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Wisconsin Football: Badgers Missing Out on Multiple In-State Recruits



Wisconsin Football head coach Luke Fickell
Dec 26, 2022; Scottsdale, Arizona, USA; Wisconsin Badgers coach Luke Fickell during Guaranteed Rate Bowl media day at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Madison, Wis. – Traditionally, the Wisconsin football program has been able to hone in on and secure the top in-state recruits. In fact, UW has landed the top player in Wisconsin every year since 2017. 

This year, however, the Badgers have missed out on the top in-state prospects. To make matters worse, a Big Ten foe has been able to pluck multiple of the highest-rated recruits in Wisconsin.

Penn State plucks multiple in-state targets from the Wisconsin Badgers

Penn State has been hot on the recruiting trail in the 2024 cycle. Currently, the Nittany Lions hold the No. 7 recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports. 

Penn State boosted its ranking by plucking multiple Wisconsin recruits. Donovan Harbour, the No. 1 player in the state, and Garrett Sexton, the No. 4 prospect, have committed to the Nittany Lions. On top of that, Corey Smith, the No. 2 player in WI is projected to land at PSU as well.

In fairness, the previous regime had offered Harbour and was not re-offered by Fickell and company. Also, the Badgers were late to extend an offer to Sexton, as he had already dropped his final four schools a few weeks prior.

The PSU staff has honed in on building relationships with recruits in Wisconsin. Penn State reporter Chris Mangum said this about how the Penn State staff have earned commitments from multiple WI prospects:

“(James Franklin) is all about making bonds with the recruits. When one locks in, word spreads, and the staff pokes around other schools and recruits. Then, the dominoes fall — hence why a few WI recruits have committed in a row now.”

The Wisconsin football staff has typically built a “wall” around the state to keep the top guys home. Now, it looks like Fickell and company have shifted their recruiting direction.

Wisconsin football head coach Luke Fickell’s recruiting strategy

In Luke Fickell’s introductory press conference, he gave an insight into UW’s recruiting strategy. 

“Within a 300-mile radius, that will be the core of what we do here. I know as you get into Chicago and the areas where you have done an unbelievable job, there’s a lot of roots that have been built there,” Fickell said. “I know that the 300-mile radius is an opportunity to make this program, this team, a championship team.”

The Badgers have earned multiple commitments from the Chicago area, with Grant Stec and Kyan Berry-Johnson slated to join UW in 2024. Wisconsin also picked up a late commitment from three-star DT Jamel Howard, who hails from Chicago, in the 2023 cycle

Fickell and company are sticking to that radius he discussed, but they have missed out on the top in-state recruits, but that’s okay. With Luke Fickell’s track record of success in recruiting, there is no reason to panic about losing players to other schools. 

Sure, it’s disappointing to miss out on the top guys in the state. However, the Badgers have honed in on other targets that will be more beneficial for the program. The UW staff has already secured a top-20 recruiting class in the 2024 cycle with plenty of time left to land more impactful players.

Don’t panic, Badger fans. There’s more to come on the recruiting front, and Wisconsin is on track to have a solid class in the 2024 cycle.

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Jake Maier is the managing editor and publisher at He has provided coaching and editorial support to numerous writers in his role, contributing significantly to the platform's growth. His expertise extends to Wisconsin Badgers football, basketball, and recruiting coverage. Jake's previous bylines can be found at Fansided and Wisconsin Sports Heroics.