Wisconsin another option to consider at receiver.
This list of current Wisconsin commits is courtesy of 247Sports.
Jaden Gault, 305 lbs OT, Madison, Wis.
D.J. Gillins, 185 lbs QB, Jacksonville, Fla.
Michael Deiter, 300 lbs OG, Genoa, Ohio
Austin Hudson, 190 lbs S, Tampa, Fla.
Craig Evans, 305 lbs DT, Sun Prairie, Wis.
Dareian Watkins, 192 lbs ATH, Galion, Ohio
Conor Sheehy, 260 lbs DE, Milwaukee, Wis.
George Panos, 290 lbs OG, Hartland, Wis.
Taiwan Deal, 225 lbs RB, Hyattsville, Md.
Billy Hirschfeld, 270 lbs DE, Hartland, Wis.
Krenwick Sanders, 195 lbs WR, Jesup, Ga.
Jeremy Patterson, 310 lbs DT, Jesup, Ga.
Chris Jones, 190 lbs WR, Hyattsville, Md.
Caleb Kinlaw, 186 lbs RB, Goose Creek, S.C.
Serge Trezy, 195 lbs APB, Orlando, Fla.
Natrell Jamerson, 170 lbs WR, Ocala, Fla.
Lubern Figaro, 180 lbs S, Everett, Mass.
Dominic Cizauskas, 249 lbs ILB, Mukwonago, Wis.
Beau Benzschawel, 240 lbs OT, Grafton, Wis.
Ula Tolutau, 230 lbs FB, Salt Lake City, Utah
Rafael Gaglianone, 225 lbs K, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Jacob Maxwell, 280 lbs OT, Greendale, Wis.
Micah Kapoi, 298 lbs OT, Kapolei, Haw.
T.J. Edwards, 220 lbs ATH, Lake Villa, Ill.
Players Who Could Contribute as Freshmen
QB: D.J. Gillins
The offseason quarterback competition at Wisconsin is going to be wide open. It could include as many as five players, and perhaps the most intriguing contestant is highly touted incoming freshman D.J. Gillins.
Gillins is the second dual-threat quarterback to be recruited by Andersen, making it pretty clear the Badgers offense will soon look very different compared to its typical power running game approach. Making that transition easier is the recent quarterback play, which simply needs to be better if the Badgers want to take the next step and become an elite program.
DT: Craig Evans
There is going to be incredible turnover on the defensive side of the ball for Wisconsin, as eight players with starting experience in the front seven will be graduating. And considering how much defensive coordinator Dave Aranda likes to substitute, there will be an opportunity for several new faces to contribute.
The freshman defender with the best chance to add his name to the mix right off the bat is defensive tackle Craig Evans. For a senior in high school, Evans already possesses great size and strength, and he could very well be the primary backup to senior Warren Herring, who will take over as the starting nose tackle in 2014.
WR: Dareian Watkins
A sneaky-good commitment for the Badgers, Dareian Watkins is technically listed as an athlete coming out of high school, but he will start out his college career as a wide receiver.
We'll leave it at that, as receiver is the weakest offensive position for Wisconsin. The 4-star recruit will assuredly be a factor when it comes to not only earning some playing time in his inaugural season, but perhaps even working his way into a starting role.
K: Rafael Gaglianone
With Kyle French leaving the program after two forgettable years as Wisconsin's primary place-kicker, as well as the Badgers' overall struggles in the field-goal department, 3-star kicker Rafael Gaglianone will have a great shot at winning the starting job in 2014.
Gaglianone is an all-state performer and has a big-time leg, already making him an apparent favorite over the incumbent kicker, Jack Russell. Over the past two seasons, French and Russell went a combined 24-of-39 on field-goal attempts.
That's not going to get it done.
Storylines to Watch
Will the Badgers lose any more hard commits?
It's never a good thing to watch a verbal commit back out of his agreement, but it's even worse when that player then turns around and commits to a different B1G school. That's exactly what happened when 4-star junior college defensive tackle Joe Keels decommitted from Wisconsin and instead packed his bags for Nebraska.
This month, the Badgers' 2014 class was dealt another blow when it was announced that defensive end recruit Rohan Blackwood was no longer committed to Wisconsin. The Badgers also came very close to losing Craig Evans, which would have made it three recruits—all defensive linemen—to backtrack on Wisconsin.
It's not rare for players to decommit, and they have every right to do so, but it's worth noting that Andersen has lost his grasp on a couple of commits in his first year at Wisconsin. Will any more players follow suit?
Can Andersen land one more high-end recruit?
Of course, Andersen can make up for losing two verbal commits by reeling in a big fish leading up to national signing day. There are multiple 4-star recruits on Wisconsin's radar, such as the aforementioned Frank Ragnow and Chris Lammons, and there are others giving the Badgers heavy consideration as well.
It was certainly disappointing for Andersen to miss out on players like Joe Mixon and Jamil Kamara, but there is still a chance for the Badgers to bolster what is already a nice recruiting class.
Improving at offensive tackle
This goes hand-in-hand with landing another solid recruit, but along with Ragnow, the Badgers also have their eye on two other 4-star offensive tackles—Kaleb McGary and Kolton Miller.
Jaden Gault, who played in the US Army All-American Bowl early this month, is an excellent addition for Wisconsin. But beyond Gault, there isn't much to admire among tackle commits, and the current roster talent isn't quite up to Wisconsin standards, either. We'll see if Andersen and his staff can convince at least one more 4-star offensive tackle to take his talents to Madison.
According to 247Sports, this is the third straight season the Badgers have landed a 4-star quarterback (2012: Bart Houston, 2013: Tanner McEvoy, 2014: D.J. Gillins). Wisconsin also has a highly regarded quarterback commit for the 2015 class, Austin Kafentzis.
The Badgers have four early enrollees from the 2014 class. They only had two last season (Sojourn Shelton, Keelon Brookins).
Wisconsin's 2014 class currently has sets of three high school teammates—Billy Hirschfeld and George Panos (Arrowhead), Taiwan Deal and Chris Jones (DeMatha Catholic) and Krenwick Sanders and Jeremy Patterson (Wayne County).
Speaking of Panos, he is the son of Joe Panos, who also played on the offensive line at Wisconsin as well as in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills.
Kicking commit Rafael Gaglianone is a two-time all-state place-kicker and made a 57-yard field goal last season. He also missed a 63-yard attempt, not because it didn't have the distance, but because it was wide-left.
The Badgers currently have zero commitments from the state of Minnesota.