- By Jesse Temple Land of 10
Recruiting never stops in Badgers country, and we’re here to help put it all in perspective. Join us every Tuesday and Thursday night for a recap of Wisconsin recruiting news, insight on what’s happening behind the scenes and a glimpse at what’s coming next.
Running back Steele Chambers, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior from Roswell, Ga., is closing in on making his college decision. And as the recruiting battle for his services rages on, Wisconsin remains firmly in the mix. In fact, the Badgers rank right near the top following a visit to campus in the last week.
Tim McFarlin, who is Chambers’ high school football coach at Blessed Trinity Catholic, is in regular contact with his star player regarding recruiting updates. McFarlin said Chambers came away impressed with his time on campus for a multitude of reasons.
“Right now, Wisconsin’s in the top 3 or 4, which is where you want to be at this point in time,” McFarlin told Land of 10. “I think he’s going to try to make a decision by August 1. I know he’s developed a very good relationship with John Settle. … Steele sees a lot of value in Wisconsin. Certainly academically, it’s one of the top public colleges in the country. For Steele, it’s more than just football. He really liked it. And he liked the fact that the Wisconsin coaching staff never really wavered on his position. They basically said, ‘Look, you’re going to be a running back and you’re going to carry it 20 times a game’ or whatever. I think they painted a very clear picture for him.
“A lot of schools have gone the other route and said, ‘Look, we like you at linebacker, but we’re also going to look at you at running back.’ I think moving on to college, he’s ready to have it defined. He’s ready to know what the colleges want and just lock in on one thing, and it’s time for that to happen.”
Chambers is a 247Sports composite 4-star prospect who is listed as the No. 31 athlete in the country. He holds 27 scholarship offers, and McFarlin said the ratio between offers for him to play running back or outside linebacker is close to 50-50.
As a sophomore, Chambers gained 1,486 rushing yards and scored 21 touchdowns. On defense, he tallied 74 tackles. In 2017, Chambers helped lead Blessed Trinity to its first football state championship in the history of the program, which began in 2001, and continued his on-field brilliance.
He rushed for 1,301 yards with 23 touchdowns and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. Chambers also demonstrated his versatility by catching 13 passes for 143 yards with 2 touchdowns. The previous season, he caught only 3 passes. Chambers added 70 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 2½ sacks on defense.
Wisconsin already has one running back committed in the 2019 class with Julius Davis (Menomonee Falls, Wis.). But the staff continues to look for another tailback, and Chambers would represent a major recruiting victory. McFarlin noted the schools Chambers has said he likes include Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State and Stanford.
In the last month, Chambers has picked up scholarship offers from Auburn, Georgia, Alabama and LSU. Chambers attended Alabama’s junior day on Feb. 24 and then visited Notre Dame on Saturday for its junior day. Chambers then visited Wisconsin on Sunday.
“I think it’s going to be important that he makes a decision and gets this behind him as he goes into the season,” McFarlin said. “I would hate to see the distractions. And I never think that’s good for anybody, not just Steele. If you have the opportunity to commit early, I think that always works best. So I look forward to him having a year where he can breathe a little bit and just enjoy the game.”
One other facet Wisconsin has going for it is that Blessed Trinity runs a similar offense to the Badgers. McFarlin said Blessed Trinity operates out of “21 personnel,” which is a pro-style formation that consists of two running backs, a tight end and two receivers. Chambers watched with great interest as Wisconsin won a school-record 13 games, captured the Orange Bowl and featured a freshman running back in Jonathan Taylor, who was a Doak Walker Award finalist.
Chambers eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in five games as a junior and scored at least 2 touchdowns in eight games. McFarlin insisted Chambers’ statistics could have been even better, but the coaching staff wanted to rest him in some games, and Chambers happily obliged. He took his backup, a sophomore on the team, under his wing and helped him handle a bigger responsibility, even as it hindered his own individual accomplishments. Blessed Trinity ultimately finished the season 13-2 and knocked off previously undefeated Marist 16-7 in the state championship game.
“Here in Georgia, numbers are a big deal ― how many touchdowns and how many yards and all that kind of good stuff,” McFarlin said. “Steele’s numbers could have been twice what they were this year at tailback, no doubt. But it was important to him to take care of the football team. So we really appreciate him doing that.”
Wisconsin has cracked the top 6 for one of the best tackles in the 2019 recruiting class. Quinn Carroll, a 6-6, 295-pound junior from Minneapolis, released an updated list on Wednesday consisting of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.
I'm truly grateful to every school that has offered me a scholarship, and it's been an honor getting to know every coach who has recruited me. That said, after much prayer and many conversations with my family, these are the six programs that I will be considering moving forward. pic.twitter.com/4pGteCi8Sd
— Quinn Carroll (@q_ocarroll) March 7, 2018
Carroll, a 4-star prospect, is rated as the No. 1 player in Minnesota and the No. 10 tackle in the country, according to the 247Sports composite. He holds 32 scholarship offers and unofficially visited Wisconsin on Feb. 24. But sandwiched between that visit were a couple of trips to keep an eye on moving forward. Carroll unofficially visited Notre Dame on Feb. 17 and attended Minnesota’s junior day on March 3. Those two programs are believed to be Carroll’s front-runners at this stage, and the 247Sports Crystal Ball projects Carroll to select Notre Dame.
Carroll told 247Sports reporter Kevin Sinclair that he met with Notre Dame’s entire offensive line on his visit to South Bend.
“They’re just all great people,” he said. “I can really see myself getting to know them better and becoming teammates with them. It was great getting to know them. I was really looking forward to meeting them because I haven’t had a chance to interact with the players. This was the first one and I really enjoyed that with them.”
Wisconsin’s basketball program currently has one scholarship offer out to an uncommitted prospect in the 2018 recruiting class, and the Badgers will land an official visit from him. Tai Strickland is scheduled to visit Wisconsin from March 15-17, according to Pat Lawless of PrepCircuit.com.
Strickland is a 6-2, 180-pound point guard from St. Petersburg High School in Florida. He told Lawless that Wisconsin, Rutgers, Minnesota and Maryland were recruiting him the hardest. While he doesn’t have any other visits scheduled, he does plan to take a trip to see Rutgers. Strickland has scholarship offers from Wisconsin, South Florida, Boston College, Rutgers, Austin Peay and Tennessee Tech.
Wisconsin assistant coach Howard Moore watched Strickland play three weeks ago and offered him a scholarship.
“I was really excited,” Strickland told Land of 10 after he was offered a scholarship. “They’ve had a great tradition. They’ve been pretty good the last couple years. They’ve had a down year this year. But I feel like it’s a great program, so it’ll be on the rise.
“Coach Moore, he came to the school during the day, met some of my teachers, talked to some of my guidance counselors. It shows he’s doing his homework on me. He’s checking on my grades and all that. It was just great to see because he was showing that he cares. He was putting his time into watching me. That went a long way.”
Strickland, who is the son of former NBA player Rod Strickland, described himself as “a late bloomer” who entered high school standing just 5-3. But he has grown, become more athletic and continued to preach patience while putting in the time to be a better player. Strickland is a 3-star prospect who ranks as the No. 24 player in the Florida and the No. 47 point guard in the 2018 class.
Strickland transferred to St. Petersburg after starting for two seasons at Tampa Catholic, on the same team as McDonald’s All-American Kevin Knox, who is now a freshman at Kentucky. Knox averaged 28.9 points per game last season, while Strickland averaged 13.2 points.
Strickland plays alongside another Division I prospect at St. Petersburg in guard Serrel Smith, who is an Ole Miss signee. This season, Strickland has thrived. He made the game-winning bucket with 10 seconds left to help his team defeat previously unbeaten Countryside 62-61 in December. Smith and Strickland both were named to the all-tournament team in January at the Under Armour Holiday Classic. Strickland scored a team-high 23 points in the title game of the event.
St. Petersburg defeated Riverdale 52-42 in the Class 8A region final last Friday, and Strickland and Serrel were the biggest reasons for the victory. St. Petersburg (24-5) will play in the state semifinals on Friday against Pompano Beach Blanch Ely (22-8), a program that has won four of the last six state titles.
Strickland told Lawless he intends on making his college decision “sometime near Signing Day,” which is April 11. The final signing date for Division I basketball players enrolling in 2018-19 is May 16.
Wisconsin has two players in its 2018 class ― forward Taylor Currie and center Joe Hedstrom ― but has another scholarship available. Although the Badgers appear to possess plenty of guard depth entering next season, Strickland could provide the program with the type of quickness and scoring ability it needs.
Wisconsin’s football program was busy on the recruiting trail this week ahead of the start of spring practice. Badgers coaches offered scholarships to at least six players. Here’s a rundown of the offers:
2020 WR Jordan Johnson (St. Louis)
Jordan Johnson is a 6-2, 180-pound receiver. Wisconsin represents his seventh offer, joining Notre Dame, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa State, Kentucky and Nebraska. Johnson unofficially visited Illinois on Feb. 18, attended Arkansas’ junior day on Feb. 24 and visited for Notre Dame’s junior day on March 3.
Johnson is a 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 2 player in Missouri and the No. 12 wide receiver in the 2020 class, according to 247Sports. He is considered a Notre Dame lean. His lead recruiter is Fighting Irish wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander, who spent five seasons as Wisconsin’s receivers coach from 2007-11.
2019 DE Colt Ellison (Aledo, Texas)
Colt Ellison has an offer list that features 16 schools, including Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Penn State, TCU and Utah. Ellison is a 6-4, 235-pound defensive end who is a 3-star prospect and ranks as the No. 57 player in Texas and the No. 31 weakside defensive end in the nation.
During his junior season, Ellison recorded 96 tackles with 18 tackles for loss, 13½ sacks, 7 pass breakups 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and 1 interception.
2019 OLB Spencer Lytle (Bellflower, Calif.)
Spencer Lytle’s scholarship offer list is among the most massive in some time for a player Wisconsin has pursued. Lytle holds 40 known scholarship offers, and some of his top schools are Boston College, Indiana, Minnesota, Oregon and UCLA. In the past month alone, he has earned offers from Texas A&M, Nebraska, Clemson, California, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.
Lytle is a 6-3, 215-pound outside linebacker who is a 3-star prospect. He ranks as the No. 57 player in California and the No. 32 outside linebacker in the country. Lytle recorded 77 total tackles in 10 games last season at Servite High School but has since transferred to St. John Bosco.
Lytle recently visited Cal and told 247Sports reporter Greg Biggins that he plans on visiting Texas A&M, Nebraska, Clemson, Notre Dame and Ole Miss.
2019 DE Harrison White (Spring, Texas)
Harrison White is a 6-5, 263-pound defensive end who holds six scholarships offers: Wisconsin, Baylor, Houston, Nebraska, Texas Tech and Utah. White attended Houston’s junior day on Feb. 24. White is a 3-star prospect who rates as the No. 59 strongside defensive in the 2019 class, according to 247Sports.
2019 DE Moses Okpala (St. Louis)
At 6-7 and 250 pounds, Moses Okpala cuts an imposing figure as a defensive end. Okpala holds 13 scholarship offers and has earned offers in the last week from Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Okpala is a 3-star prospect who is the No. 10 player in Missouri and the No. 38 strongside defensive end in the nation.
2020 OL Luke Wypler (Montvale, N.J.)
The 6-4, 269-pound Luke Wypler just wrapped up his sophomore season, but he already holds a dozen scholarship offers. The list is impressive and features Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Stanford, Virginia and Wisconsin. The Badgers already have secured one commitment in the 2020 class, that from in-state offensive lineman Jack Nelson.
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