When wide receiver Nolan Groulx became the University of Wisconsin football team’s second de-commitment in as many weeks, another member of the Badgers’ 2019 class took to Twitter to offer a big-picture perspective aimed at upset fans.
Sure, UW’s class took a hit with the loss of Groulx and safety Bryson Shaw, who flipped to Ohio State, but nothing about their departure was all that abnormal.
High school prospects change their mind often, especially when most are contemplating the biggest decision of their lives.
“We can be mad, but it’s really their decision,” UW commit and Menomonee Falls High running back Julius Davis said of his support for Groulx on social media. "I like that (Groulx and Shaw) are at least honest. They told us straight up what’s going on. I think some people just take it too serious. We’re just kids. It’s never that serious to go and start bashing somebody because they’ve got to make a selfish decision."
UW didn’t lose its chance at a historically promising class with those departures, but this summer could prove to be key to maintaining its place in the top 20 of national recruiting rankings.
Many of UW’s 10 verbal pledges for 2019 are expected to visit Madison over the next two weekends. The Badgers have added three more three-star commitments since Groulx re-opened his recruitment May 9 and will look to add more talent over the next two months, but top programs will also continue to pursue the likes of Davis, quarterback Graham Mertz and others.
Badgers fans have expressed worry about the ability to keep their top recruits between now and December, the first time commitments can sign a letter of intent. Since committing to UW last year, Davis has received offers from USC, Notre Dame and LSU, while Mertz has elevated himself into one of the most sought-after quarterbacks in the country.
After Shaw and Groulx left the class, however, Davis said he spoke with his fellow commitments to ensure UW's class wasn’t on the verge of crumbling.
"When we saw them de-commit, I was like, ‘So, alright, just be honest with each other,’” Davis said. "'Where are you guys on your commitment? If you’re not 100 percent, let’s talk about it and see what we can do.’ But everybody was like, ‘Yeah, it sucks, but we’re 100 percent, so let’s just make this our class.’
"Everybody in the class now is stepping up to go help recruit players to our class. I think everybody else is solid. I’m kind of bummed (about Shaw and Groulx), but it is what it is and you’ve got to keep moving forward and make our class special. If they want to be a part of it, then they can."
Holding on to Mertz could turn out to be a game-changer for UW’s future. The signal caller from Blue Valley North High in Overland Park, Kan., finished in the top 12 at the Elite 11 Finals last weekend to earn a spot at The Opening Finals in Dallas later this summer.
Since Mertz committed to the Badgers in October, he’s become a consensus four-star prospect and received offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Arizona State.
Mertz has visited Georgia and Ohio State since his commitment, but both came when he was already in the area for other reasons.
Blue Valley North coach Andy Sims said he doesn’t believe any program will be able to pry Mertz away from the Badgers.
“I think he’s really set on Wisconsin,” Sims said. "He’s committed to them. He’s got a good relationship with Coach (Paul) Chryst and Coach (Jon) Budmayr, and for all intents and purposes, that’s where he’s going to be.
"I know Graham very well, and I know what he can do, but from an outsider’s perspective, I think in two to three years Wisconsin can become a contender for national championships with Graham at quarterback."