Note: All star ratings and all rankings are based on 247Sports and its composite rankings as of Tuesday morning, Dec. 20, unless otherwise indicated.

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Surviving the Braelon Allen portal drama was a huge win for new Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell. Keeping the star running back in Madison will turn out to be as big as the signing of any recruit in the Badgers’ 2023 class.

With Allen slated to return, it gives Fickell and new offensive coordinator Phil Longo a dangerous weapon to build around. And with the early signing period just days away, Fickell and his staff are frantically working to put the pieces together. To say there’s work to be done would be an understatement.

Let’s take a look where Wisconsin stands entering the early signing period.

By the numbers

Overall rank: 60th
B1G rank: 12th
5-stars: 0
4-stars: 2

Highest rated player: James Durand, 4-star OL

Known for its beefy offensive linemen, the Badgers have landed a good one in Durand. Durand, from Chandler, Arizona, had offers from many schools, including Arizona, Utah, Cal and Iowa State.

The 6-4, 280-pounder will start his time in Madison as an interior offensive lineman. He’s the perfect fit to help pave the way for Allen and others.

Did the Badgers bolster the QB room?

With longtime starter Graham Mertz saying goodbye and entering the transfer portal, Wisconsin made a quick turnaround landing Oklahoma transfer Nick Evers. Evers, a 4-star prospect a year ago, is ready for a fresh start and seems to have found a solid home in Madison.

Evers was rated the No. 172 overall prospect in 2022. He originally committed to Florida before flipping to OU and sitting behind Dillon Gabriel this past year.

The Badgers also have Cole LaCrue, a 3-star QB from Broomfield, Colorado, committed in the 2023 class. Fickell knows upgrading the QB room, especially with Longo coming aboard to call plays, is a high priority.

Best position group: Defensive back

The Badgers picked up a huge commit in Braedyn Moore on Dec. 12. Moore, a 4-star safety/athlete from Hamilton, Ohio, held offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota, among others. Rated as the No. 21 athlete on the board and No. 12 overall from Ohio, Moore should immediately bolster the back end of the defense.

The Badgers also have pledges from a trio of 3-star prospects at corner. Jace Arnold (Marietta, GA), Jonas Duclona (Naples, FL) and AJ Tisdell (College Station, TX) give Wisconsin athleticism and speed. Duclona recently committed on Dec. 12 — the same day as Moore.

Fickell is hoping to load up with depth on defense, knowing the B1G is a rugged league where attrition occurs weekly.

Biggest need filled: Evers at QB

With Mertz’s departure, filling the gap at QB through the portal was an urgent need. Evers’ commitment is huge. He was a top-10 QB in the 2022 class and should be able to step in immediately and win the job.

Evers visited Madison this past week and committed Dec. 16. Fickell and Longo worked hard to close the deal, and they did. Evers calls Wisconsin a “sleeping giant” and has 4 years of eligibility remaining.

His mindset is to win championships, and the young QB looks poised to put in the work to make it happen.

Biggest potential flip: Christian Alliegro, 3-star LB

While the early hard commits Wisconsin has all look fairly solid entering the final weekend before early Signing Day, keep an eye on Alliegro from Avon, Connecticut. Alliegro has taken 3 visits in December, and along with his Badgers’ trip, he visited Wake Forest on Dec. 2 and Minnesota Dec. 16.

The Gophers are making a late push, and Minnesota DC Joe Rossi can boast of a stellar unit in Minneapolis to play for. But Fickell knows defense as well. And he will do his part to make sure Alliegro, who committed just this past week, doesn’t flip at the last minute.

Final takeaways

Wisconsin notoriously doesn’t sign highly ranked classes. Their 2023 class is off to a similar start. Solid, but not outstanding. Fickell and his staff will log many hours between now and February to fill holes and add talent.

Evers’ commitment is enormous. Filling the void at QB left by Mertz’s departure was a must. The Badgers did it. They may not be done adding at QB either.

The defense added depth and athleticism. Running back commit 3-star Nate White from Milwaukee is shifty and athletic. Allen’s return is immense. The talk late in the year about his departure didn’t come to fruition. It’s like landing a 5-star recruit keeping Allen in Madison.

As with any coaching change, turnover is still likely to happen. Portal moves and de-commits could easily still occur. But you have to tip your cap to Fickell for plugging the holes in the dam. Things could be way worse after interim coach Jim Leonhard wasn’t given the job as many expected.

The early-shock to the move to Fickell has worn off. Expect momentum under the former Cincy coach to gain steam following Wisconsin’s bowl game in Arizona against Oklahoma State.