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February 5, 2013

NSD: A look at the 2013 class

With head coach Gary Andersen scheduled to announce Wisconsin's 2013 recruiting class Wednesday, BadgerBlitz.com contributors Jon Gorman, John Veldhuis and Jon McNamara provided their insight on the expected class.

Top prospect:

Gorman: A team wins games by getting to the quarterback and forcing turnovers. Alec James should do just that as a weapon off the edge for the Badgers, and should fit in perfectly in the 3-4 as an outside linebacker. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, James is a speedy defensive talent the state rarely produces, and keeping him home after late interest from Oregon was a big win for the Badgers.

Veldhuis: For me it's James. James fills a lot of boxes for the Badgers - he's one of the best in-state players in the 2013 class, he's an elite-level athlete who they can plug in on defense and he seems like a prototypical fit for Wisconsin's potential 3-4 scheme, where he could play either as an end or as a stand-up outside linebacker. James is just the type of player the Badgers couldn't afford to lose out on, which is why so many fans were relieved when he announced he would be sticking with his commitment to Wisconsin.

McNamara: I'm a big fan of James but Corey Clement has the potential to be another big-time running back for the Badgers. I don't think he'll demand carries as a true freshman with James White and Melvin Gordon returning, but look for the leading rusher in the history of south New Jersey to play a key role early in his career.

Most likely to play early

Gorman: The move to a 3-4 could have the Badgers thin at middle linebacker. As a result, Garret Dooley could see time as early as his freshman season, and should be firmly in the mix for a permanent starting role in his second year. Other than Rob Wheelwright and Clement, it's hard to see any other incoming freshman competing for snaps early on.

Veldhuis: My best guess is someone like Wheelwright. The Badgers are desperate for more talent at wide receiver and with the new staff coming in I'm betting that they'll give everyone a long, hard look to see which players will give their passing game the biggest boost. If Wheelwright can adjust to the speed of the game in fall camp, the opportunity will certainly be there for him to avoid a redshirt and see the field.

McNamara: Though the quarterback position will be very crowed this fall, I think Tanner McEvoy will be given every opportunity to win the starting job. The JUCO prospect, who has three years of eligibility remaining at Wisconsin, is a true dual-threat option at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds. It won't be easy with Curt Phillips, Joel Stave, Danny O'Brien and Bart Houston all in the mix, but McEvoy certainly felt he could be a starter in 2013 when he committed to Wisconsin on Monday.

The sleeper:

Gorman: I think Matt Miller is a guy who could sneak up on people and be a very productive lineman for Wisconsin. Miller plays with a mean streak and has excellent mobility. Wisconsin beat out Miami and Michigan State for Miller, but he was also getting interest from both Michigan and Ohio State before he pulled the trigger on Wisconsin. He will need to get stronger but after a likely redshirt year, Miller could be in the mix for playing time.

Veldhuis: Leon Jacobs was a late addition to Wisconsin's class, but it looks like he has the raw tools to be a productive player in Gary Andersen and Dave Aranda's defense. Jacobs only played football for a year, but at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, he has the frame to put on some more weight and become an effective player on defense. He's definitely going to be raw, but with a long-term investment in mind the Badgers might have found a diamond in the rough.

McNamara: Pewaukee's T.J. Watt has quietly flown below the radar after committing to Wisconsin this past summer. He played quarterback as a senior at Pewaukee but is expected to play tight end at UW. While he may need a year or two to develop, Watt has a chance to be a special player at Wisconsin.

Most needed:

Gorman: My top two choices were James and Dooley but since I addressed them already, I'll go will go with Wheelwright. Wisconsin has Abberderis and really not much else at the wide receiver position. The Badgers need viable receiving threats and with guys like Chase Hammond, Marquis Mason and Isaiah Williams failing to live up to expectations, other players will have to step up. Wheelwright is extremely talented and could give the Badgers' receiving corps a boost early on.

Veldhuis: In addition to James, getting Chikwe Obasih was an important commitment from the Badgers. The two are definitely different kinds of players, but you only have to look at the depth chart to see why holding on to Obasih was important for the Badgers. They'll lose four defensive ends after this season, and there will only be three upperclassmen ends ahead of them on the depth chart when they finish their first season. The Badgers needed Obasih and James for depth, and it seems like they got two very good players to fill those holes as well.

McNamara: Assuming Marcus Ball selects Wisconsin over Arizona State on Wednesday, he's my choice for the "most needed" player in this class. The Ohio native has the ability to play a number of positions for the Badgers and will be able to provide some much-needed speed in Aranda's defense.

Best surprise:

Veldhuis: Though Badgers fans are probably used to it by now, getting another top-tier running back in Clement was a nice surprise for them this year. UW was involved with a lot of top-shelf running backs in this class, but it seems to have landed another good one in Clement, who is ranked as the 17th best back in the nation this year. The Badgers beat other schools like Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Nebraska for his services, and it's important to remember with Vonte Jackson's latest knee injury, it's hard to predict his status moving forward. Gordon and White will probably share the top line of the depth chart this year, but I don't expect Clement to be far behind the two of them.

Gorman: This has to be Jakarrie Washington, who was a complete unknown on the recruiting spectrum before a chance meeting at an awards banquet resulted in Washington getting an offer from the Badgers. The speedy Massachusetts native committed after an in-home visit with Bill Busch and will play cornerback and likely contribute on special teams.

McNamara: Keelon Brookins was committed to Minnesota when he camped and earned an offer at Wisconsin this past summer. And after some work by the coaching staff, the defensive back flipped to UW. It was a bit of a surprise to see Brookins decommit from his home-state university, but the Badgers were happy to welcome him on campus in January as an early enrollee.

Most underrated:

Gorman: I'll go with Jack Keeler. I don't get the feeling Wisconsin fans are as excited about Keeler as they should be. Rivals.com only has him as a high three-star recruit, but UW beat out Oklahoma, Miami and Nebraska, among others, for his services. He has the long arms and mobility to be another great one in Wisconsin's offensive line tradition, possibly at left tackle.

Veldhuis: Keeler is only a three-star according to Rivals.com, but I think he has a lot of potential on the offensive line. Keeler hails from the same high school as center Dan Voltz and was an important prospect for the Badgers to keep in the fold after the coaching change. Keeler is 6-foot-7, so that should give him plenty of room to add some weight. The offensive line was definitely a need for this class and while Keeler might need some time to develop, he has the potential to be another good lineman for the Badgers.

McNamara: Though he was lightly recruited, Jacobs has the potential to make a big impact at Wisconsin. The California native will likely begin at outside linebacker but has the frame to put on the weight necessary to play end. Jacobs did not play all four years of high school football and is very raw at this point. But if he takes to coaching and the Badgers' strength and conditioning program, Jacobs could be a steal in the 2013 class.

Prospects included in this reported were updated as of 2/5/13


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