Wisconsin Football: Aron Cruickshank is the X-Factor the Badgers need

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 07: A cheerleader for the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates a score against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 7, 2017 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 07: A cheerleader for the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates a score against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 7, 2017 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images) /

The Wisconsin Football team is poised to make the College Football Playoff in 2018. To do so they need someone like Aron Cruickshank to be an X-factor.

It’s usually a good thing when a college football team identifies itself with a certain style of play because it produces standards and expectations. Since the days of Barry Alvarez the Wisconsin Football team has been dominating the line of scrimmage with an overpowering offensive line that allows big backs to maneuver their way up and down the field. The Badgers continue to live up to their brand and have recruited a player after player to fit that scheme

Although head coach Paul Chryst has led the Badgers into two consecutive Big Ten Championships and two top 10 finishes in the AP polls, the Badgers have evaded the College Football Playoff in both of those seasons. So what will it take to get the Badgers to the next level?


Paul Chryst knows it, hence why he went after 5-foot-9, 158 pound wide receiver Aron Cruickshank from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, NY. Originally a youth track star in New York and a Jr. Olympian for the Trinidad and Tobago, Cruickshank was recruited to play football at Erasmus Hall by head coach Danny Landberg.

Cruickshank, who started at quarterback for Erasmus in his senior season, was recruited by Wisconsin as an athlete, a common title for explosive players that don’t have a specific position. It was apparent during spring practices at Wisconsin that he would become a wide receiver.

In an exclusive interview with Dairyland Express, Cruickshank’s high school coach, Danny Landberg, was not shocked, as he noted that other than speed, Cruickshank’s go-to-skill was his route running:

"“His route running should be on point and should be sharp, he was coached up at my place.”"

Landberg and Erasmus Hall have had success developing small and quick receivers in the past, most notably Curtis Samuel who starred at Ohio State and was drafted in the second-round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.

Cruickshank was offered scholarships from Big 10 rivals; Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State. Cruickshank’s went on a visit last year to Happy Valley and was poised to end his recruitment after the visit. After Cruickshank talked to Landberg about his decision, his coach was adamant about taking one more visit.

"“My feeling was, you want to go to Penn State, that’s fine, but at least have something to compare it to… So he went on his own with mom, they drove fifteen hours to Wisconsin, and fell in love with the atmosphere, the coaches, and the program.”"

It was interesting when Cruickshank committed to Wisconsin’s pro style offense after receiving offers from Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State who are more experienced in using a player of Cruickshank’s skill set, but according to Landberg, Paul Chryst assured him that Cruickshank’s skills wouldn’t be mishandled at Wisconsin.

"“The way it was explained to me by Coach Chryst was that we run what we run because of the players, but if we got a player like Aron we can play around him too.”"

This could be big news for the Badgers who start their season Friday night against Western Kentucky and are now without two of their top receiving targets in Quintez Cephus (suspended indefinitely) and Danny Davis III (two game suspension) who are out due to suspension.

According to a depth chart released ahead of the first game, Cruickshank isn’t listed in the top four wide receivers, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he sees some time on offense, in addition to his role on special teams.

It will be important for Cruickshank to make the most out of the first few games of season to earn rapport with Alex Hornibrook and Paul Chryst to increase his role as the season moves on. Based simply on his speed, there is no doubt that Cruickshank can hold his own against early opponents and to potentially show that he can handle playing against higher quality opponents.

Cruickshank has the potential to take the top off the defense on the outside with his speed creating initial separation, but his most useful trait might be keeping opposing defenses honest when trying to load the box against Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor.

The hope for Cruickshank is that he can be a player that develops over the next few seasons as a staple in the Wisconsin lineup, but for this immediate season his ability to be versatile in the Badgers offense and on special teams will be his early path to playing time. If the Badgers want to make it to the College Football Playoffs in the coming years it could be that Cruickshank could be the guy that puts them over the top.