Each month, Wisconsin beat reporter Jesse Temple will take a look at the Badgers’ recruiting to-do list here on Land of 10. This outlook focuses on three concerns for the program’s recruiting efforts in the weeks ahead. Let’s look back on what happened in those three areas in April.
Wisconsin’s month on the recruiting trail was eventful. The Badgers landed their ninth commitment in the 2019 class, only to lose a commitment to Ohio State and drop back down to eight at the end of the month. Wisconsin also hosted visitors during spring practice, picked up a transfer and offered scholarships to prospects across multiple classes.
Regain momentum in 2019 class
From September to February, Wisconsin secured at least one commitment in the 2019 class every month. It began with linebacker Leo Chenal in September and continued with quarterback Graham Mertz (October), tackle Logan Brown (November), running back Julius Davis (November), tackle Joe Tippmann (December), safety Bryson Shaw (January), wide receiver Nolan Groulx (January) and tight end Hayden Rucci (February).
Wisconsin didn’t get a commitment in March. But April proved fruitful for the Badgers, who landed athlete Marcus Graham from Mount Holly, N.C. Graham committed just three days after returning home from a campus visit.
“We were just starstruck at all of it,” Graham told Land of 10 after his commitment. “It really opened our eyes and it made us really push toward a decision. Me and my dad said to each other, ‘This is the fit we’ve been looking for.’ We were excited about that.”
Graham, who is 6-foot and 175 pounds, is rated as a 3-star prospect and plays quarterback for Mount Island Charter. He won’t play quarterback at Wisconsin, but does not yet have a defined position. Graham said Badgers receivers coach Ted Gilmore wants him to play wide receiver, and defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard wants him at cornerback. If given the option, Graham noted his preference is receiver because he has played on offense his entire football career.
Graham completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 1,270 yards with 16 touchdowns and 1 interception during his junior season. He ran for 858 yards with 15 touchdowns and averaged 8.3 yards per carry. Graham also played wide receiver and caught 13 passes for 265 yards with 4 touchdowns. He noted that his quickness and ability to stop quickly and cut have helped him stand out on the field.
“He has unreal talent from the standpoint of pure athletic ability,” Mountain Island football coach Robert Washington Sr. said. “Of course, I feel like Marcus flew under the radar a little bit. I think at first, Marcus went to a lot of camps the last couple years as a quarterback. So no one really was checking for him because I guess he thought he would get a couple more inches on him and be a quarterback.
“Once he committed to just being an athlete and playing a position that best suits the team at the next level, he blew up.”
But it wasn’t all good news for the Badgers in April. Shaw de-committed from Wisconsin and announced his commitment to Ohio State on Saturday. Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Alex Grinch pushed hard for Shaw even before he committed to Wisconsin in late January. That pursuit continued after the commitment and ultimately paid off for the Buckeyes. Shaw is rated as a 3-star prospect and the No. 53 safety in the 2019 class.
Schedule as many visitors as possible
Wisconsin had nine spring practices in April, and coaches took advantage of the opportunity to invite prospects to campus. One of those visits resulted in the Badgers landing a transfer from Houston. Safety Collin Wilder picked Wisconsin on April 23, less than two weeks after visiting campus and taking in a spring practice. He will sit out this season under NCAA transfer rules.
“I think it’s the blue-collar mentality,” Wilder told Land of 10. “It’s really big on you taking care of your business and the results showing. I think that’s a lot of who I am. Just the way that they run the program really reminds me a lot of my high school program in Katy [Texas]. The Katy coaches went up there to watch their spring practice and told me that it’s very identical to the Katy program, so I would be a great fit there just from their perspective. When I went up there, it was everything I expected it to be.”
Wisconsin also hosted several visitors during one of its junior days. Included in that group was defensive lineman Austin Ertl (Wauwatosa, Wis.), tight end Jake Rock (Wales, Wis.), offensive lineman Trey Wedig (Wales, Wis.), wide receiver Jacob Lippe (Port Washington, Wis.), tight end Caden Blum (Baraboo, Wis.) and inside linebacker Brock Horne (Romeo, Mich.).
Tackle Joe Tippmann, a 3-star commit in the 2019 class, visited Wisconsin’s final spring practice on April 20.
Continue to offer prospects in future classes
Wisconsin’s coaching staff has been busy evaluating and offering scholarships to prospects across the country since the Badgers’ season ended. In January, Wisconsin offered at least 18 scholarships to prospects in the 2019, 2020 and 2021 classes. The Badgers offered six more players in February. Wisconsin offered at least 16 scholarships in March and at least 22 more in April.
Here’s a rundown of which prospects Wisconsin offered in April:
2019: athlete Marcus Graham (Mount Holly, N.C.), defensive tackle D’Von Ellies (Owings Mills, Md.), defensive end Noah Potter (Mentor, Ohio), offensive lineman Ira Henry (St. Louis), defensive end Etinosa Reuben (Riverside, Mo.), cornerback Shamar Martin (San Diego), safety Ishmael Burdine (Slidell, La.), defensive tackle Keeanu Benton (Janesville, Wis.), cornerback Nicktroy Fortune (Lawrenceville, Ga.), cornerback Warren Burrell (Suwanee, Ga.)
2020: offensive lineman Andrew Gentry (Littleton, Colo.), outside linebacker Kaden Johnson (Minneapolis), wide receiver Rakim Jarrett (Washington, D.C.), outside linebacker Mekhail Sherman (Washington, D.C.), running back Miles Friday (Stone Mountain, Ga.), defensive tackle Kevon Billingsley (St. Louis), wide receiver Mordecai McDaniel (Washington, D.C.), outside linebacker Kevin Swint (Carrollton, Ga.), defensive tackle Denver Warren (Aurora, Ill.), safety Jordan Morant (Oradell, N.J.), wide receiver AJ Henning (Frankfort, Ill.), wide receiver Gee Scott (Sammamish, Wash.)