Blake Nichelson whittled down his recruiting process to a trio of programs. Then the University of Wisconsin began showing interest.
Nichelson, a Manteca, California, native, announced the offer from the Badgers in a July 20 tweet. He admitted their opportunity altered his trajectory for a decision date.
“It kind of did to be honest,” Nichelson said last week. “I was kind of trying to commit pretty early right before the season, but then I kind of changed my decision.”
247Sports and ESPN both rate Nichelson as a four-star recruit, and Rivals designates him as a high three-star prospect. He has previously disclosed offers from several Pac-12 schools, including Arizona State, California, Southern Cal, UCLA, Utah, Washington and Washington State. Coach Scott Frost and Nebraska also extended an offer as well.
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His July 4 tweet unveiled his final three schools as Florida State, Oregon and UCLA. UW’s contact started recently, according to Nichelson, and an offer came shortly thereafter.
“I was kind of surprised because it was kind of just like out of nowhere, to be honest,” Nichelson said. “I really wasn’t expecting it. They really didn’t talk to me until late this summer, so it’s really just surprising to me and just another option to look into.”
UW currently holds two scholarship commits at linebacker spots for its class of 2023. Batavia, Illinois, native Tyler Jansey projects to play at inside linebacker at the next level while Pennsylvania product Jordan Mayer is expected to find a home out on the edge at outside linebacker when he arrives. The Badgers missed out on four-star standout Tackett Curtis, who verbally committed to USC last month.
Nichelson confirmed UW outside linebackers coach Bobby April III has been the main person keeping in touch, with frequency of contact being around a weekly basis. The recruit, whose Twitter profile lists him at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, said the Badgers are in the mix with his top three schools as he believes UW can develop him.
The California native thinks all four programs can help players grow, for that matter, and the quartet also keeps in contact with him, which is an important factor in his recruitment. Two teams in particular, Florida State and Oregon, stand out the most at the moment because of their almost daily communication.
“Just constantly, seeing how my day was,” Nichelson said. “And it’s not just all about football. It’s kind of a more personal talk as well.”
Nichelson currently does not have any plans to travel to any of the schools he is considering. Has UW talked to him about a potential visit?
“Yeah, they kind of did for a little bit, just talking about it all,” Nichelson said.
His timeline sits undecided as to when he could commit.
“I feel like I’m pretty interested in them,” Nichelson said about the Badgers. “I feel like I just would want to get on campus and kind of experience everything before I kind of make them a potential pick like that.”
Engram on finding QBin 2023 class: ‘We’ll get our guy’
UW currently sits with 13 scholarship commits for its 2023 class, but coach Paul Chryst and his staff do not boast a projected quarterback within those baker’s dozen of future players.
The program has seen its previously offered prep signal callers in this recruiting cycle — Brayden Dorman (Arizona), Avery Johnson (Kansas State), Lincoln Kienholz (Washington), J.J. Kohl (Iowa State) and Dante Moore (Oregon) — all decide to play Power Five football elsewhere. Kienholz took an official visit to UW in June, the only quarterback to do so from the 2023 class.
Building relationships with players at this key position often starts much earlier, and no new offers have been disclosed by recruits. Offensive coordinator Bobby Engram’s discussion with reporters Saturday appears to show that the program has some players on its radar, however.
“I think you go through the process like you normally would and you don’t rush anything,” Engram said. “I think we have some good talent identified that we’re going to look to do a senior eval on. We’ll get our guy.”
UW has offered five quarterbacks for the class of 2024, according to both 247Sports and Rivals: C.J. Carr, Mabrey Mettauer, Dante Reno, Walker White and Michael Van Buren. Carr and Reno already announced commitments to Notre Dame and South Carolina, respectively. All five are rated as four-star recruits at the least by the recruiting services, with Carr being designated as a five-star prospect by 247Sports composite rankings.
Quick recruiting notes
- State high schools start their football seasons this week. 2023 UW running back commit Nate White and Milwaukee Rufus King will play Bay View on Thursday evening at Pulaski Stadium in Milwaukee. Walk-on defensive end commit Will McDonald kicks off his senior year when Hudson travels to Marshfield on Thursday.
- Three 2024 recruits from within the state who hold offers from UW also will be worth watching. Running back Corey Smith and offensive lineman Donovan Harbour start their season on the road when Catholic Memorial plays at Franklin on Friday. Middleton, which boasts projected linebacker Sam Pilof, will see Bay Port travel from Green Bay for an intriguing game Thursday evening.
- Out-of-state commits Jace Arnold (Marietta, Ga.), Collin Dixon (Tallmadge, Ohio), Trech Kekahuna (Bishop Gorman; Las Vegas, Nevada) and Jaquez Keyes (Ironton, Ohio) also begin their senior seasons this week.
Get to know Wisconsin football's 2023 recruiting class
Consensus three-star linebacker Tyler Jansey became the first member of the Badgers’ 2023 recruiting class when he announced his commitment on Jan. 28, 2022.
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.
I want to thank basha football and basha high school. I want to thank Coach Kelly for everything. Lastly my family. I’m beyond excited to say that I have committed to further my education and football career at the University of Wisconsin! Joshua 1:9 Romans 11:36 #OnWisconsin pic.twitter.com/kob6QX1wnb— James Durand (@JamesDurand17) May 6, 2022
James Durand became the first offensive lineman in the 2023 class when he committed on May 6, 2022.
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
Consensus three-star defensive back Justin Taylor became the first member of the secondary to join the class when he orally committed on May 13, 2022.
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.
💯💯💯 COMMITTED to @BadgerFootball 🔴⚪️🦡. @Coach_AlJohnson @CoachWhitted @bobby_engram @jon_proto @CaseyRabach_61 @KellerChryst @CoachBostadUW @CoachAprilUW @FootballIronton @PendletonTrevon @J_maineKeyes @JerrodPendleton #OnWisconsin👐 #RBU🦡 pic.twitter.com/7TY1FOOd5Q— Jaquez keyes (@KeyesJaquez) May 14, 2022
The Badgers dipped into the talent-rich state of Ohio for talented running back Jaquez Keyes. Keys 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 orally committed to UW on May 13, 2022.
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
UW recruiting success in Illinois continued with the commitment of three-star defensive lineman Trey Pierce. Pierce joined the class on May 19, 2022.
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.
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.
I couldn’t wait any longer, no other place like Madison. I am officially Home‼️ To my TJ teammates, Let’s go win another RING! Recruitment Closed🦡@MrMurrayTJ @CoachAprilUW @MikeCaputo_7 @jimleonhard @210ths @Evolve2tenths @wpialsportsnews @BREAL412 pic.twitter.com/0lOWWuHkXB— Jordan Mayer (@Jordanmayer33) June 12, 2022
UW added long and strong outside linebacker Jordan Mayer to the recruiting class on June 12, 2022.
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.
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.
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.
Three-star receiver prospect Trech Kekahuna added another member to the Hawaii to UW pipeline when he orally committed on June 19.
Kekahuna, listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, attended Saint Louis High School in Honolulu, the same program that produced UW outside linebacker Nick Herbig. Kekahuna is slated to play his senior season at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas.
Kekahuna has the agility to contribute as a returner.
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 elite speed will be an asset for UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard.
JAMEL HOWARD JR.
UW snagged another recruit out of Illinois when Jamel Howard Jr. announced his commitment to the Badgers on June 26, 2022.
Howard is a 6-foot-2, 320-pound interior defensive lineman out of Marist High School in Chicago and a three-star prospect per both 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.
UW landed a fifth recruit out of Illinois when Chris Terek (Glen Ellyn, Illinois) committed on June 29, 2022.
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.