With a mix of players recruited by the previous staff, kids committed to him at Cincinnati and a couple new additions, coach Luke Fickell announced his first recruiting class at Wisconsin on Wednesday.
The class consists of 14 players from 13 different states ranging from Hawaii to Connecticut. It is ranked 56th in the country and 12th in the Big Ten, according to the 247Sports Composite. Much of that is due to the small size, as the average ranking of the individual recruits is fifth among conference teams.
“I think it’s a very diverse class. If you look at it, it’s probably a little bit more from all over the place than I would envision for us moving forward,” Fickell said. “But I think more than anything that just shows you how strong the brand is, and how strong the ‘W’ is across the country.”
The two latest additions were among the most notable signees, with one somewhat expected and the other serving as a pleasant surprise.
Cornerback Amare Snowden visited Wisconsin last weekend and then announced Wednesday afternoon he would be signing with the Badgers, choosing them over Cincinnati, West Virginia, Colorado and others. The 4-star recruit originally committed to Fickell when he was with the Bearcats, in part, because he would be able to play football and baseball. With Wisconsin being the only Big Ten team without a baseball team, Fickell had to convince him Madison was the right place.
“We had to kind of find out where his heart really was,” Fickell said. “We never had a doubt on how good of a player he is and where he fits best. But it was really going to come down to, ‘Hey, are you willing to give up the baseball and really kind of hone all your skills into to one thing?’ And I think his original thought was going into college, he wanted to have the option to do both. But he recognized the opportunities here and what this could mean for his future.”
Snowden is the just the second 4-star cornerback Wisconsin has signed in the last 22 seasons, joining Brett Bell (2001). At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, he offers Fickell a lot of physical skill to work with.
“We see him as a guy that’s got a lot of growth potential,” Fickell said. “We envision him kind of starting off on the outside and seeing how well he fits and all the different things that we want to be able to do.”
After Fickell spoke with the media, the surprise of the day came with the commitment of wide receiver Trech Kekahuna. The 3-star recruit was originally committed to the Badgers prior to Paul Chryst being fired in October. He de-committed and opened up his recruitment, garnering interest from Oregon, Arizona and more. He actually committed to Arizona on Saturday and it seemed as if he was the off the market. But that proved not to be the case, with Kekahuna telling Badger247 that he didn’t arrive at his decision until he woke up Wednesday morning.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Kekahuna is from Hawaii, a place Wisconsin has gotten some key players from in recent years, namely linebacker Nick Herbig and transfer safety Kamo’i Latu. Kekahuna actually played his senior year of football at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, where he accounted for 1,240 yards and 22 touchdowns this season.
Nearly half of Wisconsin’s class (6) is players in the secondary, including 4-star safety Braedyn Moore and 3-star Jonas Duclona. Both of them were among the three players that had committed to Cincinnati before Fickell came to Madison. Fickell said they went after a few others that had been committed to them there that ended up going elsewhere and decided not to recruit a couple guys that might not have been what they are looking for at Wisconsin.
“Those are the ones we knew the best,” Fickell said of Moore, Duclona and Snowden. “We knew darn well and truly believed that they don’t just fit here as a player, but they fit here as a culture and all the things that are gonna be expected of them.”
The class is notably lacking players in the trenches. The lone offensive lineman is 4-star guard James Durand out of Arizona, while no defensive linemen signed Wednesday. Fickell, a former nose tackle, joked it gave him the “heebie jeebies” to not have a single defensive lineman in the fold but made clear they aren’t done recruiting that position or the offensive line.
“I think there’s going to definitely be some some options and some opportunities here in January that we’re going to do a really good job on guys that we were in on, and the guys that hadn’t signed,” Fickell said. “But that’ll be a focus for us in January, like we talked about a little bit with the offensive line, possibly, as well. But defensive line definitely will be a focus.”