Fourteen high school teams will play inside Camp Randall Stadium later this week, but this won’t be the last time inside a college stadium for some players.
Seven games will decide WIAA state champions Thursday and Friday, and several standouts have caught the attention of FBS and FCS programs. BadgerExtra takes a look at the key players to watch.
Ethan Doucette, Sr., LB, Kimberly: Doucette previously announced an offer from FCS program St. Thomas, where teammate Connor Schlessl already verbally commitment, along with several Division II schools. He has recorded 125 tackles with 12 tackles for loss through 13 games this season, according to wissports.net. He also racked up 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles leading up to the state championship game. He visited UW at least three times this season, according to his social media posts.
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Nathan Roy, Jr., OL, Mukwonago: Roy stands among a handful of players who make up a strong, in-state junior class. He told BadgerExtra two weeks ago that he held 11 scholarship offers, and he has announced Power Five offers from Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue, Southern Cal and UW since Sept. 1.
The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association named Roy, a four-star recruit by On3 and a three-star prospect by Rivals, as a large school all-state selection. He has visited UW twice this season.
“The relationship is obviously great,” Roy said. “Wisconsin is an O-line, running back school. They’re pretty prestigious.”
He said four programs — Minnesota, UW, Iowa and Iowa State — are recruiting him the hardest, and he speaks with Badgers offensive line coach Bob Bostad once or twice a week. His interest in the program “is pretty high.”
“I like their coach,” Roy said. “I like what they do. I like how they run the ball. That and Wisconsin is basically almost O-Line U.”
Wynn Stang, Sr., RB, Mukwonago: Roy has helped open holes for Stang, helping Mukwonago to a 12-1 record and the state title game. The WFCA all-state back has shredded defenses all season, rushing for 2,761 yards on 8.5 yards per carry with 42 touchdowns, according to wissports.net. He rushed for more than 300 yards three times this season — twice against Sussex Hamilton for a combined 675 yards, and a 470-yard, six-touchdown effort against Sun Prairie East in late August. He announced a preferred walk-on offer from Purdue in late October.
Najeh Mitchell, Sr., RB, West De Pere: He claimed large school all-state honors earlier this week from the WFCA. He has accumulated 1,679 yards on 5.9 yards per carry with 27 touchdowns, according to wissports.net. He announced his verbal commitment to Division II program Minnesota-Duluth on Oct. 20.
Sam Coufal, SR., DL, Kettle Moraine: He announced his verbal commitment to Miami earlier this month, and he confirmed to the State Journal that the storied ACC program offered a preferred walk-on opportunity. He claimed WFCA large school all-state honors this week after registering 106 tackles, including 39 for loss, and 8.5 sacks for the Lasers, according to wissports.net.
Coufal received Division I interest before his pledge to the Hurricanes. He previously tweeted offers from Army and FCS programs Dayton, Lehigh and St. Thomas. He also visited UW twice earlier this year.
Isaac Bunker, Sr., OL, Monroe: Bunker claimed WFCA small school all-state honors this week on his way to helping the Cheesemakers advance to the Division 3 title game with a 13-0 mark. Run-heavy Monroe rushed 559 times for 5,166 yards (9.2 yards per carry) and 79 touchdowns this season, according to wissports.net.
Rivals currently rates Bunker as a two-star recruit, and he declared his verbal commitment to the Naval Academy in late June. He also previously announced FCS offers from four other programs – Lehigh, Montana, North Dakota and North Dakota State.
Colton Brunell, Jr., RB/LB, Columbus: Brunell, like Stang, has rolled over opponents on offense this season. He enters Thursday’s matchup against Waukesha Catholic Memorial with 2,711 yards rushing on 9.6 yards per carry with 41 touchdowns, according to wissports.net. He added a receiving touchdown, too. He eclipsed the school’s career and single-game rushing records this season. The WFCA named the 6-foot, 205 pounder to its small school all-state team as a running back, but he also recorded 93 tackles, including 12 for loss, as a linebacker. The State Journal spoke with Brunell’s father earlier this week, who confirmed interest from Big Ten teams, including UW.
Brunell runs behind a line that includes 2023 recruit Collin Selk, a WFCA small school all-state honoree who announced a verbal commitment to Minnesota State in mid-July. Selk also shared via social media that Minnesota extended a preferred walk-on offer earlier this month.
Corey Smith, Jr., RB, Waukesha Catholic Memorial: Smith already sits as one of the most decorated recruits in the state as a junior. All four major recruiting services designate him as a consensus four-star prospect. Rivals currently has him as the No. 112 player in the country for the 2024 class.
Smith showcased his versatility on offense this season. He sits at 1,209 yards rushing on 8.3 yards per carry with 24 rushing touchdowns entering the title game, according to wissports.net. He also caught 21 passes in the first 13 games for 323 yards (15.4 yards per catch) with two touchdowns.
The junior took in UW’s first two contests of the season, and the WFCA large school all-state performer told BadgerExtra that he held 16 offers as of mid-September. His Instagram page shows announced offers from Auburn, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Tennessee and UW, among others.
Donovan Harbour, Jr., OL, Waukesha Catholic Memorial: Joining Smith and Roy among the top 2024 recruits is Harbour, who told BadgerExtra that he received 22 offers as of mid-September. He disclosed via his Instagram page opportunities from Power Five programs Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State and UW, among others.
The consensus four-star prospect, currently rated by ESPN as the No. 49 player in the country for the next recruiting cycle, visited Madison twice in September when the Badgers hosted Washington State and New Mexico State. He also took unofficial visits to Ohio State and Tennessee this season.
Other players to watch from Catholic Memorial include 2025 offensive lineman Owen Strebig, who stated that he is receiving early interest from FBS schools and is slated to visit Minnesota and Wisconsin in the next two weekends. Linebacker Keith Williams previously tweeted an offer from ACC program Boston College and took an unofficial visit to UW this season.
Zander Rockow, Sr., RB, Eau Claire Regis: Rockow finishes his high school career as a two-time WFCA small-school all-state selection. He claimed those honors as a defensive lineman last season and as a tight end/fullback this season.
The Regis standout has gained 887 yards on 79 carries with 17 touchdowns this season, according to wissports.net. Rockow announced that Minnesota and UW offered preferred walk-on opportunities in June, along with FCS offers from Illinois State, St. Thomas and Valparaiso. He accepted the chance to be a Gopher on June 5, a day before he tweeted the Badgers’ offer.
Mark McMullen contributed to this report.
See who’s in Wisconsin football’s 2023 recruiting class
Tyler Jansey — Batavia (Illinois)
Consensus three-star linebacker Tyler Jansey became the first member of the Badgers’ 2023 recruiting class when he announced his commitment on Jan. 28.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound inside linebacker ranks as the 10th-best player in his class in Illinois, per Rivals. He had 36 tackles and 5½ sacks in a six-game season as a sophomore and followed that up with 88 tackles and 16 tackles for loss in 11 games as a junior, according to MaxPreps. Jansey chose UW over offers from Eastern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Toledo, Miami (Ohio) and others.
James Durand — Basha (Arizona)
James Durand became the first offensive lineman in the 2023 class when he committed on May 6.
The Chandler, Arizona, product is a 6-foot-6, 285-pound tackle/guard who had a number of offers. Arizona, BYU, California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa State, Oregon State and Utah were among his suitors. Durand visited UW in late March and received his offer that weekend.
Durand has quick feet and good balance, which allow him to wall off defenders in pass blocks.
Justin ‘JT’ Taylor — Nazareth Academy (Illinois)
Consensus three-star defensive back Justin Taylor became the first member of the secondary to join the class when he verbally committed on May 13.
Taylor is a 6-foot, 185-pound athlete who could play cornerback or safety at the next level. He held offers to Kansas State, Army, Air Force and others before committing to UW. The Nazareth Academy (La Grange Park, Illinois) product is a native of Broadview, Illinois.
His tape shows good speed and instincts when playing the ball in the air.
Jaquez Keyes — Ironton (Ohio)
The Badgers dipped into the talent-rich state of Ohio for talented running back Jaquez Keyes. Keyes is a four-star prospect according to Rivals, but a three-star in 247Sports’ rankings.
Keyes’ relationship with UW moved quickly. He took a visit to UW on April 16 and tweeted he received an offer the next day. Keys verbally committed to UW on May 13.
He’s listed at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and his Twitter states he can run a 4.5-second 40-yard dash.
Roderick ‘Trey’ Pierce III — Brother Rice (Illinois)
UW’s recruiting success in Illinois continued with the commitment of three-star defensive lineman Trey Pierce. Pierce joined the class on May 19.
Pierce is listed at 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds and his recruitment was heating up when he committed to UW. He held offers from Iowa State, Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue and others. His highlight tapes show good upper-body strength and the ability to stay low and not get moved off his spot.
Nate White — Milwaukee Rufus King
Three-star tailback Nate White from Milwaukee Rufus King became the sixth recruit in the 2023 class when he announced his decision in late May.
The 6-foot, 175-pound speedster had offers from Iowa State, Minnesota, Purdue, Kansas and others before choosing UW. White averaged 8.6 yards per carry and had 20 touchdowns as a junior, according to WisSports.net statistics.
Jordan Mayer — Thomas Jefferson (Pennsylvania)
UW added long and strong outside linebacker Jordan Mayer to the recruiting class on June 12.
Mayer, a three-star prospect listed at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, played defensive end in high school but will join the Badgers’ outside linebacker room. The former Boston College commit was choosing between UW, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Virginia Tech. Mayer hails from Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania.
Collin Dixon — Tallmadge (Ohio)
Three-star athlete Collin Dixon had chances to play wide receiver and safety in college, but chose to join UW’s wide receiver room.
The Tallmadge, Ohio, product had almost 1,500 receiving yards as a junior and had offers from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Purdue and others. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound receiver committed June 13, a day after his official visit to UW.
A.J. Tisdell — College Station (Texas)
UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and cornerbacks coach Hank Poteat dipped into Texas to secure a commitment from rising cornerback prospect A.J. Tisdell.
The College Station native is a three-star recruit according to Rivals and he held offers from Baylor, California, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt and others before choosing UW. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, Tisdell shows fluidity in his hips and strong hands at the point of attack.
Jace Arnold — Marietta (Georgia)
The Badgers pulled four-star cornerback Jace Arnold out of Georgia to secure their 11th commitment of the class on June 22.
Arnold, a 5-foot-11, 184-pound prospect from Marietta, had offers from Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisville, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt, among others.
Arnold is a willing tackler whose speed will be an asset for UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard.
Jamel Howard Jr. — Marist (Illinois)
UW snagged another recruit out of Illinois when Jamel Howard Jr. announced his commitment to the Badgers on June 26.
Howard is a 6-foot-2, 320-pound interior defensive lineman out of Marist High School in Chicago and a three-star prospect per 247Sports and Rivals. Howard’s high school film shows an explosive lower-body that allows him to blow offensive linemen off the ball.
Howard and 2022 recruit Curt Neal look to have the abilities be anchors of the Badgers’ 3-4 defense in the near future.
Chris Terek — Glenbard West (Illinois)
UW landed a fifth recruit out of Illinois when Chris Terek (Glen Ellyn, Illinois) committed on June 29.
Terek is a 6-foot-6, 290-pound offensive lineman who is most likely to fit at tackle in the Badgers system. The Glenbard West High School product picked the Badgers over offers from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and others.
Cole LaCrue — Broomfield (Colorado)
The Badgers finally got their quarterback in the 2023 class when Cole LaCrue committed in early November.
The three-star prospect is listed at 6 foot 2 and 190 pounds and has shown good running ability at the high school level. He throws on the run well and shows good touch on throws down the field.
“I’m not your typical 7-on-7 guy,” LaCrue told the State Journal. “I can sit in the pocket if you’re gonna give it to me and I’m gonna dice you up. But if you’re gonna take that, cloud it up, I’m gonna destroy you with my legs. So it’s an opportunity where I see myself thriving and it’s an opportunity for me, I think, to revolutionize this Wisconsin offense and I can give it another look that it’s been waiting for.”