While Wisconsin has been one of the most dominant teams in college football over the past ten years, their biggest “weakness” is arguably their lack of flashy recruiting classes, but that trend is set to change in 2020.
With a stellar 112-37 record, the Badgers have won more games than storied programs like Florida State, Michigan and reigning national champion LSU.
But while the team has enjoyed a lot of success on the field, the Badgers continually struggled to land top recruiting classes year after year. Coming off a Rose Bowl appearance, though, the Badgers have successfully secured a top-25 class that includes four-star running back Jalen Berger.
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Procuring such a talented recruiting class just one year after they nabbed Graham Mertz could indicate the Badgers are capable of not only competing on the gridiron, but also in a cutthroat recruiting landscape.
This year, the Badgers did a tremendous job bringing in talent to replace impact players who are graduating and moving on to the NFL. After three storied years and over 6,000 rushing yards, two-time Doak Walker award winner Jonathan Taylor declared for the NFL draft. The Badgers addressed Taylor’s departure by signing four-star running back and 2020 All-American Bowl participant Jalen Berger.
Berger enjoyed a solid senior year, running for 840 yards and 16 total touchdowns. He was ranked as the 87th best prospect nationally, holding offers from blue chip programs like Alabama, Florida and Ohio State. Impressively, the Badgers were able to lure Berger away from those top schools. With any luck, Berger will have an immediate impact in Wisconsin’s ground and pound offense.
After losing multiple seasoned offensive linemen, including center Tyler Biadasz who declared for the draft, the Badgers felt the need to address the offensive line in their upcoming recruiting class. Wisconsin continued their trend of adding talented in-state lineman to their class with the signings of four-star prospects Jack Nelson and Trey Wedig.
Nelson is a towering six foot seven inch offensive tackle from Stoughton, WI who chose the Badgers over Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. Wedig, another talented recruit from Wales, WI could make an impact sooner rather than later. The six foot seven inch, 302 pound offensive tackle is the 75th ranked prospect according to 247 Sports and chose the Badgers over top SEC programs including Georgia and Tennessee.
While Wisconsin returns the vast majority of their defensive unit, they faced the challenge of replacing linebackers Chris Orr and Zack Baun. Combined, the two had 24 sacks and both received 2019 All-Big Ten conference selections. With both players graduating and moving on to the NFL, the Badgers needed to replace their two defensive stars.
Linebackers Kaden Johnson and Nick Herbig will try to help fill the void left by Baun and Orr. Herbig, a four-star recruit from Honolulu, HI enjoyed a stellar senior season at St. Louis High School.
Herbig is an athletic six foot two inch, 215 pound outside linebacker who can rush the passer but also does a great job of dropping into coverage.
Herbig’s partner in crime will be six foot two inch, 235 pound outside linebacker Kaden Johnson. Johnson was a key contributor to Minneapolis, Minnesota high school Minnehaha Academy. Poaching Johnson from Minneapolis is a great get for the 2020 Badgers, as P.J. Fleck’s impressive season with Minnesota threatened to cut into the Badgers’ influence there.
During his senior season, Johnson was a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks, tallying 54 tackles and seven sacks. Johnson is extremely athletic and also dominates on the basketball floor as a quality role player for Minnehaha Academy, one of the nation’s best high school basketball teams.
Aside from these five standouts, Wisconsin’s well-rounded class of 20 prospects should help the Badgers compete for yet another Big Ten West title. On top of this, this class also addresses fans’ concerns about the Badgers past struggles with recruiting.
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Though the class is not ranked in the top 10 nationally, these players fill areas of need for Wisconsin’s team. While certain members of the fanbase may complain about Wisconsin’s slow style of play and lack of creativity compared to high-powered passing offenses, it is difficult to complain about Wisconsin’s results with what they have.
Since Barry Alvarez took over as head coach in 1990, his run-heavy offensive formula has been the reason behind nine New Year’s Six bowl appearances and six conference championships. While some fans may complain, Wisconsin did enough in their recruiting class to sustain this continued success.
With five prospects ranked in ESPN’s top 300 recruiting rankings, Badger fans should look forward to Wisconsin’s latest recruiting class. As things currently stand, the Badgers have secured their first top 25 recruiting class since 2001.
With what the Badgers have been able to accomplish when receiving lesser classes, this should be extremely exciting for Badger nation.