Last week we started to take a look at how the decision to hire Paul Chryst as the 30th head coach in Wisconsin Badgers football history would affect those on the roster. We already gave you the 10 offensive players most affected, but today weâ€™re going to focus on the future.
Yes, recruiting has become even more important than it was just five years ago at Wisconsin. UW was on pace for its best class in school history according to the rankings, but the loss of Gary Andersen couldâ€™ve been catastrophic. Instead, UW has held on to every single commitment and even gained one before hiring Chryst.
Knowing that the class is pretty solid no matter how things went down, letâ€™s take a look at how Chrystâ€™s hire affects some of the class of 2015.
10. Dominic Sheppard, OLB
This has much more to do with the apparent decision to keep defensive coordinator Dave Aranda around than anything else. Sheppard is still someone the Badgers are going to have to fight hard to keep, but without Aranda in play there is no way Sheppard is still a commit to Wisconsin.Â
He may be one of the most important keeps in this recruiting class, and Chryst will have to work very hard down the stretch to keep him away from Miami (FL) and some of the other schools that have come hard after him since the coaching change. If he is still a Badgers player come national signing day, then Chryst and Aranda have done a yeomenâ€™s job. Â
9. Sam Madden, OL
If thereâ€™s one thing Chryst can point to outside of running backs during his time at UW it is his ability to be on staff with some of the best offensive linemen the Badgers have ever had. Madden is an absolute beast of a player and has a ready-made body for the next level before stepping foot on the Madison campus.Â
Having him still solid after the Chryst hire will be a huge help to recruiting the New Jersey area in the future as well. Wisconsin needs road-grader like offensive linemen to help the run-first offense Chryst likes to employ, and if thereâ€™s a recruit that fits that mold better than Madden Iâ€™d love for you to point that person out to me.Â
8. David Edwards, TE
Edwards is a classic athlete that fits in well at the tight end position. The question is just how quick the transition from high school quarterback to tight end will be. Having Chryst around means a bigger emphasis on the position and a lot more opportunities to come a player like Edwardsâ€™ way.Â
What is really intriguing with Edwards is knowing his ability to read a football game, which could really help in the transition. Given the liberal use of tight ends in Chrystâ€™s offense, look for Edwards to be on the field sooner than later should that transition go smoothly this season.Â
7. Zack Baun, ATH
If thereâ€™s one thing that Paul Chryst was good at as an offensive coordinator it was finding ways to get athletes on the field. However, Baun seemed to be a player with a future on the defensive side of the football at UW and it might seem strange to have him on this list because of it.Â
So, why is he on the list of most impacted? For me, Baun could be a great example of Chrystâ€™s ability to spot athletic talent and get him on the field in the right position to help this team. Heâ€™s physical enough to play linebacker on the outside, but could be rangy enough to also stay at his current weight and play safety.Â
No matter what, we arenâ€™t going to find out until the 2016 season as Baun will greyshirt with the Badgers this season. Heâ€™s a name to watch for the future though.Â
6. Jordan Stevenson, RB
Stevenson and apparently other running backs are really taking notice of what the Badgers have been able to do with running backs for quite some time now. Heck, he de-committed from Texas and committed to Wisconsin before Chryst was even rumored to have been hired.Â
That said, running backs under Paul Chryst were more than a little successful and Stevensonâ€™s speed could be a major asset to this team and the way Chryst likes to use his running backs. Look for him to get a crack at a major role in year one.Â
5. Kevin Estes, OL
While Sam Madden may be the road-grader type offensive lineman that UW is known for, Estes is perhaps the most athletic and powerful lineman the Badgers have recruited in some time. In fact, after watching and comparing tape of all the linemen in this class, Estes has become my favorite.Â
Heâ€™s got a mean streak and heâ€™s super athletic for his size. Having that combination and working with Chryst and the offensive line coach Chryst will bring in should make him a quick riser on an offensive line that has been thin for awhile. Donâ€™t be surprised if you see Estes starting next season or the one after that.Â
4. Nick Thomas, LB
Wisconsin nearly lost Thomas to Nebraska, and having seen the guy play in 2014 (thanks to the interwebs) that wouldâ€™ve been disaster going forward. Once again, the hire of Chryst wasnâ€™t the biggest factor, but the ability to keep Aranda in the fold was.Â
Thomas reminds me of the middle linebackers weâ€™ve seen from UW in the past few years. In fact, he really reminds me of Chris Borland at the high school level. Apparently the conversation between Chryst and Thomas went really well, because he quickly reaffirmed his commitment to the Badgers following that conversation.Â
Thomas could have a very bright future at UW, especially considering the lack of experienced depth at inside linebacker. Donâ€™t be surprised to see him on the two-deep when the season begins.Â
3. Brandyn Lee, WR
The Badgers need help at wide receiver in the worst way possible, and while the position isnâ€™t the easiest to make an immediate impact at, Lee is going to get every possible chance to make that immediate impact happen.Â
Having Chryst as the offensive coordinator can only help Leeâ€™s chances because the Badgers are going to want to find ways to exploit matchups in the passing game ala the way things were done throughout Chrystâ€™s tenure as UWâ€™s offensive coordinator. Look for Lee to get his opportunities early on, especially with Kenzel Doe gone from the slot position.Â
2. Kyle Penniston, TE
While most players would be apprehensive with a new coach coming in, Penniston had to be jumping for joy with Chrystâ€™s hire. After all, some of the best tight end play in Wisconsin Badgers history came under the play calling of Chryst.
Penniston is a great pass-catching talent coming out of Mater Dei High School in California, and he may be the best pure pass-catching tight end UW has recruited ever. Remember, Travis Beckum was a linebacker coming in to Wisconsin before changing positions.
In fact, I would say Penniston reminds me a lot of Beckum and last time I checked, Beckum spent the majority of his career at Wisconsin leading the team in receptions.
1. Austin Kafentzis, QB
Paul Chryst is a quarterback at heart, playing the position at the University of Wisconsin himself and coaching it throughout his extensive coaching career. Kafentzis has put up some of the greatest numbers by a high school quarterback in national history, but heâ€™s a dual-threat quarterback if weâ€™ve ever seen one. That led some to question whether Chryst and Kafentzis were a match.
Then people started to realize Chryst was the guy behind the best season in the collegiate career of one Russell Wilson. He just so happens to be the idol of Kafentzis and that means this could be a very intriguing matchup of coach and player in the coming years.
Kafentzis reaffirmed his commitment to the Badgers after speaking with Chryst personally, and there wasnâ€™t a better piece of news in helping to keep this class intact than that. The combination of Kafentzisâ€™ talent and Chrystâ€™s coaching ability makes one wonder just how good this could be in the future, thatâ€™s for sure.