The Wisconsin Badgers bolstered an increasingly impressive 2014 recruiting class on Thursday, when 4-star Highland (Kan.) Community College defensive tackle Joe Keels officially committed to play in Madison, per 247Sports reporter Evan Flood. The 6'4", 275-pound prospect is ranked the country's 12th-best junior college recruit by 247Sports.
Keels' decision to commit to Wisconsin was delayed briefly as his academics were sorted out, according to Flood. He becomes the fifth 4-star member of Wisconsin's 2014 recruiting class, which now features 15 players.
It's a crucial commit for first-year Badgers coach Gary Anderson.
"My head coach told me to give him a call," Keels told 247Sports. "He said everything he saw he loved. He said 'Let's just get this thing over with. Let's be a Badger.'"
The defensive tackle has two years of collegiate eligibility left after two seasons at the JUCO level. He attended Mount Zion (Ill.) High School before transferring to Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wis., for his senior season.
He emerged as a dominant force at Highland, garnering scholarship offers from several premier BCS programs. Aside from Wisconsin, Keels also holds offers from Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, USC and Alabama.
He adds to a bevy of Badgers commits on the defensive front. 4-star commit Billy Hirschfeld (Hartland, Wis.) and 3-star commit Conor Sheehy (Milwaukee, Wis.) are set to line up at defensive end in Madison.
Keels has family ties at Wisconsin. Badgers star sophomore running back Melvin Gordon is his cousin and the two spent a season together at Bradford High.
In his conversation with 247Sports, he sited Gordon's presence and an immediate opportunity to play as main factors in his decision.
It's a program I started watching since my cousin started going there. They have five defensive lineman leaving, so they're giving me a big opportunity to come in and play right away. My mom can come see everyday, my nephews, my fan base that's already in Wisconsin. I can't wait to play aside my cousin for two more years.
Keels' commitment solidifies Wisconsin's 2014 recruiting haul along the defensive line. The Badgers will likely look to add at least one more tackle prospect prior to national signing day.