On November 6th, the Badgers took another huge leap in their recruiting. The Badgers added their 20th recruit in the 2021 class in three-star WR Markus Allen. Allen previously de-committed from Michigan and the Badgers swooped in. The 2021 class ranks 16th overall according to 24/7 Sports and is the best in school history. Although the Badgers have always been one of the best programs in developing talent, adding touted recruits makes a big difference.
So what has changed? One possible answer: Badgers Director of Player Personnel Saeed Khalif. Since Khalif took over the role, Wisconsin’s recruiting has elevated to a whole new level. The Badgers have added seven of their top 20 rated recruits in school history in the last three seasons. Khalif and his staff changed the way Wisconsin is viewed and the future couldn’t be brighter.
Where Did Khalif Come From?
As a graduate from Georgia Tech, Khalif was a standout defensive lineman from 1984-86. He was named first-team All-ACC and honorable mention All-America as a senior. Khalif also went on to sign for the Denver Broncos as a free agent. After his playing career, he coached at the high school level in Georgia and New Jersey. He served two years as the defensive coordinator at Savannah State in 2011 and 2012. Khalif then returned to his alma mater and served four years as the assistant director of player personnel.
When Khalif took over, the Yellow Jackets had a recruiting class ranked 70th in the nation in 2013, the highest since 2005. In two years, Khalif put together his best recruiting class with Georgia Tech ranking 44th overall. It didn’t take long after Khalif took over for the program to see recruiting success. The Yellow Jackets were division champions in 2014 and Orange Bowl champions that same year. They also won the Tax Slayer Bowl in 2016.
After the 2016 season though Khalif was unable to take over the head role at Georgia Tech. Shortly after, Khalif applied for the head role at Wisconsin and was the program’s first choice. Paul Chryst noted that he loved the way Khalif would connect with the players and was a big part of the decision. So how has Saeed faired while at Wisconsin?
2017 and 2018 Recruiting Classes
Khalif took over during this recruiting year so he didn’t have too much of a say in how the Badgers fared in the 2017 class. The class ranked 39th according to 24/7 sports and the Badgers ranked seventh in the Big Ten. The Badgers landed a total of 18 commits, including two four-star players, fifteen three-star players, and one two-star player. Some notable recruits in the class: four-star WR Danny Davis and OG Kayden Lyles, three-star RB Jonathan Taylor, LB Andrew Van Ginkel, and QB Jack Coan.
In Khalif’s first full recruiting class in 2018, the Badgers actually took a slight step back. The Badgers ranked 46th overall and 9th in the Big Ten. Although the rankings dropped, Wisconsin’s average player ranking was actually higher in 2018 (.8648%) than in 2017 (.8582%). The Badgers landed a total of 20 recruits, including one four-star recruit and nineteen three-star players. Some notable recruits from the class include four-star ILB Jack Sandborn, three-star RB Nakia Watson, and S Reggie Pearson.
2019 Recruiting Class
It didn’t take long though for Wisconsin to rebound after the slip previously. The 2019 class was the best class for Wisconsin since recruiting was tracked in the modern era. The Badgers ranked 29th nationally and 6th in the Big Ten. The Badgers brought in five-star OL Logan Brown in the class. Brown is the Badger’s highest-rated recruit since former OL Josh Ogelsby. That wasn’t all. Wisconsin also brought in four-star QB Graham Mertz who was the Badgers highest-rated QB in program history. Wisconsin brought in a total of 19 recruits in the class. The Badgers had one five-star, two four-star recruits, and sixteen three-star recruits in the class. Also included in the class were OL Joe Tippmann, TE Hayden Rucci, and DT Keeanu Benton.
2020 Recruiting Class
Following up a historic recruiting season would be hard to do but the Khalif and the Badgers found a way to outdo themselves. The Badgers finished the 2020 recruiting class ranked 26th, another Badgers record. The class was fifth in the Big Ten as well. RB Jalen Berger and OL Jack Nelson and Trey Wedig highlighted the class all appearing in the Under Armour All American Game. The Badgers finished with 20 total recruits in the class. They had a record five four-star recruits and fifteen three-star recruits. Other notable Badgers in the class include LB’s Nick Herbing and Kayden Johnson, Waukesha native WR Chimere Dike, and TE Cam Large.
2021 Recruiting Class and Forward
The excitement keeps building for Wisconsin as they finish with another record-breaking class. Although the class isn’t officially complete, it ranks 16th nationally and the first time in the top 20. The Badgers currently have the 3rd best class in the Big Ten as well. Highlighted by 5 star Nolan Rucci, brother of Badgers TE Hayden Rucci. Rucci is the Badgers highest-rated recruit since Logan Brown and 3rd highest in program history. The currently has a total of 20 recruits including one five-star, a new record six four-star, and thirteen three-star recruits. Although Khalif brought in the players, Wisconsin Native Braelon Allen played a huge part. Allen was constantly communicating with other recruits and played a huge part in the success of this class. Other notable recruits include S Hunter Wohler, TE Jack Pugh, and QB Deacon Hill.
Although we won’t know for the next few years what the success of these groups will be, there’s a reason to be excited. Saeed Khalif came in and completely revolutionized Wisconsin’s recruiting and brought in top talent to Madison. Let’s also not forget that it’s not Khalif that deserves the credit. Assistant’s Warren Herring and Jensen Gebhardt have played a huge part as well. Not to mention Chryst and his coaching staff play a huge part as well. But Khalif has helped the Badgers go from just divisional hopefuls to potential CFP finalists. It’s time for Badger fans to show some love for Saeed Khalif and his staff for all the work they’ve done so far.