First Look: Badgers biggest needs in the 2017 football recruiting class

Recruiting never ends in college football, and with that in mind we immediately move on from the 2016 recruiting class (which according to the rankings is Wisconsin’s best in school history). It also means we need to set expectations for the Badgers in the upcoming recruiting cycle.

New names, players and highlight reels to pour over await any of us who follow recruiting intently. Before we go down that route, lets first look at the state of scholarships available to the Badgers.

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Given just 16 players are for sure to leave the program following this upcoming season it would be wise for the Badgers to try and even things out. It also is highly unlikely any underclassmen are taking off early for the NFL following this upcoming season.

So, where do the Badgers need to focus their biggest attention in the 2017 recruiting class? Let’s take a look.


Wisconsin has a potential star of the future in Alex Hornibrook, but with Bart Houston gone and Kare Lyles a long-term project, the Badgers are going to need to find one or two scholarship quarterbacks that can challenge the two that will remain after the 2016 season.

The Badgers have offers out to a few at the position — including offers to 4-star QB’s Davis Mills and Jack Coan along with 3-star QB’s Lindell Stone and Myles Brennan. Will the Badgers land any of these four offered quarterbacks? It will be tough to do, but the Badgers need to find a home-run at quarterback in this class.

Running Back

The state of ‘Running Back U’ has fallen on hard times as of late. Wisconsin got a glimpse of the running back group without Corey Clement around this past season and it wasn’t pretty. Given the lack of spark or production and the fact that three running backs will be gone (and possibly a fourth if Leon Jacbos moves there permanently), the 2017 class has to have at least two running backs in it to help fill out the room.

Wisconsin missed on a big target in 4-star Antonio Williams during the 2016 cycle, but may have a hidden gem in Sam Brodner. However, competition is needed and outstanding running backs are scarce.

Offers have gone out to 4-stars Trey Sermon, A.J. Dillon and Miami (FL) commit Robert Burns, but watch for 3-star Ivory Kelly-Martin to be one of the two Badger backs chosen when it is all said and done. The Illinois native has a long-standing relationship with this coaching staff and his speed is wholly impressive in person as it is on film.

Wide Receiver

It seems like this is a sticking point of every Wisconsin Badgers recruiting class, and it is understandable considering the ‘Running Back U’ reputation across the college football world. Still, some great wide receivers have come through the ranks in past years. Is the next great one in the line of Brandon Williams, Nick Toon or Jared Abbrederis already on the roster?

Few clues exist that such a player is on the roster or will be for the 2017 season. That means hitting a home run here would be really helpful to the gameplan that Paul Chryst and Co. wold like to implement. Wisconsin has seemingly swung and missed on just about every receiver it has recruited in the past two years, with the possible exception of George Rushing. That leaves a lot of question marks on the roster.

Shoring up this group and getting a can’t miss prospect would go a long way.

Will Wisconsin get that to happen? History suggests its a long shot, but don’t be surprised to see this coaching staff out there turning over every rock in hopes of finding the next under the radar receiver that turns in to a star.

To that end, Wisconsin is already a favorite with 6-3, 190-pound Cody White out of Michigan and has 13 total offers out at the position as we write this. Look for the Badgers to pull out plenty of offers at this position as the spring and summer go on, and look for 2-3 to be added to this class in hopes of evening out the classes at the wide receiver group.

Overall Thoughts

Look for this class to be much smaller than this last one, but also don’t be surprised to see it jump up with further movement on the defensive side of the football under new coordinator Justin Wlicox. So, the class should be somewhere in the 17-20 range at best.

However, this class is likely to be heavier on the offensive side of the ball than the defensive side. No nose guards will be gone after the 2016 season, while linebacker, cornerback and defensive end are completely loaded in terms of overall numbers. Look for Wisconsin to be much more selective with whom they offer and really target at those positions.

Also look for the Badgers to be selective and smart with their offensive line recruiting, much like this past recruiting class.

It all adds up to a class who’s success will largely hinge on the ability to recruit the skill positions, and that’s a major test for any Wisconsin Badgers recruiting class.

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, as well as Publisher of Big Ten site