Following the departure of many of the top players from one of the most successfull Wisconsin football teams in recent memory, I thought it would be interesting to see how these players were regarded when they were recruits coming out of high school. Wisconsin’s practice of developing lower-ranked players and not adhering to the popular star-ranking system used by most recruiting sites is well-know, so perhaps the results below are not that surprising (no five-star recruits, only two four-stars). The players are listed with their then-and-now height and weights, original scouting report information, and where/if they were drafted to the NFL. Part two will go up tomorrow.
DE J.J. Watt
Then: 6’5″, 220 lbs; two stars (Rivals.com); Pewaukee, Wis. class of 2007
from ESPN.com/Scout Inc.’s prospect scouting report:
Watt is a tall, rangy defensive end who flashes some playmaking ability. He is an effective player when he uses his hands to defeat the blocker … He must work to develop a package of pass rush moves that will take advantage of his long arms. He will have to add some bulk and strength to compete in college. Overall, Watt has an impressive frame and must work hard to improve his technique and consistency to be a solid college player.
Now: 6’6″, 292 lbs; drafted No. 11 overall by the Houston Texans
Back then, Watt was a tall, little-known defensive end prospect who needed to add bulk to his frame, even to play in a non-power bowl subdision conference. He chose to play Central Michigan despite offers from Colorado, Northern Illinois and Minnesota (LOL). After briefly converting to tight end and delivering pizzas on the CMU campus for extra cash, Watt put on more than 60 lbs of muscle, transferred to Wisconsin and became one of the best defensive ends in the country. A few weeks ago, he became the highest drafted defensive player from Wisconsin since Troy Vincent went No. 7 overall in 1992. What a story.
OT Gabe Carimi
Then: 6’7″, 268 lbs; three stars; Monona Grove, Wis. class of 2006
Now: 6’7″, 315 lbs; drafted No. 29 overall by the Chicago Bears
Unlike Watt, Carimi was a fairly highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school. He wanted to play at Wisconsin all the way through the recruiting process and made no secret of it. I vaguely remember a local TV news feature on him in which one high school teammate alleged Carimi was “the biggest person [he’d] ever seen.” He was actually a bit on the light side in terms of weight at the time, but his athleticism(4.88 40-yard dash), intelligence (28 on the ACT) and great hands earned him third-team All-America high school honors as a senior and a three star rating from most recruiting sites. Rivals rated Carimi as the 30th best tackle in the nation and third best player from Wisconsin. Even so, Carimi outshined all expectations anyone could have had for him, winning the 2010 Outland Trophy award as the nation’s best lineman and being unanimously selected as a 2010 first-team All-American. He slipped a bit on draft day, but was taken at the end of the first round by the Chicago Bears.
TE Lance Kendricks
Then: 6’3″, 207 lbs; four stars (WR prospect); Milwaukee, Wis. (Rufus King) class of 2006
from ESPN.com/Scout Inc.’s prospect scouting report:
Not only does Kendricks have great size and overall strength, but he is one of the few big receivers in this class that possesses the speed to be a serious vertical threat on any given snap … Is a real mismatch versus most cornerbacks and a huge red zone playmaker … He is not a polished route runner yet and has a ways to go in terms of technique, but that will come with coaching.
Now: 6’3″, 241 lbs; drafted No. 47 overall by the St. Lous Rams
Kendricks was the crown jewel of the Badgers’ 2006 recruiting class. Even though he went to high school in Milwaukee — just 80 miles away from campus — Kendricks was recruited heavily by SEC heavyweights Arkansas and LSU (among others), which bowed out to Wisconsin a few weeks after Kendricks’ visit to Madison in Dec. 2005. Although he was originally recruited as a receiver, his conversion to tight end couldn’t have been difficult to foresee based on his size, physicality and Wisconsin’s heavy use of tight ends in their offense. After spending his first three years on campus sitting behind would-be NFL tight ends Garrett Graham and Owen Daniels, Kendricks had a break-out year as a junior. As a senior, he earned first team All-American honors and was a finalist for the Mackey award despite being slowed by injuries. Kendricks was projected by many to be one of the top tight ends in the 2011 NFL Draft and ended up being taken in the middle of the second round by the St. Lous Rams.
OG John Moffit
Then: 6’4″, 290 lbs; three stars West Haven, Conn. (Notre Dame) class of 2006
Now: 6’4″, 319 lbs; drafted No. 75 overall by the Seattle Seahawks
Moffit was another key part of Wisconsin’s 2006 recruiting effort. The Connecticut native chose the Badgers over New England powers Boston College and Rutgers as well as Big Ten rival Michigan State. He developed into one of the nastiest interior lineman Wisconsin fans have ever seen, teaming up with Carimi to plow the way for three different 900+ yard rushers in 2010. He earned first team All-American honors as a senior, but slipped to the third round in the 2011 NFL draft because of concerns about his pass blocking skills.