Wisconsin isnâ€™t messing around when it comes to the class of 2015, as the Badgers recently gave out their 200th offer, which went to 3-star athlete Tony Nicholson, who is verbally committed to Arizona State. Sure the number may seem like a lot, especially considering the conservative style of previous head coach Bret Bielema and his staff, but there appears to be a great method to the madness if you will.
Thatâ€™s because the Badgers are hitting heavy on fertile recruiting grounds in the hopes of finding the best athletes to play football. Wisconsin currently is relying heavily on the states of Florida, Georgia and Texas. UW has offered 47 players from Florida, 22 in Georgia and 26 in Texas in the 2015 recruiting cycle alone.
Adding Texas to the mix is a sure sign that UW is looking to get faster and more athletic across the board. Those that paid attention to what Gary Andersenâ€™s Utah State team was made of know that speed was the name of the game on both sides of the ball, and given the demographic shifts happening in this country moving south on the recruiting trail is a smart move.
While the offer list seems high, letâ€™s not forget the Badgers ended last season with 245 official offers in a class where they wound up taking 26 players. However, the most important part of the strategy is that Andersen and Co. arenâ€™t just throwing offers up against the wall and hoping something sticks. Instead they are focusing on casting a wider net with more quality prospects from around the country.
Itâ€™s a vast departure from what the previous regime did, where it looked towards finding more value in underrated prospects and building relationships before offers were sent out.Â In the six classes Bielema put together at UW, the Badgers offered more than 20 4-star recruits just twice (according to Scout.com numbers since 247Sports wasnâ€™t around yet). The low water mark was the 2009 class, where the Badgers offered just 13 4-star prospects.
Bielema stepped up his game heading in to what would be his final season in Madison, offering a high-water mark of 31 4-star rated prospects (by the 247Sports composite rankings).
Since Andersen and his staff have taken over the quantity of players have gone up, but so too has the star-rating quality of the players UW offers. In 2013 Wisconsin offered 111 prospects, 47 of which were 4-star or better, and it hasnâ€™t really stopped since then.
In Andersenâ€™s first real class, the Badgers offered 91 players rated 4-star or better. That was good enough for just over 37 percent of the total offers â€” a significant jump over the average of 30.5 percent during the Bielema era.
As UW hit the 200th offer for the 2015 class, itâ€™s a class that is on pace for an increase in the number of high-rated prospects. Of UWâ€™s 200 offers, a full 90 of them are out to prospects that are 4-star or higher. That means 45 percent of the offers have gone out to those players, the highest total in the last nine years of recruiting for UW.
The trend is even more pronounced in the early offers out in the 2016 class, where 26 of Wisconsinâ€™s 35 offers are 4-stars or higher. Georgia leads the way with 11 total offers and Texas is tied with Virginia at four offers apiece. All but five of those offers are to players with 4-star ratings or better, and of those five itâ€™s because they havenâ€™t been given a rating by 247Sports in the early part of the recruiting cycle.
All of this adds up to an exciting next few months ahead on the recruiting trail. Andersen and Co. have put a lot of stock in increasing the level of player UW is after, but the jury is still out as to if the efforts will pay off. Just one of the five commitments in the 2015 class is a 4-star player (in-state offensive tackle Jon Dietzen), but if the Badgers pick up some momentum with the higher end players in the coming months
Yes, star ratings arenâ€™t an exact science and all, and Wisconsinâ€™s bread and butter will always be finding and developing talent, but adding a lot more of the higher end prospects around those types of players can only increase UWâ€™s competitiveness on the national level.
So, sit back and enjoy what could be a wild summer on the recruiting trail. Now itâ€™s up to the coaching staff to start winning some of the bigger battles in the biggest recruiting states this country has to offer.