On the Beat: Meet scholarship offers to Wisconsin football commits with respect, not fear

Wisconsin-scholarships-Commits-Graham Mertz-Bryson Shaw-Julius Davis

In the social media age, we’re far more apt to quickly find out when a committed Wisconsin football prospect receives a scholarship offer elsewhere. All it takes is a simple tweet from that player with the logo or picture of another school to cause significant concern among Badgers fans.

Over the past month, three of Wisconsin’s committed players in the 2019 recruiting class have tweeted about receiving scholarship offers from the crème de la crème of the college football world. Safety Bryson Shaw received an offer from Ohio State, running back Julius Davis got an offer from LSU and quarterback Graham Mertz has collected offers from Ohio State, LSU, Alabama and eight other programs since he pledged his commitment to the Badgers.

Each time a new school pops up on the radar of a Wisconsin commit, a collective groan emanates from the Badgers fan base. Questions then surface about whether the program might lose that player to another team. What has developed is an inferiority complex of sorts about Wisconsin’s place in the sport relative to the most elite programs.

Is there a chance something could go awry before Signing Day? Sure. After all, we’re dealing with high school kids who enjoy the courtship from others. But rather than automatically assume Wisconsin is in trouble, these offers should be viewed as a sign of respect that Badgers coaches know what they’re doing and that the program is capable of bringing in talented players who could vie for spots on any team in the country.

If Wisconsin wants to compete with the best programs in college football, it occasionally will have to do so on the recruiting front as well. The Badgers generally thrive on finding undervalued 3-star prospects who stay that way through the entire recruiting process. But the 2019 class is unique to the program because so many members have drawn the attention of other coaching staffs since committing. Wisconsin’s 2019 recruiting class is in uncharted territory, ranking No. 3 nationally with eight committed players, including four 4-star prospects.

It’s important to note that, in these three cases, Wisconsin isn’t chasing after other schools for their players. Instead, the Badgers were able to identify skill early, secure commitments and continue to preach the importance of loyalty. Those traits can go a long way at a place like Wisconsin, which values long-term relationships as much as anything.

I have spoken to all three players in the past month, and none have given any indication that they are wavering from the Badgers.

Shaw told me that before he committed to Wisconsin, he was planning to set up another visit with Ohio State because new Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch had been recruiting him hard. So it wasn’t particularly surprising when Ohio State offered on Feb. 4, just eight days after his Wisconsin commitment.

“When I committed to Wisconsin, he said, ‘I’ve been at Ohio State two weeks and I’ve been to your school both of those weeks. I think I deserved a chance,’” Shaw said of Grinch. “I let him know that Wisconsin was the place for me and I’m sorry it didn’t work out. But Madison is the place I want to be.”

Davis said last month that Wisconsin was his “dream school” when addressing the potential for other programs to enter the mix.

“I obviously know I want to stay with Wisconsin,” Davis said. “But I don’t want to cut off all my options just in case something does happen where I can’t go to Wisconsin, so then I do have backup options.”

Of course, the name most Badgers fans are watching is Mertz because of the sheer volume of big-time offers that have come his way since he committed to Wisconsin on Oct. 8 and led his team to a Kansas Class 6A state title. He has garnered 11 more scholarship offers during that time from some of the most significant programs in college football. In addition to Ohio State, LSU and Alabama, Michigan, Georgia and Miami are among those that have come calling.

Mertz is ranked as the No. 9 pro-style quarterback in his class, and he represents one of the most fascinating prospects in years for Wisconsin, given his position and skill level. He has been instrumental in helping his future teammates join a group chat so they could begin building relationships and help put together the best class in program history. Mertz, too, remained steadfast in his commitment last month.

“It’s different with Wisconsin,” Mertz said. “It’s a family there. It’s kind of hard to say no to family. Right now I’m just sticking with Wisconsin, sticking with my gut, and that’s where I want to be.”

Certainly, Wisconsin is not going to compete annually for the best overall recruiting class in the country with the Ohio States, Alabamas and LSUs of the world. Over the past five recruiting classes, from 2014-18, Alabama’s average rank is 2.2, and the Crimson Tide have finished with the No. 1 class four times. Ohio State’s average is 3.6, LSU’s is 6.2 and Wisconsin’s is 38.2. But that doesn’t mean the Badgers can’t land a handful of prospects in a given class that garner interest from those schools.

If anything, sought-after players already committed to Wisconsin should be enticed because they’re more likely to see the field earlier at Wisconsin, where there aren’t 5-star and 4-star weapons stockpiled at every position. From 2014-18, Alabama signed 96 4- and 5-star players, Ohio State 91, LSU 66 and Wisconsin 10. The Badgers haven’t inked a 5-star prospect since signing in-state offensive lineman Josh Oglesby in 2007.

Members of Wisconsin’s 2019 class recognize they have a chance to form something truly unique in Madison and build a special legacy. Plus, Wisconsin is not some second-rate program with no winning culture. Wisconsin is 45-10 since 2014 and is coming off one of its best seasons in school history. Only Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State have won more games during the last four seasons.

So, if other schools want to hone in on Wisconsin’s commitments, accept the challenge. Meet it with respect, not fear.

The post On the Beat: Meet scholarship offers to Wisconsin football commits with respect, not fear appeared first on Land of 10.

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