Wisconsin football head coach Gary Andersen is set to sign his first class with his new program, one that has remained remarkably stable following the departure of Bret Bielema. Check back throughout the day for more information on the Class of 2013 as Andersen talks about the players who form the future of Badger football.
Corey Clement, Running back, Glassboro, N.J.
In a backfield already loaded with talent, four-star recruit Corey Clement adds another layer of intrigue.
A 5-foot-11, 210-pound running back hailing from Glassboro, N.J., Clement is the biggest name in Wisconsin’s 2013 class and turned down offers from Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska, Florida State and others to play for the Badgers. Clement rushed for 2,323 yards and 33 touchdowns in his senior campaign, enough for Rivals.com and ESPN to each rank him as one of the top 20 tailbacks in the class.
With size nearly identical to that of Montee Ball, Clement is a physical, between-the-tackles runner who can also explode through holes to burn defenders with his speed.
Despite his transcendent talent, Clement will likely spend most of his time on the sideline in his first year suiting up for UW. Wisconsin already has two proven backs in speedy senior James White and the elusive Melvin Gordon, who are joined by redshirt junior Jeff Lewis and redshirt freshman Vonte Jackson.
What separates the soon-to-be freshman from the two backs who have already secured a spot in this offense — White and Gordon — is his ability to power through defenders and break tackles. That skillset could make him an option on third-and-short if he shows enough promise in camp this summer, but Badger fans will likely have to wait a year before Clement can put his full talent on display at Camp Randall.
Sojourn Shelton, Cornerback, Plantation, Fla.
Wisconsin’s recruiting pipeline to South Florida continues in 2013 with Sojourn Shelton, a cornerback out of Plantation, Fla.
A three-star prospect according to Rivals.com and earning four stars from ESPN, Shelton turned away a few SEC suitors as well as Nebraska and Florida State in favor of the Badgers. He originally committed to Florida State before switching his allegiance to Wisconsin in early October.
Shelton boasts solid 4.68 speed in the 40-yard dash but will need to bulk up from his 175 pounds to prepare for the physicality of the Big Ten. He compares favorably to former Badger cornerback who grew into one of the team’s top playmakers in the secondary, Devin Smith. That said, Shelton has a much higher ceiling.
Shelton is one of two recruits who enrolled at Wisconsin for the spring semester and his head start over other freshmen should help him become a critical piece of UW’s secondary in the future. A veteran group showed marked improvement under first-year secondary coach Ben Strickland (who recruited Shelton) in 2012 and he should work to continue that trend.
The Florida native is certainly the most highly touted defensive back to sign with the Badgers and could develop into a shutdown corner before his career in Madison comes to a close. If there is one area that has consistently plagued this program over the past several seasons, it is the secondary, and reeling in Shelton is key to bucking that trend.
Robert Wheelwright, Wide receiver, Columbus, Ohio
If a genie granted Wisconsin football fans three wishes to come true about their team, the first might be adding dangerous receivers to complement Jared Abbrederis.
In 2012 Abbrederis was the Badgers’ only reliable threat at wide receiver, but head coach Gary Andersen and Co. may have found his future replacement in Robert Wheelwright. At 6-foot-1, 179 pounds, the Columbus, Ohio, native is a three-star prospect who both ESPN and Rivals.com rank as one of the top 70 receivers in the Class of 2013.
Though he offers some potential as a deep threat, Wheelwright is not known for his speed so expect him to use his physical gifts to eventually become one of UW’s go-to receivers across the middle and on 10- or 15-yard jump balls along the sideline or in the end zone. He will only grow stronger as he adjusts to the college game and should create matchup problems for Big Ten defensive backs.
Wheelwright turned away offers from a host of Big Ten and ACC schools to play for Andersen.
The inexperience of the Badgers’ receiving corps will likely work to his benefit and he could see some time on the field as a freshman. Wheelwright probably won’t make a major impact immediately, but shows promise of turning into a physical, sure-handed target for UW signal-callers.
Alec James, Defensive end, Brookfield, Wis.
James is regarded as either a four-star or three-star defensive end, depending on the scouting publication, from Brookfield East High School.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound end was named the Wisconsin Defensive Player of the Year this past season as he helped lead the Spartans to the third level of the WIAA playoffs before losing to Whitefish Bay. James logged 97 tackles and 11 sacks during his senior season. He was also an all-state selection his junior year.
James is lauded as an ultra-athletic, very speedy defensive lineman since he also played running back at Brookfield East. According to the ESPN recruiting database, James is the top football recruit from the state of Wisconsin
Since Bret Bielema’s departure, James took multiple visits to other universities, including Michigan State and Oregon before officially committing to Wisconsin last week.
James will join a Badgers defensive group that ranked in the top 20 in the nation in terms of scoring defense. He will help bolster Dave Aranda’s line, which will look to fill the void left by graduating senior David Gilbert. Nonetheless, James will join an experienced group headlined by seniors-to-be Ethan Hemer, Beau Allen, Pat Muldoon and Brendan Kelly.
Chikwe Obasih, Defensive end, Brookfield, Wis.
A three-star recruit and the No. 2 prospect in the state according to ESPN.com, Obasih was named First Team All-State by both the Associated Press and the WFCA. Multiple scouts have evaluated Obasih as having terrific upper-body strength for a high school player, as the 6-foot-2, 235-pound defensive end was also timed to run a 40 under five seconds.
Obasih finished his senior year with 101 tackles, 7.5 sacks, five orced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Obasih also has a high football IQ and picked Wisconsin over Iowa, Iowa State, Penn State, Illinois, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Western Michigan and Yale.
Jackson Keeler, Offensive lineman, Barrington, Ill.
Garret Dooley, Linebacker, Rochester, Ill.
A 6-foot-2, 215-pound recruit out of Rochester, Ill., Dooley is a four-star recruit, ranked as the No. 18 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 11 recruit in the state of Illinois according to Espn.com. During his senior season at Rochester High School, Dooley recorded 132 tackles and 14.5 sacks. A versatile athlete, Dooley also played running back, rushing for 1,456 yards and 32 touchdowns while reeling in 34 passes for 474 yards and five touchdowns. This standout senior season earned him a nod from the Chicago Tribune as an All-State selection and the Player of the Year award in his conference.
As far as style of play goes, Dooley earned a reputation in high school as a very physical player with terrific instincts as a linebacker for stopping the run game. Dooley also displays a nose for the ball and has athleticism that makes him a versatile player at the inside linebacker position.
Dooley chose Wisconsin over offers from Illinois, Indiana, Northern Illinois, Penn State and Vanderbilt.
Keelon Brookins, Cornerback, St. Paul, Minn.
Hayden Biegel, Offensive tackle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
Hayden Biegel will join his brother, redshirt freshman linebacker Vince Biegel, at the University of Wisconsin in 2013. Bigele, the #107 offensive tackle in the nation and the #7 recruit in the state according to ESPN. com, stands at 6-foot-6 and weighs in at 240-pounds. Winner of the Joe Thomas Award as the most outstanding senior lineman in the STate of Wisconsin in 2012, Biegel was also a First Team All-State selection both his junior and senior year for Wisconsin Rapids High School. Biegel was also the conference lineman of the year both his junior and senior year.
Biegel comes from a family with an impressive football pedigree. His father, Rocky, wrestled and played football for BYU from 1988-92 while his uncle, T.D., also played fullback for BYU from 1989-93. His grandfather played football for UW-Eau Claire as a linebacker and offensive lineman.
Leon Jacobs, Linebacker, Santa Clarita, Calif.
Jacobs is either a two- or three-star outside linebacker from Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita, Calif.
Recruited by Aranda, Jacobs is another recruit brought in for his athleticism. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound linebacker also played running back at Golden Valley, where the Grizzly Bears finished their season winless at 0-10.
Nonetheless, Jacobs is considered a three-start by ESPN, and is given a score of 77 out of 100. During his senior season, Jacobs tallied 847 yards on 133 carries for the Grizzlies, a stat made all the more impressive by his team’s winless record.
Though it may take some time to see the field, Jacobs will may fit in with Aranda’s schema, where he plans to implement certain styles of a 3-4 defense.
Jacobs will join Wisconsin’s line backing crew headlined by senior-to-be Chris Borland. Graduating seniors Mike Taylor and Ethan Armstrong will present a notable vacancy alongside Borland, which a long list of players like Jacobs will be looking to fill.
Matt Hubley, Safety, Waukesha, Wis.
Matt Miller, Offensive lineman, Maumee, Ohio
T.J. Watt, Tight end, Pewaukee, Wis.
The Watt pipeline continues to feed directly to Madison, as J.J. Watt’s youngest brother, T.J., will become the third in his family to don a Badger uniform.
Watt played quarterback and doubled up as a linebacker in his senior year at Pewaukee High School and Andersen said he could grow into either a tight end or defensive end. Watt will have plenty to live up to thanks to his surname, and Andersen said Watt reminded him of another well-known pupil, former Utah State Aggie Paul Krueger, the now-defensive end of the Ravens.
Jakkarie Washington, Cornerback, Everett, Mass.
Jazz Peavy, Wide receiver, Kenosha, Wis.
Junior college transfers
Tanner McEvoy, Quarterback, Hillsdale, N.J.
Donnell Vercher, Safety, Clovis, Calif.
Vercher, a three-star recruit according to ESPN.com, will be the first player from Fresno City College to play at a Big Ten school since wide receiver Arsenio Curry signed with Purdue in 2008.
The 6-foot-2 and 195-pound safety had 23 tackles and eight interceptions this past season for the Rams, helping to lead the team to a 8-3 record in 2012 and a tie for first place atop the Northern California Valley conference. In 2011 Vercher recorded three interceptions and 29 tackles.
Andersen and his defensive coordinator Dave Aranda recruited Vercher during their time at Utah State. Vercher chose Wisconsin over Fresno State, where he was once a soft verbal-commit, and Syracuse.
Jack Cichy, Linebacker, Somerset, Wis.
D.J. Spurling, Athlete, Slinger, Wis.