With the college football season in the rearview mirror, Wisconsin has averted its full attention to recruiting and bolstering what has been the best recruiting class in several years.
As of right now, the Badgers possess the No. 31 recruiting class, according to 247Sports, and while it may not seem all that special, Wisconsin hasn't reached this level since it conjured up the 24th-best class in 2007. That's a testament to Gary Andersen's staff and its ability to recruit, as well as Andersen himself, who just completed his first season at the helm in Madison.
The recruiting process hasn't been without its ups and downs. Wisconsin has now lost two players who had verbally committed and nearly lost a third. But there are multiple commits who have a great chance to contribute right away.
Andersen no longer has to worry about four early enrollees—Jaden Gault, D.J. Gillins, Michael Deiter and Austin Hudson—but the waiting game remains for Wisconsin's other 20 verbal commits. There is also more work to be done on the recruiting front.
Here is Wisconsin's 2014 national signing day wish list.
Among those who are verbally committed to Wisconsin, there isn't any indication that anyone is on the cusp of decommitting a la Joe Keels and Rohan Blackwood. But 4-star defensive tackle Craig Evans already put the Badgers through the ringer, and they are hoping they can hold on to him until national signing day.
After the departure of Bret Bielema, the Sun Prairie High School standout re-opened his recruitment but finally resettled on the Badgers shortly after the turn of the new year.
Wisconsin will experience incredible turnover on the defensive side of the ball, as eight players with starting experience in the front seven are graduating. And considering how much defensive coordinator Dave Aranda likes to substitute, several new faces will have opportunities to contribute.
The freshman defender with the best chance to add his name to the mix right off the bat is Evans. He already possesses great size and strength, and he could be the primary backup to senior Warren Herring, who will take over as the starting nose tackle in 2014.
The Badgers have already landed 4-star offensive tackle Jaden Gault, who is considered to be one of the best commits for Wisconsin, but beyond him, there is a lot left to be desired regarding the Badgers' offensive tackle recruits.
It's never easy for a school like Wisconsin to lure away a kid from the West Coast, which is exactly what the Badgers would have to do to obtain 4-star offensive tackle Kaleb McGary or 4-star tackle Kolton Miller.
Several schools are lining up for McGary, who hails from Tacoma, Wash. and is nearly a replica of Miller. He measures in at 6'7" and 270 pounds, while Miller is 6'8" and 280 pounds. But the Badgers are making a late push for McGary and will have him in for an official visit on Jan. 17. Miller already visited Madison on Nov. 30.
McGary is ranked slightly ahead of Miller, but if Wisconsin can either one of them, it would be a nice steal in the closing rounds of recruiting. The Badgers will have to outduel several Pac-12 schools to land them.
While a majority of high-profile recruits have all but made their decisions official, there's a reason why you can never say never this time of year—coaching changes.
Recently, former Louisville head coach Charlie Strong made the move to Texas to replace Mack Brown. Making it clear that he was committed to the coach rather than the school, 3-star wide receiver George Rushing re-opened his recruitment and now has several different programs on his radar.
He doesn't have great size for a receiver—he's 6'1" and 180 pounds—but it's the weakest position on offense for the Badgers. They need any help they can get out on the edge, especially with Jared Abbrederis moving onto the next level. Adding Rushing to the mix, who is a top-100 receiver out of the 2014 class, would only increase the odds of finding a playmaker.
It's possible that Rushing will still attend Louisville, as he has the Cardinals in his top five, but the race for his services is wide open.
He's scheduled to visit Madison on Jan. 17 along with two other schools before national signing day, so keep your eyes peeled for Rushing's decision closer to Feb. 5.
The Badgers are now very much in the running for 4-star cornerback Chris Lammons, a recent decommit from Florida. Just like in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl, it appears the Badgers will duke it out with South Carolina for his services.
Unlike Rushing, Lammons didn't back out of his verbal commitment with Florida due to a coaching change. Perhaps it had more to do with the Gators' poor performance on the field as of late, but regardless, the fact that the Badgers should do their best to seize on the opportunity to improve what was a rather leaky secondary.
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 attended high school. Like Shelton, Lammons lacks in size, measuring in at 5'9" and 170 pounds, but if the Badgers find a way to earn his commitment, he would become one of their most prized recruits from the 2014 class.
Having Shelton around can't hurt in the pursuit of Lammons.
Kolton Miller and Kaleb McGraw aren't the only high-profile offensive tackles on Wisconsin's radar.
The race is wide open for 4-star offensive tackle Frank Ragnow, and the Badgers are 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 him, along with Florida State and everyone's favorite Bret Bielema-coached team, the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Ragnow has already paid Madison a visit, albeit not official, and offensive line coach T.J. Woods also made a trip to Ragnow's neck of the woods in December. In a class that is lacking in top-of-the-line offensive linemen, his commitment would give the Badgers a nice complement to Jaden Gault.
Of course, as with any player of Ragnow's caliber at this point of the recruiting process, the fight for his commitment is hot and heavy. We'll see if Andersen can get him back on campus for an official visit before national signing day.