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July 8, 2014

Badger Watch 2: Defensive linemen

With summer camp complete and more commitments in place, Wisconsin has a better idea of what its 2015 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 2015 cycle.


1. Last update: Badger Watch: Defensive ends (4/30/14) | Badger Watch: Defensive tackles (5/1/14)

2. What's happened since April?

Wisconsin picked up its second in-state commit in May, landed a hybrid outside linebacker/end one month later and received two key unofficial visits as June came to a close.

Homestead's David Pfaff got things started with a pledge on May 20. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound senior quickly jumped on an offer from UW and was back on campus in June to help recruit for the staff.

"Best decision that I ever made in my entire life," Pfaff told BadgerBlitz.com about his commitment. "Especially after going up there on Sunday (June 15), it's the perfect place for me. The support that we have from the fans and the staff at Wisconsin, I think we're going to do some amazing things. It's like a dream come true.

"Coach Chad Kauha'aha'a definitely thinks more (defensive) end but when I was talking to coach Dave Aranda, he thinks I can play in the 4i technique when I put on some weight and stuff. I can pass rush and run stop from there and I should be effective because I'm quick off the ball. I'm very excited and that's where they project me right now and it's very similar to what I'm doing right now at Homestead. A lot of our base packages are the same at Wisconsin, so it's going to be a great fit for me."

Pfaff also played a role in landing Nate Howard, who flew a bit under the radar but committed to Wisconsin after an unofficial visit in mid-June.

"I think he'll end up being a 255-, 265-pound athlete out there who can play either end or outside linebacker," Ladue Horton Watkins (Saint Louis) head coach Mike Tarpey told BadgerBlitz.com. "He's got high energy and plays with a tenacity that coaches loves. We're a 4A program (out of 6) and sometimes guys at that level fly a bit under the radar in our area. That's the nature of being a smaller school. But when you watch him on film, it's clear that he can play at that level. Illinois, Wisconsin and Tulsa were on him from the start and Wisconsin won out."

At the same time Pfaff and Howard were on campus, so was four-star lineman Joshua Alabi, who, along with teammate Mike Weber, traveled to Wisconsin. It was his second visit to Madison after stopping by the school in the spring.

"There was a camp going on, but I didn't participate," Alabi told Rivals.com. "When we first got down there I first talked to the defensive coordinator, then Coach (Jeff) Genyk, the d-line coach and the head coach. It's a pretty good (relationship) right now. They seem like pretty cool guys and are easy to talk to."

The most recent visit to Wisconsin has further elevated the Badgers' standing on Alabi's list of favorites. He currently UW in his top group along with Tennessee, Michigan State, Ohio State and Miami.

"They are in my top five, so they are up there," Alabi said. "I like their 3-4 defense and like their defensive coordinator and their d-line coach."

As the month came to a close, Wisconsin also received an unofficial visit from Rahn Bailey, who carries many of the same characteristics Howard possess. The a 6-foot-4, 227-pound prospect from League City (TX) Clear Falls put UW in his top two along with Wake Forest after his visit.

"I talked to the defensive coordinator, coach Dave Aranda, a lot," Bailey told BadgerBlitz.com. "We just talked about their scheme and where they see me fitting in with all the stuff that they do. They said I can play that hybrid outside linebacker who is mainly a pass rusher but also someone who can drop back in coverage."

Bailey, a two-star prospect, is looking to make his final decision before the start of his senior season.

Since the last update, Clelin Ferrell (Clemson), Arden Key (South Carolina), Trevon Hill (Virginia Tech), Marquies Price (Duke), Marquise Copeland (Cincinnati), Jacob Robinson (Indiana), Jashon Cornell (Ohio State), Richard McIntosh, Jr. (Miami), Trevon McSwain (Duke), Jacob Daniel (USC), Zach Abercrumbia (Rice), Quentez Johnson (N.C. State), Micah Dew-Treadway (Notre Dame) and Andrew Ivie (Florida) all committed to other schools while holding an offer from UW. Finally, four-star tackle Kahlil McKenzie, who once held Wisconsin in his top group, is set to pick between Tennessee and Arizona.

3. What happens next?

Wisconsin will probably look to snag commitments from two or three more defensive linemen -- one tackle and two more ends would suffice. To compliment Pfaff -- a more stout, quick-twitch athlete -- Kahua'aha'a will probably look to add an end with size and bulk, someone in the mold of Jake Pickard. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound prospect picked up an offer from Wisconsin on Monday and will visit on July 24.

"They saw my weight gain over the last couple months and some of the times I had at the last few camps -- 40-yard dash: 4.72 seconds and shuttle: 4.51 seconds -- and said that the decision to offer was a no-brainer," Pickard told BadgerBlitz.com. "My interest is definitely very high because they hit the criteria for a school that I'm looking for. The way they play football is very appealing, a very hard-nosed, smash-mouth approach and that's the way I love to play."

Another strong option for Wisconsin is Georgia lineman Gus Cumberlander, who recently named a top five of Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin.

At tackle, Alabi, who is also versatile enough to bump out to end, is clearly UW's top option. But the staff also extended a recent offer to Olive Sagapolu, who earned a scholarship from the Badgers after a strong performance at the All-Poly Camp in Utah last month.

"With Wisconsin, it all started when coach Chad came by the school this spring and he really liked me after he saw me do some one-on-ones against my teammates," Sagapolu told BadgerBlitz.com. "Him and coach (Gary) Andersen were up here at the All-Poly Camp this weekend and they kept their eye on me. They said they saw enough to offer.

"I thought he (Kauaha'aha'a) was pretty cool and I could tell from his accent that he was from Hawaii, that he was an islander. That was definitely a plus for me when we started talking more. He was just getting to know stuff about my family and stuff I do outside of football. Our relationship is pretty cool right now. He said they liked my quickness for my size and they liked my agility. They want me to come in and play that nose tackle spot for them."

A 6-foot-3, 300-pound senior from California, Sagapolu is teammates at Mater Dei High School with Wisconsin commit Kyle Penniston.

Finally, Rick Wade and Luke Ancrum are options for Wisconsin. Wade probably grades out a big higher but will be tough to pull away from UCLA. Ancrum, who was offered by UW in March, will likely take an official visit this fall if spots still remain.

4. Class Prediction:

Wisconsin loves Alabi and the interest is mutual, but I see the staff coming up just short in his recruitment. However, I do think the Badgers will be able to land Pickard, but might have to hold off Alabama and Ohio State, among others, this fall.

Tackle seems like a rather large position of need, but Jeremy Patterson is expected to contribute right away and Conor Sheehy will likely growing into a nose guard sooner rather than later. Sagapolu would be a solid get and landing his commitment is realistic, especially with his connection to Kauha'aha'a and Penniston working him closer to home.

I'll go Pfaff, Pickard, Howard, Sagapolu and potentially Bailey if Wisconsin does indeed want him a bit later this summer. Cumberlander also has legit interest and probably grades out higher than Bailey, Ancrum and even Wade at this point. He could be a wildcard at the position for the Badgers this fall.

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