Mailbag: Recruiting and COVID-19, Keeanu Benton's Potential

Jake Kocorowski prides itself on being a site that can be a community for Wisconsin fans to discuss and debate various topics throughout the year.

Earlier this week, I asked you, the UW faithful, to send in your questions. Thank you all for those! As seen below, I have tried to answer them to the best of my knowledge (and also provided my opinion when needed as well). 

From Wisconsin Johnson: How will Madison's more restrictive stay-at-home order impact recruiting? 

With the fluid news on-going in the college athletics landscape, this is good to address. Other states and local government have different regulations during this COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the Dane County stay-at-home order, which expires on May 26, and the Forward Dane initiative actually won't impact recruiting at all at the moment. 

First and foremost, that is because the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee altogether expanded its dead period for recruiting earlier this month until June 30. That affects all Division I schools, not just Wisconsin. 

According to the NCAA's definition of a dead period:
"During a dead period a college coach may not have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, and may not watch student-athletes compete or visit their high schools. Coaches may write and telephone student-athletes or their parents during a dead period."

However, the dead period does affect Wisconsin's ability to bring recruits in for June official visits, something it has done to a very large degree of success in the past two years. touched on that last week when discussing which undecided recruits were hosted during that month that eventually orally committed to UW:

Class of 2019

  • Cornerbacks Dean Engram, Semar Melvin and James Williams
  • Defensive linemen Rodas Johnson and Gio Paez
  • Outside linebacker Spencer Lytle

Class of 2020

  • Outside linebackers Nick Herbig and Kaden Johnson
  • Tight end Cam Large
  • Cornerback Max Lofy
  • Inside linebackers Malik Reed, Jordan Turner and Preston Zachman

We also touched base on the fact UW also hosted two junior day events prior to everything shutting down. We will see just how these unprecedented times shape the 2021 class.

Now, if the dead period is not extended into July, and if the NCAA actually allows visits later this summer, then we will see what plans UW and the local government have at that point in this ever-changing environment. University spokesman John Lucas told earlier this week that the Forward Dane plan "does not apply directly to units of a state agency."

From BuckyFan11: What do you think the potential of Keeanu Benton could be?

Through the roof. Is that too much? 

I did not know what to expect out of Benton coming in right away as a true freshman. With the depth at nose tackle being thin heading into the 2019 season and sophomore Bryson Williams being the only player having playing experience at the position, I did not know who would exactly step up in the two-deep. Benton showed early on that he could.

Then in the season, he became a more-than-solid member of the defense. Though he recorded just two sacks, both came against Ohio State, and he recorded four tackles for loss overall. Those may not seem like a lot, but you also have to note that Wisconsin's defensive linemen normally do not put up the gaudy stats its linebackers do within the scheme.

He flashed a lot of potential his first year in the program, especially taking over for Williams when he was injured. He more than held his own, as pointed out in a couple of plays by Bucky's 5th Quarter's Owen Riese. 

As long as Benton continues gaining experience and improving year-by-year, game-by-game (note: we have not seen a linear progression from players before, most notably Alex Hornibrook from 2017 to 2018), I believe he could be a force in the middle for the Badgers.

From MertzMania20: If the season continues as planned, what stretch of games could be the toughest for the Badgers?

Very good question. Guessing in the next month or so that will be digging more into the schedule once we actually know.

But assuming the season goes on as scheduled and without delay, it really is an interesting schedule for Wisconsin in 2020. No non-conference matchup to kick it off, but rather a Big Ten cross-divisional battle with an emerging Indiana program on Sept. 4.

Then two non-conference games followed by what I believe will be the big-time stretch for Wisconsin:

  • Sept. 26: at Michigan 
  • Oct. 3: vs. Notre Dame (at Lambeau Field)
  • Oct. 10: vs. Minnesota

Heck, throw in an Appalachian State program that won double-digit contests in 2019 a week prior to the Wolverines, and I have a feeling we will see the mettle of this year's team early on.

However, I would not discount the final three games of the season, especially with where Wisconsin plays. Purdue's offense has given UW trouble the past two years, and in November the contest is played in West Lafayette and without one Jonathan Taylor (who has run for over 200 yards against the Boilermakers the last three seasons). Adrian Martinez and the Huskers' offense has also put up big numbers against the Badgers in two recent contests. Then, the regular season finale is in Iowa City in a rivalry game against an always up-to-task Hawkeyes program (though Kirk Ferentz's program, like Wisconsin, is replacing key players on both sides of the ball).