Tuf Borland was supposed to be wearing Cardinal and White — his dad was a Badger after all.
Tristian Pipp was a shoo-in to be a Badger — after all, he’s from in-state and a legit three-star linebacker.
Except neither of those two things have happened.
Pipp, a two-sport star at Greenfield (Wis.) High School surprised a lot in Badger nation and in football recruiting circles by committing to Western Michigan of all places.
Borland took an unofficial visit to Ohio State last weekend, and like many before him, came away so impressed he couldn’t turn down might Urban Meyer and the reigning national champion Ohio State Buckeyes.
To say the reaction in Badger nation was near hysterical would be about accurate.
Chill on the recruiting everyone. It's not like they're losing legacy recruits to conference rivals or in-state guys to MAC schools. Oh wait
— BuckAround (@Buck_Around) April 18, 2015
That was one example of what became two or three different tracks in the Twittersphere.
It seemed that the most popular track was the “See, Paul Chryst can’t recruit and we’re screwed…”
Another recruiting strikeout for Paul Chryst. Very pessimistic about what's to come #Badgers #tuf #OSU
— Matthew Wenzel (@Matt_Wenzel4) April 18, 2015
Paul Chryst < MAC recruiting
— Corbett Berg (@Pengy65) April 18, 2015
However, it feels like it’s time for the annual reminder that this is freaking April, and there’s a long way to go between now and national signing day.
As for those in the “Paul Chryst can’t recruit” crowd…how quickly you forget his ability to keep the lynchpin of this past class, quarterback Austin Kafentzis, in the fold.
What about the fact that top 10 running back Antonio Williams stuck with his commitment for the 2016 class and is now recruiting hard for the Badgers? Surely that’s a credit to Chryst’s ability to “recruit” just as much as someone making a choice to go somewhere else is a strike against him, right?
Sure, you could try and point out names like Nate Howard, Jordan Griffin and Dominic Sheppard as losses in that 2015 recruiting class. No doubt the Badgers didn’t land three of the biggest targets they had verbal commitments from, but that doesn’t tell the whole story and it’s hardly fair to lay blame at the feet of Chryst.
Coaching changes have a funny way of working out. Sometimes changes skew the results, and that certainly was the case in the 2015 class.
Let’s remember that Andersen was also the one who had “commitments” from multiple players who couldn’t have even gotten in to Wisconsin and would’ve also likely lost a few more…you know, just like Chryst and Co. had happen to them.
Would that “Chryst can’t recruit” crowd have the same reaction if that scenario played out under Andersen or if it were him losing some of the top targets in this class too?
Point being, it’s time for a reality check.
The reality of the “losses” in the 2015 recruiting class certainly paint a picture that hardly flattering…of the old coaching staff and their ability to identify players who wanted to be Badgers and could actually get in to the university.
Remember the trio of players from South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas, Texas? Only one of them academically qualified, and Jordan Stevenson will be on campus this fall — as a player who committed to Wisconsin even without a head coach in place.
Chances are the names of the other two players are already forgotten by many in Badger nation.
Then there was the case of the major flips away from Wisconsin — clearly a sign of the inability of this new coaching staff to recruit. Or, more like three players with very unique circumstances that had the deck stacked against Wisconsin, no matter who the head coach was.
Howard was always going to be difficult to hold on to, regardless of who the head coach was. Simply put, he blew up after the Badgers got a surprise commitment from him in the summer and he parlayed that in to an offer from the home-state Missouri Tigers and many others.
Hard to blame a kid for wanting to stay home, no?
Griffin, well we all know that Mom wanted her son closer to home to be able to witness his games in person and have a piece of mind. Sometimes parents wishes win out of what the child wants. Such was the case here, and it certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort or, as ex-head coach Gary Andersen would put it, “want-to” on the part of Chryst and his staff.
Then there was the Sheppard case. Chalk that one up to a very personal relationship with ex-wide receivers coach Chris Beatty. That’s easy to see, as Sheppard headed to Virginia…where Beatty was hired…immediately after the hire was made.
So, if any head coach was to blame it was Andersen for leaving the Badgers in the first place…at least in Sheppard’s recruitment.
Last recruiting class aside, it’s clear to some that Chryst can’t recruit because he lost two big targets early in the 2016 recruiting cycle.
Again, the devil is in the details on these two as well.
Tristian Pipp went to Western Michigan, not because of anything Chryst could or couldn’t do, but simply because the University of Wisconsin couldn’t handle it’s finances in the 1970’s and 80’s and had to gut the baseball program to help make up for a shortfall in the athletic department budget.
Hard to say you lost a recruiting battle when you’ve had one hand tied behind your back all along. See, Pipp wants to play both football and baseball at the collegiate level. Wisconsin can’t offer him that ability and unless he changes his mind and wants to just play football, the Badgers aren’t and were never going to land his commitment.
Borland though…well, sure that loss hurts. However, every indication was that an Ohio State offer was going to be a game changer for him. Those indications were dead on, and yes the Badgers got beat by Urban Meyer in what appeared to be a one-on-one battle.
Not the first time that has happened, not the last time either.
It doesn’t mean losing that battle doesn’t suck, but it is one battle out of many on the recruiting trail in the 2016 class. Besides, when have star ratings been the only measuring stick of what’s important at the University of Wisconsin?
Tell that to Chris Borland, J.J. Watt, Montee Ball, James White and countless other Badgers legends who weren’t four or five-star recruits and ended their college days as some of the best at their positions in the entire country.
No doubt there is major potential in a player like Tuf Borland, but that’s all recruiting star rankings are about — potential. There’s no guarantee of success just because you’re a four-star recruit or a walk-on player. It’s all about what you do with that potential (see Bart Houston).
As for Paul Chryst and his coaching staff…
How about we wait to see what happens this summer and fall…or even another year or so before declaring “Paul Chryst can’t recruit?”