The Wisconsin Badgers football team rarely lands 5-star talent on the recruiting trail.
However, Nolan Rucci came to Wisconsin as the highest-ranked member of the 2021 recruiting class with a ton of fanfare based on his top-20 status in the class.
The Pennsylvania native was considered the best player in the state and one of the five best offensive linemen in the entire country for his grade level.
In the end, Rucci chose to follow his older brother Hayden, a junior tight end on the roster, to Madison, over scholarship opportunities with Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Stanford, and Texas, among others.
As expected, Rucci did not play as a true freshman. Offensive linemen seldom are physically prepared to start immediately, and the 5-star prospect was no different.
Understanding that there is more on the line this year, Rucci went to work this off-season. "I think a lot of my technique is definitely improved, you know, since last season. Just working on it all spring and summer, we've gotten a lot of good work in. Just with our run-blocking game and all-new technique and everything like that. So I'm really excited to put it to work here in the fall, and yeah, get after it," Rucci told All Badgers.
After redshirting his first season with the Badgers, Rucci has added weight to his 6-foot-8 inch frame and is feeling "more prepared" entering fall camp this year. As a result, he is a contender for playing time at right tackle and is likely the No. 2 left tackle for the season-opener against Illinois State.
Working at both positions this fall, Rucci feels as though his game translates to both sides of the line and isn't worried about shifting between both tackles spots. "You just kind of have to learn to flip what you're doing, and it's not too much of a transition," Rucci said. "I know I've played a lot of left and right through the season, and I think just being able to play both and be ambidextrous at the position is a big advantage for me."
During Monday's practice, Rucci worked exclusively at left tackle with the second unit, but new offensive line coach Bob Bostad confirmed during football media day that Logan Brown, Riley Mahlman, and Rucci were each competing for the starting right tackle spot as well.
In addition to receiving reps at each tackle position, Rucci could also have a role as a jumbo-tight end in short-yardage situations if he does not win the starting tackle position. In the spring, he received reps as an extra blocker, and that is another role he is excited about this fall. "That will be a lot of fun this year. Obviously, hopefully, a good chance to get on the field a little bit more as well. So I'm just super excited to work that position in, especially during camp."
With just over three weeks of fall practice remaining before the season-opener, Rucci and the rest of the team will continue to push for more playing time. With a year of experience in the strength and conditioning program, Rucci appears ready to see the field in some capacity in 2022.
- Former Wisconsin running back James White retires from the NFL
- Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz is looking for consistency in 2022
- Freshman OL Riley Mahlman feeling 'more prepared' this fall
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