(Photo: Ryan Bartow, 247Sports)

2016 Wisconsin Badgers Recruiting Update: Defense

Earlier this week we took a gander at where things stand for the Wisconsin Badgers 2016 recruiting class on the offensive side of the ball. Today, we take a look at the other side, as Dave Aranda begins to really transition the defense in his image and take players that were all his on the recruiting trail.

The 2016 class will be very important, especially in the back of the defense thanks to graduations coming up this year and the way the scholarship distribution happens. No group will be bigger than the freshman class on the 2016 roster, as you can see here:

2016scholarshipchartdefense

With that knowledge, let’s take a look at where things stand at each position group.

 

Defensive End:

There is one commit out of the four likely to fill spots, with in-state prospect and Beau Benzschawel’s brother, Luke Benzschawel, in the fold. In-state recruiting has become a top priority for Paul Chryst and his coaching staff, so getting one piece of the puzzle as an early verbal commit was a positive step. Still, Benzschawel wasn’t a highly sought after recruit, and there is still plenty of work needed to be done at this position group.

At one point it appeared the Badgers were back in the mix for four-star defensive end Ron Johnson out of Camden, New Jersey. However, it appears the two sides aren’t mutually interested anymore after some further discovery done by this coaching staff.

UW has given out a few offers at weak-side defensive end in the last month or so, starting with Tyrone Hopper of Roswell, Georgia. He is that hybrid end-outside linebacker that Wisconsin has been coveting over the past few years on the recruiting trail and the three-star prospect appears interested enough to attempt to set a date for a summer visit to Madison. Keep an eye on this recruitment going forward.

Other recent offers include four-star end Maxs Tupai out of Salt Lake City, Utah, along with strong-side defensive ends Michael Boykin out of Carrollton, Georgia. The two appear to be high-value targets and Boykin may be the one the Badgers have a better shot (if any) with. Tupai has major offers from all over the West Coast, so it will be interesting to see if he has increasing interest in the Badgers going forward.

Defensive Tackle:

Defensive tackle is a position of big depth for the Badgers, but they’ll likely look to take at least one player at the position in each recruiting class given how the roster breaks down. It’s a position that UW hasn’t had a ton of movement on before March, but since then Aranda and Co. are moving quickly.

One of the most recent offers went out to three-star Garrett Rand out of Chandler, Arizona. Many believe he is Arizona State’s to lose, but UW’s offer clearly means there is some level of interest on both sides.

Wisconsin has also gotten in on four-star prospect Chris Daniels (a May 4 offer) out of Euless, Texas and the famed Trinity high school program. The offer was nice, but Daniels has been a high priority target for in-state schools like TCU and Texas A&M, so there is a massive uphill battle coming for the Badgers in this recruitment.

Perhaps the most intriguing offers out there is three-star Mike Panasiuk out of the Chicago area. He visited on April 12 and received his offer from UW the next day. Interest is high in Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State and the Badgers — so it appears this will be an all Big Ten battle for his pledge.

Linebacker:

Wisconsin has one of the three spots available filled with three-star in-state linebacker Mason Stokke. He screams athlete, along the lines of Alec Ingold in this just signed class, and is one of the top wrestlers in the state of Wisconsin as well.

Missing out on fellow three-star in-state prospect Tristian Pipp was a bit surprising, but apparently the lure of scholarships for both football and baseball were enough to get him away from being just a football player at UW.

Who could be next to commit to the Badgers at linebacker? One name to really watch is three-star Brayden Stringer who has already visited the Badgers on his own dime. Since that visit offers have come in from Arizona, Boston College and Texas Tech, so UW no longer has the advantage of being the best offer he’s got. Still, he was on campus and the level of interest appears to be very high.

Another potential commit to watch (although it probably won’t be coming anytime soon) is fellow three-star Griffin Grady out of Dublin, Ohio. He visited on April 12 of this year and came away impressed by all accounts. Grady has 100 percent of the crystal ball predictions according to 247Sports, but it’s unclear when a decision could come for him.

At inside linebacker there’s good news and bad news. First the bad news, three-star IMG academy prospect Jango Glackin visited the Badgers this past weekend, but head coach Paul Chryst’s absence (to help family move, God forbid) may have cost UW the opportunity to gain a verbal pledge. Evan Flood changed his crystal ball prediction to Oregon, and without some serious movement from the big guns on the Badgers staff not much will change.

The good news is that the composite No. 44-ranked inside linebacker, Noah Burks, who is a four-star prospect by the 247Sports rankings, has the Badgers way out in front for his commitment. In fact, it would be a shock if the Badgers don’t get his verbal pledge sooner rather than later.

Cornerback:

If there is one position that is the hardest to keep up on, look to cornerback to be that group. Given the losses UW will suffer at the position, Wisconsin needs to go big and hard at corner. To date, the Badgers have put out 30 verbal offers to players at this position alone.

The biggest name to watch continues to be three-star prospect Austin Andrews, as he is one of the prospects with great mutual interest in being a Badger. Wisconsin also appears to be in the top group for fellow three-star corner Armunz Mathews, battling Kentucky in this recruitment.

Since we last joined you, offers have gone out to names like Carlos Becker, my favorite name on the recruiting trail — Sir Patrick Scott, KJ Sails and Hussein Howe.

Needless to say things are far from over at a position where the Badgers are likely to want to load up at.

Safety:

UW’s look in the back end of the secondary is going to be very different in 2016, with both projected starting safeties — Tanner McEvoy and Michael Caputo — graduating. That makes the recruiting at this position paramount, even if there has been a glut of talented players coming in during recent recruiting classes.

With two spots likely to fill, where are things standing? The one name to really watch for is four-star safety Eric Burrell out of McDonough School in Maryland. It appears this is a two-horse race between Duke and UW, with the Badgers waiting to get him on campus this summer. If that happens, look for the Badgers to jump to the top of this list quickly.

The most recent offer could also be one to watch, as the Badgers offered three-star Khaleke Hudson on May 5. Hailing from Pennsylvania, the Badgers are looking at the three-star athlete as a safety and Hudson’s previous relationship with the coaching staff while they were at Pitt is crucial to how quickly UW is in on this recruitment.

Wisconsin has also gone out west to recruit for the position. Two very intriguing recent offers come in the form of Chaco Ulloa and Keyon Riley — both three-star prospects out of California.

Finally, three-star athlete Jake Funk out of Damascus, Maryland was offered by the Badgers. UW’s offer was the first Power 5 offer to the safety/running back.

Overall, this position has a ton of potential to be great for the Badgers on the recruiting trail. It also could be the catalyst to further sticking in states that will be crucial to UW’s future — places like California, Maryland and Florida.

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

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