Clay Cundiff is the subject of the first edition of Freshman Focus, Badger of Honor’s series helping Wisconsin football fans get to know the incoming 2019 recruiting class.
Position: Tight End
Hometown: Wichita, KS
Rankings: 3-star (No. 49 TE, No. 1101 overall)
Other offers: Kansas, Illinois State, Northern Iowa, South Dakota, South Dakota State
Cundiff had been committed to Kansas since June at the time of his official visit to Madison for the Nebraska game last October. However, heading into that trip, the Wisconsin staff had made it clear that they would need a final decision from him one way or another by the end of the weekend. Simply put, Cundiff would need to let them know right away if he was going to cut ties with the Jayhawks and become a Badger or if he would be passing on that opportunity.
He chose the former and committed to Wisconsin that Sunday, becoming the second tight end in the class along with Hayden Rucci.
Kansas had been Cundiff’s only Power 5 offer when he committed to the Jayhawks last summer, but his stock started to take off a bit during his senior season in the fall. Wisconsin took notice, and he also began fielding interest from the likes of Arkansas, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kentucky, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Purdue, and UCF.
Had the Badgers not caught on to Cundiff as a prospect and locked him down before some of those other programs had the chance to officially throw their hats in the ring, it’s very likely that Cundiff would have picked up several additional Power 5 offers.
What to expect
In my opinion, Cundiff was one of the more underrated pickups in Wisconsin’s class and appears to be yet another hidden gem that this coaching staff has unearthed.
What jumps out the most about his game while watching his film is his athleticism and ability as a receiver: Cundiff has soft hands and sneaky speed and agility running his routes as a 6-4, 240-pounder that hint at exciting upside as a pass-catcher at the next level. Additionally, while he’s not as punishing a blocker as his classmate Rucci is at this stage, he’s still solid in that area and will only improve in Madison as he grows in the system and gets stronger. In short, Cundiff is the type of well-rounded tight end prospect that Paul Chryst has always had success developing and using in his offense throughout his time on Wisconsin’s sidelines.
In comparison to Rucci, Cundiff is a bit raw, and like many freshmen, he would ideally take a redshirt in his first season with the program in order to add strength to his frame and learn the nuances of the tight end position in Chryst’s pro-style offense. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see him play in the maximum four games allowed while still maintaining a redshirt, there will likely be at least four players ahead of him on the depth chart, and unless a couple of them suffer major injuries, it doesn’t seem likely that we will see Cundiff appear in much meaningful action this season.
That being said, Cundiff’s real appeal rests in the significant long-term upside he has in this program. As mentioned, he already has a fairly well-rounded skill set as a young tight end, but his raw ability as a pass-catcher at this stage in his career is tantalizing. Cundiff has all the tools in the toolbox needed to evolve into a three-down star in the mold of Troy Fumagalli, capable of making an impact in both the run and pass games. It’s just a matter of putting it all together, but there are few programs across the country that develop this position better than Wisconsin.
Don’t be surprised if, four years from now, Cundiff is looked upon as one of the Big Ten’s top all-around tight ends, and people are looking back at his recruiting profile and shaking their heads when they see that this kid only received two Power 5 scholarship offers out of high school.
All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com