Badgers lose third commit in 2023 class, Leonhard says it’s getting harder to ask recruits for patience

Wisconsin has lost two more commitments from its 2023 recruiting class.

Three-star defensive lineman Jamel Howard tweeted Thursday morning he had decided to decommit from the Badgers.

That was followed hours later by three-star wide receiver Collin Dixon announcing his decision.

The decisions come a week after wide receiver Trech Kekahuna made the same one. Howard and Kekahuna have been pursued hard by schools since Wisconsin fired coach Paul Chryst in October. Oregon offered Kekahuna last month and is the favorite to land him, while Howard received a scholarship offer from Michigan and that could end up being his destination. Dixon, who has offers from the likes of Illinois, Purdue, Kentucky and more, had a big senior season and could see an influx of new offers.

The moves by all three come as Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh has yet to make an official decision on the next head coach for the Badgers, though all indications are it will be interim coach Jim Leonhard. That uncertainty has been tough for Leonhard on the recruiting trail and within his own locker room.

“I think, hopefully, within the near future there is an answer because the longer it takes, the harder it gets to ask people to be patient,” Leonhard said Thursday, minutes before the Howard news broke. “Because there are huge deadlines coming up with your current roster and decisions they may have to make, recruits and signing day, the transfer portal thing is starting to get closer and closer. So, the longer it takes the harder, it becomes to ask for that patience. Everyone involved, I think, knows that.”

Leonhard has already seen several players transfer out, while others, including star running back Braelon Allen, are the subject of transfer rumors that they must address. And now, a second commit has decided that their future would be better spent at a different university.

“I’m not in control of the timeline right now,” Leonhard said. “I have to do everything I can do to keep the program going in the right direction and have the communication with our players and recruits and families and just try to win games at this point.”

Mellusi to return

After missing the last four games with a broken wrist, running back Chez Mellusi should be available when the Badgers face Nebraska on Saturday. The senior has practiced all week and Leonhard said he will have a role against the Cornhuskers, though how big that role is remains to be seen.

Before the injury, Mellusi had run for 223 yards and a touchdown as Allen’s backup. He’d also caught two passes and scored another touchdown.