White and Gordon

Boom or Bust: Looking Back at Wisconsin Badgers 2011 recruiting class

Everyone knows the lifeblood of any program comes on the recruiting trail, but getting players on campus and to sign on the dotted line is a far cry from meaning success or failure.

The other half of the equation is how the recruiting class plays once on campus. A two-star recruit can become a star, while that highly rated four-star recruit never pans out the way the recruiting services tell us they should.

For the majority of the 2011 Wisconsin Badgers recruiting class, we know exactly how things have turned out. As the class moves on to life after Badger football or begins to look towards one final season in Madison, let’s take a look at how the 2011 recruiting class shaped up to look like.

Who boomed, who busted and who still has a story left to tell? Let’s check out the 2011 recruiting class.



RB Melvin Gordon — Hello, Mr. Doak Walker award winner and Mr. 2,500-yard season. No doubt that Melvin Gordon was one of the most talked about individual players in the 2011 class, if for nothing more than his flip back to the home-state Badgers after his commitment to rival Iowa.

He backed that curiosity up with massive production throughout his career, amassing 4,915 yards and averaging 7.8 yards per carry in his three years of play at UW. After finally becoming “the man” in the back field this past season, Gordon went on a season-long highlight reel, putting up 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns.

This past season even included a then-record 408-yard performance against Nebraska. Gordon held that single-game rushing record for all of one week, but still it was just one of many memorable moments on the way to being the runner up to the Heisman Trophy.

If that doesn’t say boom, I don’t know what will.


S Michael Caputo — It may have taken a bit, but the 3-star safety out of Pennsylvania has become one of the best at his position in the Big Ten. One could also argue he is the most important player on the Badgers defense at this point in time.

Caputo started off last season so well, and as he picked up a nagging injury late in the season and his production dipped, so did the overall defensive production.

CB Darius Hillary — Here is one of the players who has arguably outdone his recruiting ranking already. After

This past season Hillary finally got his starting opportunity and he became the biggest lockdown corner and arguably the most reliable defender on the team. Going in to his final season, the Badgers have little question that Hillary will be up for the challenge.

He has just one interception, but over the past three years he has played in all 41 games and recored 94 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and 12 passes defensed. Not too shabby for the No. 57-ranked cornerback in the country.

LB Derek Landisch — Let’s start with the fact that this guy went from the No. 133-ranked outside linebacker in the country to first-team All-Big Ten by his senior season. This was a classic Bret Bielema recruit, as the Badsgers swung on a player most wouldn’t have and turned the in-state product in to a premier linebacker.

Finally getting out of the shadow of Chris Borland, Landisch was a standout player for the Badgers 3-4 defense in 2014. He recored a career high 84 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks. Landisch even recorded three passes defensed and had his only career interception as well.

Talk about getting bang for your recruiting rankings, huh?

TE Sam Arneson — Sam Arneson went from three-star recruit to one of the Badgers’ biggest offensive weapons during his four years at Wisconsin. He may not go down as the first name you think of over the last decade at the position, but Arneson was also one of the most vital players at his position during his time in a Badger uniform.

This past season, the No. 47-ranked tight end in the country managed to lead the Badgers in four receiving touchdowns, while racking up 29 receptions and 387 yards receiving. Those were both second best on the team.

Arneson more than played his role, he was a difficult matchup thanks to his speed and route running.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 01: James White #20 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates a second quarter touchdown with Zac Matthias #75 and Tyler Marz #61while playing the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the Big 10 Conference Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 1, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 01: James White #20 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates a second quarter touchdown with Zac Matthias #75 and Tyler Marz #61while playing the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the Big 10 Conference Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 1, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

OT Tyler Marz — When you don’t even have a picture on a recruiting website, receive just two stars and are the No. 149-ranked player at tackle and are a three-year starter at left tackle you’re the definition of the term “boom” on the recruiting trail.

Marz played in 10 games during his redshirt freshman season, but has started every game since then and enters his senior season as one of the best left tackles in the Big Ten. He also happens to have earned back-to-back Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors.

ATH Nate Hammon — Again, injury casualty here. Hammon had one great season with the Badgers, recording 24 tackles in 2013 and appearing to be on track to be future star. That’s especially true considering he was the lowest ranked player the Badgers signed in the 2011 class.

However, his legs just couldn’t do it anymore and Hammon decided to enjoy his future life rather than continue playing football. A totally understandable personal situation, and still showing why he was a boom for the Badgers. Getting anything near starting minutes out of the lowest ranked player in the class is a boom in my opinion — even if it was just for one season.



WR Kenzel Doe — It’s hard to call a nearly un-recruited player who turned in to one of the team leaders by the end of his days at UW a “bust.” Doe was a frustrating return man, equally capable of returning a kick/punt for a touchdown and also coughing up the football.

Doe ended up returning one kick and one punt return for touchdowns, averaging a healthy 23.9 yards per kick return and 9.8 yards per punt return. He also finished his career with 42 receptions for 379 yards and one touchdown as a pure wide receiver.

While the overall numbers aren’t mind-blowing, the fact that the No. 107-ranked wide receiver in his recruiting class became a starting wide receiver at any point in his career makes it worth taking note.

S Jordan Fredrick — He was recruited by most schools as a safety, but never played anything but wide receiver in his career at UW. Fredrick still has one season left in the Cardinal and White, but following a few seasons as a solid blocker, the senior is falling down the depth chart.

Not exactly the projection one would hope for during a college football career. At least he’s helped academically, as a two-time academic All-Big Ten selection. Not bad for the No. 96-ranked player at safety.

Still, the fact that he’s slipping down the wide receiver depth chart isn’t exactly a good sign for someone entering their senior season.

FB Derek Watt — Injuries stunted what could’ve been an amazing career for fullback/h-back Derek Watt. However, he’s appeared in 34 games in his career and had 15 receptions for 170 yards and one touchdown.

Watt appeared in just eight games during his senior season, but recorded no stats. He may have been the biggest victim of what was happening with the transition on offense under Gary Andersen, going from 12 receptions in 2012 to just three in 2013 (Andersen’s first season at UW). That’s why it’s hard to say the former two-star outside linebacker turned fullback isn’t going to be seen as a bust in our eyes.



ILB Jake Keefer — This is a player as close to being a bust as humanly possible. Keefer was a top 10 player at inside linebacker according to the 247Sports composite. The only thing really saving him is the fact that he still has one more season left in the Cardinal and White uniform.

Going in to his final season in Madison, Keefer appears ready to finally have a bigger role on the Badgers roster, but as a defensive end. He needs it, after racking up just 10 total tackles over the course of three seasons.

Those aren’t numbers one would expect from the highest ranked individual player the Badgers signed in this recruiting class. Without a staring role in his final season in Madison, Keefer is flat out a bust in terms of production to match potential upon signing day.

WDE Jesse Hayes — Part of this equation is a switch in defensive schemes in the middle of his time at the University of Wisconsin and part of it is simply a lack of production. Hayes was moved to outside linebacker following his redshirt sophomore season, but hasn’t really been a player throughout his career as other recruits passed him by and he struggled at times with the transition to a 3-4 defense.

Hayes did appear in a career high 10 games this past season, but has amassed just four tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble in his career. Considering he was one of the more coveted Badgers coming out of the state of Ohio, Hayes really hasn’t lived up to his recruiting rankings (No. 12 WDE, No. 341 national).

WDE James Adeyanju — Just as Jesse Hayes was a big time recruit at his individual position, so was Adeyanju. Hayes was ranked No. 12, Adeyanju was No. 13. Neither have really lived up to the potential to this day.

Adeyanju had a career year in 2014, appearing in 10 games and putting up eight tackles to go with a fumble recovery. Not exactly what you would hope for out of a player near the top of his class at his particular position.

There is still one season left, but Adeyanju is becoming less and less of a key component and more and more of an afterthought on Dave Aranda’s defense.

TE Austin Maly — Who? Unless you follow recruiting or do what we do for a living, chances are you haven’t given a second thought to the name Austin Maly since the 2011 national signing day. After redshirting his freshman season, Maly did record a single stat in his first three seasons at UW.

He was the No. 61-ranked tight end coming out of Waunakee (Wis.) High School, so expecting a lot out of him may have been a bit too much. Still, putting out a scholarship to a player who hasn’t recorded a single stat in three years and has played in just 10 total games speaks volumes.

Maly isn’t even listed on the roster for the 2014 season, so the Badgers 2011 class is down another player who didn’t complete his career on the football side of things.

WR A.J. Jordan — Signing a 6-2, 180-pound wide receiver out of high school…and out from under the nose of the Ohio State Buckeyes brings some big hope that the future is bright. In the case of A.J. Jordan, that future wasn’t so bright.

He never materialized as a strong option as a wide receiver, and eventually was moved to the defensive secondary. For his career, Jordan recored exactly zero receptions, but did record 15 total tackles as a backup and was a contributor on special teams as well.

WR Fredrick Willis — No. 226-ranked in his class, so it’s hard to expect much, but does anyone really remember Willis’ time as a Badger? It won’t be easy to remember him considering he left the team just before his sophomore season.

Talk about wasting a scholarship, huh?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 06:  Corey Smith #84 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is tackled by Devin Gaulden #4 of the Wisconsin Badgers during the first quarter of the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 6, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 06: Corey Smith #84 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is tackled by Devin Gaulden #4 of the Wisconsin Badgers during the first quarter of the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 6, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)


Jury Still Out:

TE Austin Traylor — He was one of the best recruits in the Badgers’ 2011 class, ranking as the No. 11 tight end and the No. 209 player in the nation. Since arriving on campus, Traylor has had to work behind some of the best tight ends in college football, and that means the numbers haven’t really come.

That doesn’t mean they won’t, as Traylor also became one of the most reliable blocking tight ends the Badgers have had. It appears that could be changing thanks to this spring though, as he is coming off a 3-catch, 24-yard season last year and has been unleashed across from Troy Fumagalli and Kyle Penninston.

Let’s see if Traylor can become a bigger force in the passing game before completely writing his career at Wisconsin off. Besides, stat sheets aren’t everything, and Traylor has been a two-year starter at one of the more loaded positions on the Badgers’ roster.

OT Ray Ball — This is another player who redshirted and has been steadily moving up the depth chart has his career has gone on. Ball could well end up a member of the starting offensive line this fall, and that would change how we see his scholarship situation.

Should that happen, Ball could go from bust to so-so in our rankings.

CB Terrance Floyd — Apparently Floyd has made some noise this just completed spring camp, but there hasn’t been much in the way of production from Floyd throughout his career. He’s appeared in just 20 games over three years and made five total tackles — that’s the extent of his playing career to date.

Interestingly though, it appears the senior has finally put it together and could be a contributor at cornerback and less on special teams this upcoming season. According to reports, Floyd had taken a majority of second team reps and saw time at nickel back as spring ball got deep in to the final weeks.

Shold Floyd become even a minor contributor then we’ll gladly place him in the so-so category. What else should you expect from the No. 70-ranked cornerback in any class?

CB Devin Gaulden — This is a hard one to put in to a category right now, so that’s why Gaulden is in the “jury is still out” category. On the one hand, the No. 105-ranked cornerback in the country starting any games in his career is a good thing, then again, if he’s capable of starting why has he only played in just 10 games before his junior season?

Gaulden appeared in all 14 games for the Badgers during the 2014 season, starting four of them. He’s become one of the most trusted corners in the UW lineup, and after this spring appears to be fighting hard for the nickel corner spot on this team (along with fellow “jury still out” member Terrance Floyd).

However, he’s only put up 14 tackles and two passes defensed during his entire career. So therein lies the dilemma in figuring out where to put Gaulden. Luckily for him, it appears he’ll have the opportunity to cement himself in one of the three categories in is final season in Madison this upcoming season.

*all stats courtesy sports-reference.com and all recruiting information via 247Sports.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com