Believe it or not, but national signing day is already two months in the rearview mirror. That means coaching staffs, new or old, have had time to start making plans and executing them on the recruiting trail. Heck, some have even begun filling the biggest needs.
Still, things are developing on the recruiting trail for everyone and that means there are plenty of players each school would love to have in the fold for the 2016 recruiting class.
Today we’re going to start talking a look at the five biggest recruiting wants for each Big Ten West division team. Up first are the reigning division champions — the Wisconsin Badgers.
1. Tuf Borland, LB;
Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense needs a ton of linebackers and with Gary Andersen bolting for Oregon State the recruiting at that position took a massive hit. The Badgers immediately were out for 3-star linebackers Dominic Sheppard and Nate Howard, who committed to Andersen. However, the biggest loss may have been high 3-star linebacker Jordan Griffin, who ended up signing with Vanderbilt at the very end of the 2015 recruiting cycle.
No one is higher on the list to come aboard in 2016 than inside linebacker Tuf Borland, who isn’t related to former Badger great Chris Borland, but is a Badger legacy nonetheless. The four-star linebacker has a lot to offer the Badgers and could be an impact player right off the bat inside, where the Badgers have virtually no depth at all.
Borland could be making a decision soon, as he was in Columbus for a visit this past weekend and has stated a want to commit before the end of spring. The Badgers are considered a favorite for a while, but a visit to Columbus is always a scary thing for fellow Big Ten teams.
2. Ben Bredeson, OT;
One of the most shocking things during the brief Andersen era was the deteriorating and strained relationship with in-state high school coaches and players. New head coach Paul Chryst and his staff have done a great job of quickly repairing those relationships and there isn’t a bigger in-state recruit (pun intended) than Arrowhead offensive lineman Ben Bredeson.
He’s a top 10 offensive tackle and the No. 34-ranked overall player in the 247Sports composite rankings. He’s got strong ties to the state school, but also has them with the University of Michigan and has also started to receive plenty of SEC offers.
Bredeson won’t be a lock to the Badgers like most in-state offensive linemen have been in the past, but there’s little doubt this recruitment will be a bellwether as to just how much ground the new coaching staff has made up.
If it weren’t for the massive need at linebacker for Wisconsin, Bredeson’s recruitment would’ve been No. 1 with a bullet.
3. Cole Van Lanen, OT; Bay Port (Green Bay, WI)
Keeping with in-state offensive linemen…Cole Van Lanen is a former teammate with Alec Ingold, who earned a late scholarship offer from the Badgers and flipped from Northern Illinois. Could that relationship help Van Lanen stay in the state of Wisconsin for his college football?
It appears the Badgers are going to be really tough to beat in this recruitment, and should Bredeson not come to UW, one can bet he’s going to receive the full court press (even more than he already is). Van Lanen appears to be playing out his recruiting process and won’t rush a decision just yet.
Look for summer to be huge in this recruitment and for other Big Ten schools to try to steal a really good talent away from the Badgers.
4. Bryce Youngquist, LB;
As we’ve stated, linebacker is going to be huge for Wisconsin in this recruiting cycle. One of the most intriguing prospects at the position happens to be high three-star linebacker Bryce Youngquist. We know he’s got a pretty high level of interest in the Badgers, putting them in his top 10 list that just came out.
There’s also the factor of keeping up West Coast recruiting, where the Badgers had some decent success in recent classes. Getting a player or two every recruiting cycle out of California sure wouldn’t hurt the Badgers’ chances to up their athleticism.
Neither would winning a battle for a top 15-ranked inside linebacker.
Youngquist has stated he’s looking for a school with great football and great academics. Of the top 10 he released, there are two schools that stands out above the rest — Wisconsin and Northwestern.
He also has a full top 10 of Tennessee, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Utah, Washington State, Oregon, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Illinois and Oregon State, per his exclusive release to Bleacher Report late last week.
Wisconsin may not ultimately win this recruitment, but you have to love their mirror of academics and football and what Youngquist says he wants. Getting him on campus will be a game-changer, and if it happens don’t be surprised to see the Badgers come to the front of his recruitment quickly.
5. Austin Andrews, CB;
This spot could have gone to another linebacker, but the reality is the Badgers know they need help with depth in the secondary this coming season and beyond. It’s why Natrell Jamerson moved to cornerback and why JUCO transfer Serge Trezy has gotten time there as well.
With both Darius Hillary and Devin Gaulden gone after the 2015 season, there is a need that will exist at the position. One of the more intriguing prospects the Badgers staff has offered is Austin Andrews, a high three-star target right in the back yard of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Luckily, this staff has been around for quite a few battles with prospects they highly rated early on and the folks in Columbus weren’t going to touch quite so early. Andrews has yet to receive an offer from the Buckeyes and Wisconsin has been all over him to date.
He was on hand for the Badgers spring practices this weekend, and that visit could be huge in where things head in his recruitment. Does he wait around for an OSU offer that won’t come unless the Buckeyes swing and miss on “bigger” prospects, or does he commit to a program committed to him from the word go.
Wisconsin could once again pull a sleeper right out from under Urban Meyer if things go right, and that makes him a big time “want” for the Badgers…well, that and his size and speed combination too.