Hayden Rucci – Lilitz, PA (Warwick)
Clay Cundiff – Wichita, KS (Bishop Carroll)
Wisconsin fans should be very excited about the tight end duo the Badgers have signed in this class. Both Hayden Rucci and Clay Cundiff are talented players with exciting potential, but they also happen to compliment each other very well.
Rucci, a high 3-star prospect and the nation’s No. 21 tight end, committed last February over other offers from Army, Boston College, Duke, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, Virginia, Wake Forest, and West Virginia. He was solid in his pledge from that point on.
At minimum, I envision Rucci filling a role similar to the one Zander Neuville played for the Badgers over his career, as the 6’5, 225 pounder’s best attribute could be his punishing blocking ability. However, throughout his senior season, Rucci also showed off some tantalizing potential as a receiver. As a result, I feel he has long-term potential that surpasses that of Neuville, who, make no mistake, was still a rock-solid player for the Badgers over the last few seasons.
Cundiff was a fairly late addition to the class. The Kansas native and 3-star prospect committed to the Badgers on October 7 after taking an official visit to Madison. At the time, he had been committed to Kansas since June. Cundiff’s only other offers were from Illinois State, Northern Iowa, South Dakota, and South Dakota State, but Power 5 interest in him was really starting to turn up before Wisconsin locked him down. Schools such as Arkansas, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kentucky, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Purdue and UCF had all been sniffing around.
Like Rucci, Cundiff is a well-rounded tight end prospect who can be relied upon in the ground game or through the air. Rucci is the more impactful blocker right now and probably has the higher floor that could allow him to see the field sooner, but, while he is somewhat raw, Cundiff’s athleticism and pass-catching ability indicate a very high ceiling.
Given the presence of Kyle Penniston, Jake Ferguson, and Luke Benzschawel, it’s probably not likely that either player will play a major role on the offense next season. That being said, long term, both players have star potential in a Wisconsin offense that has produced many outstanding tight ends who went on to play on Sundays.