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December 21, 2013
Badger Watch 3: Offensive line
With the regular season over and just a few weeks left before Signing Day, Wisconsin has a better idea of what its 2014 recruiting class will look like. Over the next two weeks, BadgerBlitz.com will reanalyze UW's recruiting efforts with a position-by-position breakdown of targets to see how the Badgers will fill their 2014 class.
Today, we provide a final look at the offensive line.
1. Last update: Badger Watch: Offensive line (7/10/13)
2. What's happened since July?
A lot. The Badgers missed out on one of their top targets, Damien Mama, as well as other second-tier targets such as Jon Bezney (Yale), Jarell Broxton (Baylor) and Lukayus McNeil (Louisville). Wisconsin responded in a big way, however, by picking up another three commitments at the position to compliment George Panos, Jaden Gault and Michael Deiter.
The first was ex-Syracuse commit Beau Benzschawel, who was offered in late October and flipped just hours after. Benzschawel, 6-foot-6, 252 pounds, played tight end for his Grafton, Wis., team but the staff indicated he will play on the offensive line for Wisconsin. A redshirt year is likely.
"They told me I will be playing offensive line," Benzschawel told BadgerBlitz.com. "The visit was really informational and we talked a lot about what it's going to be like when we get there. Basically we learned everything there is to know about what we will experience when we get there.
"I think with my body type the offensive line would be a better fit, and I'm happy to be a Badger no matter what position I play."
Next came from fellow in-state player Jacob Maxwell, who had previously been committed to Northern Illinois. Like Benzschawel, Maxwell, 6-foot-7, 280 pounds, flipped very shortly after his offer, becoming the fifth commitment for Wisconsin at offensive line.
"I think you look at Jake and the first thing you see is his size, and that's ultimately the first criteria you have to have at that position to play at the next level," Greendale head coach Rob Stoltz told BadgerBlitz.com. "He fits the bill for that. I think the next two things you look at are footwork and if he has that nastiness to him with the ability to finish plays. In all three of those categories, it's an easy checkmark for all three with Jake. When you consider his athleticism on top of it, I don't think there's any question he's right where he belongs.
"Northern Illinois, that's an up-and-coming program and the guys there really do their homework. They were very diligent and were on Jake early, but Jake can certainly play at the Big Ten level."
But the Badgers were not done flipping offensive line recruits, as ex-Hawaii commit Micah Kapoi visited Wisconsin officially for the season finale against Penn State and committed shortly after. Kapoi will liklely come in as a guard for Wisconsin.
"They're getting a smart, heady player," Kapolei head coach Darren Hernandez told BadgerBlitz.com. "He's (Kapoi) got a 3.5 GPA. He's a great athlete -- he plays basketball and he can run. We had a tremendous offensive line this year he was the leader of the line. He's a leader on and off the field. He's a fiery guy on the field and a real mellow guy off the field."
3. What happens next?
It appears that the Badgers aren't done at offensive line with three major targets remaining on their board. The first is Chanhassen, Minn., native Frank Ragnow. Ragnow has Wisconsin in his top group with Florida State, Minnesota, Arkansas, Ohio State and Miami. It is tough to like the Badgers' chances here, but the staff continues to try and get Ragnow on campus for an official visit in January, which could change matters.
Next is four-star Kaleb McGary out of Tacoma, Wash.,. McGary, 6-foot-8, 270 pounds, currently has a top four of Oregon State, Washington, Washington State and Wisconsin. The distance factor looks to be working against the Badgers, but McGary will be taking an official visit on Jan.17, and will have a chance to impress McGary then. They certainly have a fighter's chance here.
The final target is four-star Kolton Miller. Miller had an official visit to Wisconsin late in November and was thoroughly impressed. The Badgers are unofficially in his top two with Oregon State, but Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon are all making a play for the Roseville, Calif., native. Once again, distance is working against Wisconsin, but a combination of the past pedigree of offensive linemen and education has Miller intrigued.
4. Class Prediction:
Ultimately I think the Badgers are too far behind in Ragnow's recruitment and McGary will stay closer to home, likely at Washington. Miller may be the likeliest target left. He has the strongest bond with the Oregon State coaches, but is very intrigued with what Wisconsin has to offer, making this close to a 50/50 proposition at the moment.
I will predict Miller to the Badgers right now, but with more official visits left, his recruitment could take many more turns before all is said and done.