Wisconsin is expected to sign most of its 2018 recruiting class during the new NCAA early signing period, which runs Dec. 20-22. And while it’s difficult to project just which prospects might earn immediate playing time, it’s a good bet that there will be on-field contributors from the class.
With that in mind, let’s look back at which members of the 2017 recruiting class earned the trust of coaches, stepped onto the field and performed well.
Wide receiver Danny Davis (Springfield, Ohio)
Danny Davis was a signing day surprise for Wisconsin when he picked the Badgers over West Virginia and Kentucky. He was one of two 4-star prospects in the class, along with offensive lineman Kayden Lyles. It became apparent during fall camp that Davis possessed a special skill set and would find his way into the receiver rotation.
Davis caught two long passes in the first three weeks. His first career catch was a 35-yard reception against Florida Atlantic. He followed up that play with an impressive 50-yard grab against BYU.
This season, Davis has amassed 21 catches for 362 yards and 2 touchdowns. He set a season high with 4 receptions for 74 yards against Iowa and then caught 5 passes for 41 yards against Minnesota. His big-play ability helped to separate him from other Badgers receivers. His 17.24 yards per reception is tops on the team, and he’ll be a major contributor in the future.
Running back Jonathan Taylor (Salem, N.J.)
What can be written about Jonathan Taylor that hasn’t already been done? Taylor produced one of the most amazing seasons by a freshman in college football history, rising from potential fifth-string tailback during fall camp into a starting role.
Taylor impressed teammates and coaches during a scrimmage two weeks before Wisconsin’s season opener, when he broke a 70-yard touchdown run against the No. 1 defense. He continued to excel and became a starter in Week 2 against Florida Atlantic after Bradrick Shaw sustained a right leg injury in the opener. Taylor rushed for 223 yards with 3 touchdowns and never surrendered the starting job.
Taylor set a record for Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors, earning the accolade eight times. He has rushed for 1,847 yards with 13 touchdowns and was named one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award. Taylor’s rushing total ranks third in the FBS, and he finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
He is one of 10 Wisconsin players to finish in the top 10 in the Heisman Trophy voting and the only freshman. Taylor can break Adrian Peterson’s single-season FBS freshman rushing record with 79 yards rushing against Miami in the Orange Bowl.
Outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (Council Bluffs, Iowa)
Andrew Van Ginkel is the only player in the 2017 recruiting class who wasn’t a freshman when he arrived at Wisconsin. He enrolled for spring practice after playing one college season each at FCS school South Dakota and Iowa Western Community College. Van Ginkel became the first junior college signee in Badgers coach Paul Chryst’s first three recruiting classes.
Wisconsin needed to replace T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel at outside linebacker, and Van Ginkel came along at the perfect time. He helped solidify the outside linebacker group as a reserve alongside starters Leon Jacobs and Garret Dooley. Van Ginkel has 36 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 5½ sacks and 2 forced fumbles.
He saved his best performance for the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State. In that game, Van Ginkel returned a J.T. Barrett interception 9 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 7-7. He also forced and recovered a fumble that helped set up a field goal. Van Ginkel will be a key starter at outside linebacker as a senior next season.
Long snapper Adam Bay (Mesa, Ariz.)
Long snappers don’t garner much attention, which is just the way Adam Bay likes it. In high school, Bay completed all 440 snaps he attempted at Desert Ridge High. He became the No. 1-ranked long snapper at the prestigious Kohl’s camp and earned an invitation to the 2017 Under Armour All-America Game.
Bay initially committed to Missouri, even though Wisconsin was his top school during his recruitment. Wisconsin offered a scholarship in its 2016 recruiting class to long snapper Jake Caesar. But when Caesar left the program last fall, an opportunity opened for Bay, and he has taken advantage of it as the Badgers’ starting long snapper for field goals and punts.
Quarterback Jack Coan (West Sayville, N.Y.)
Jack Coan’s decision to enroll early was a good one because he used Wisconsin’s 15 spring practices to get a leg up in the backup quarterback competition over Kare Lyles. Coan completed 10 of 17 passes for 121 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception in the spring game and continued that momentum in fall camp to win the backup job.
This season, Coan appeared in six games in relief of starter Alex Hornibrook during blowouts. He completed all 5 of his passing attempts for 36 yards. Given that Hornibrook has two more years of eligibility remaining after this season, it may be tough for Coan to leapfrog him on the depth chart. But Coan certainly is good enough to push for playing time. Wisconsin also can use Coan’s redshirt, which may be a wise move down the road when Hornibrook is gone.
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