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NSD Preview: A look at Wisconsin's 2020 recruiting class

With head coach Paul Chryst scheduled to unveil Wisconsin's 2020 recruiting class Wednesday, BadgerBlitz.com contributors Jon Gorman, Jake Kocorowski and Jon McNamara provided their insight on the expected crop.

Note: This report reflects UW's recruiting class as of 12/17/19 and does not include prospects the Badgers could add on Signing Day.

Top Prospect

Trey Wedig
Trey Wedig (Darren Lee/BadgerBlitz.com Photographer)

Gorman: I have Nick Herbig as the top prospect for the Badgers this year. He has a slight frame and will need to bulk up, but the four-star prospect is explosive off the edge and specializes in getting to the quarterback. He plays quite a bit like current Wisconsin standout Zach Baun, and I could see Herbig following a similar career path in Madison.

Kocorowski: Trey Wedig is the highest-rated commit at the moment with a 5.9 rating and is noted by Rivals.com as the No. 88 player overall in the country for the 2020 class. It’ll be hard to top him. That said - and maybe it’s because I actually had a chance to watch him live this season - but I really liked newly-minted four-star offensive lineman Jack Nelson and how he performed in September. Granted, it was against a Madison Edgewood program still building itself back up, but Nelson showed an ability to dominate and be an anchor at left tackle. Enrolling early at UW will allow him to get a head start in the weight room and integrate himself into Joe Rudolph’s offensive line room.

McNamara: Tough not to go with Wedig, the No. 88 player in the country who will represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl next month. The four-star prospect ultimately chose UW over Notre Dame, but Wedig also has offers from Iowa State, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee and USC, among others. The combination of size and athletic ability makes Wedig one of the top players in the entire nation.

Most Likely to Play Early

Cam Large
Cam Large (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Gorman: One long-shot option is Cam Large. The Badgers had to beat out stiff competition for the three-star tight end from the likes of Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State. A natural pass catcher, Large looks strong enough to play in college today and will probably provide something different from the tight end spot. Jake Ferguson is obviously the No. 1 guy, but I could see Large getting snaps behind him and then taking over in a couple years.

Kocorowski: To me, this class seems hard to gauge in terms of who can make an early impression on either offense or defense. This season, we saw nose tackle Keeanu Benton and inside linebacker Leo Chenal receive the most reps from the 2019 class. That said, I look at projected inside linebackers Jordan Turner and Malik Reed in this class (listed in our Rivals.com databases at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds and 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, respectively). Chenal found a home on special teams -- the place where many players first find game-time action -- while also working in at inside linebacker at times. With Chris Orr and reserve Travis Wiltjer leaving, it will be worth watching who emerges in the two-deep at Bob Bostad’s group

McNamara: Physically, Reed looks like's he ready to play college game. And at a position of need like inside linebacker, the three-star prospect could work his way into play time right away. At the very least, I think Reed, who picked UW over Nebraska, among many other schools, contributes on special teams next fall.

The Sleeper

Preston Zachman
Preston Zachman

Gorman: Preston Zachman, to me, looks like a classic under-recruited Badger; a low three-star kid, not a lot of hype, but someone who is going to come in and surprise people with his smarts and athletic ability. I expect to see Zachman stick at inside linebacker, and I think he plays quite a bit like another underrated recruit, TJ Edwards.

Kocorowski: Zachman’s a good pick, and I trust the Wisconsin coaching staff in terms of talent assessment and development. But I’m wondering if someone like Stratford’s Ben Barten might be in this realm. Watching him against an undefeated Columbus in September, he played well on both sides of the ball and I feel Rudolph will have an opportunity to really develop Barten because of his skill-set and technique. The three-star lineman is also a pretty good prep basketball player, so his footwork will be a plus on the line. Once he hits the Wisconsin weight room and adjusts to the college game, Barten could make an impact.

McNamara: I don't think people are talking enough about Chimere Dike, who is probably the best wide out this state has produced since Nick Toon. A multi-sport athlete who did a little bit of everything for Waukesha North the past two seasons, Dike should have a big opportunity for playing time after a year or two in the program. His big-play ability could also open the door to specials teams as a return man for the Badgers.

Most Needed

Cole Dakovich
Cole Dakovich (Darren Lee/BadgerBlitz.com Photographer)

Gorman: I’m not sure about one player, but it’s huge for Wisconsin to refill the cupboards on the offensive line. While the group experienced quite a bit of an overhaul this season, in two more years, six offensive linemen will have graduated. With two four-star recruits and four from inside the state, the 2020 offensive line class looks like one that will keep the tradition strong at Wisconsin.

Kocorowski: Offensive line was my first choice, and so could the outside linebacker position with a four-star standout like Herbig and potentially Aaron Witt. But I’m going to go with the tight ends. Now hear me out - the depth this season solidified with starter Jake Ferguson and Cormac Sampson converting from the offensive line back to Mickey Turner’s room. But Luke Benzschawel and Gabe Lloyd will be redshirt seniors in 2020 and are coming off injuries. Not to look too far ahead in the future, but could Ferguson entertain the thought of declaring after his redshirt junior campaign?

I really like Hayden Rucci and Clay Cundiff’s potential within the offense and am excited to see how those two progress during spring ball and into fall camp. That said, bringing Large and Cole Dakovich into the room could help solidify depth down the road and allow UW to run more 13 or 23 personnel as it has had in recent years prior.

McNamara: I'm going with Herbig because I think he has the ability to be in that "next in line" category at a very good position for the Badgers since they switched to a 3-4 defense. Like Spencer Lytle from a year ago, Wisconsin went to the West Coast and landed a big-time prospect in Herbig, who also had scholarships from California, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, USC and Washington, among others.

Best Surprise

Gorman: I think Herbig was probably the best surprise for Wisconsin, simply for the fact that the staff had to travel down to Hawaii to recruit him. It’s obviously not a region the Badgers go to often for recruits, but Herbig seemed to have his heart set on Wisconsin from an early stage. He chose the Badgers over basically his pick of any Pac-12 school.

Kocorowski: I’ll go back to June and the back-to-back commitments from Turner and Reed. I remember recording a podcast with McNamara on that Monday discussing the former’s verbal when we started hearing word about the latter becoming a member of Wisconsin’s 2020 class. Both had standout offers from other Power 5 schools, but along with Herbig and Witt, this could be one of the Badgers’ better linebacker classes in recent memory.

McNamara: I'll go with Cade McDonald - not his commitment, but his surprise "emergence" at camp. Every year in that setting there are a few guys who you scramble to identify. This year, it was the 6-foot-6, 230-pound defensive end who was showing out in front of Inoke Breckterfield. Before the ink on his newly-updated Rivals.com profile was dry, McDonald had an offer from the Badgers. He committed just days later.

Most Underrated

Malik Reed
Malik Reed (Darren Lee/BadgerBlitz.com Photographer)

Gorman: To me, Reed is underrated as a 5.6, three-star prospect. The Arizona standout has moved all over the defensive side of the ball and only this year began to focus on inside linebacker full time. He looks like a very twitchy, explosive athlete, and seems to have a knack for the big play. I think he will outproduce his ranking.

Kocorowski: You took mine, Gorman. I’ll go with Large on this one. Rivals.com reports the Massachusetts native received 31 offers and had a top four of Ohio State, Georgia, Alabama and Wisconsin. His Hudl career highlights film show a player who appeared to block extremely well at the high school level (see: pancakes) while reeling in some contested receptions. Heck, appeared he could play some decent defense as well.

McNamara: How about Max Lofy, who is coming in as the lone defensive back in the 2020 class? I see a corner with length and athletic ability, although he may have to wait his turn with a veteran group returning next year. Kansas State, Minnesota and Oklahoma State, among others, also offered during Lofy's recruitment.