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Reasonable Takes: Wisconsin Is The New QBU

Take a look at known passing virtuoso Wisconsin’s offseason.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Oh what a difference one Fall makes.

Expectations for the 2022 Wisconsin Badgers were somewhat high, emerging as a favorite to win a lackluster West division and get Mollywhopped in Indianapolis. Not enough to spark excitement, just enough to appease the masses for another year. But after a surprise non-conference home loss to Washington St., the wheels began to fall off in what became a tumultuous and rocky campaign for a program known for its consistency and steadiness. Three months later, Wisconsin has essentially, definitely, probably become the new QBU. So how did we get here?

Phase 1: Head Coach

Out- Paul Chryst
In- Luke Fickell (Cincinnati)

Wisconsin followed up their Wazzu defeat with a woeful showing against Ohio State, who they haven’t beaten in years but until recently have typically logged competitive performances against. And then the elephant that broke the camel’s back strode into town in the form of former coach Bert McBert and the upstart Illini. Illinois was able to thoroughly out-Wisconsin the Badgers with just over one season under Bielema’s tutelage, prompting a meeting between Chryst and Wisconsin Athletic Director Chris McIntosh. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the primary purpose of the meeting was to discuss several changes/adjustments McIntosh wanted to see from the program moving forward. For one reason or another, that conversation allegedly went so poorly that McIntosh felt compelled to fire Chryst in that moment, which was not the intention going in.

McIntosh then conducted a search for the next head coach while Badger DC and legend Jim Leonhard saw out the remainder of the season. Many felt the job was Leonhard’s to lose all along, and he did an admirable job of stabilizing the locker room after rare upheaval. With Leonhard the assumed coach-in-waiting for years up to this point, going any other direction would have to be a definitive step up to justify turning away a local hero. Fortunately for McIntosh, he was able to somehow, some way, convince reigning Coach of the Year Luke Fickell to join Wisconsin even though he’d previously turned down blue blood offers. Step up achieved. Fickell joined Wisconsin earlier this month to establish the recruiting operation and assist with bowl prep.

Phase 2: Invent the Forward Pass

Out- OC Bobby Engram
In- OC Phil Longo (North Carolina)

Out- Pro Style
In- Dairy Air Raid

With new coaches come new schemes, and with Fickell being a defensive coach he needed to find the best person to engineer Wisconsin’s offense. With a number of internal candidates available, Fickell blinked once and determined an outside hire would be best. Fortunately Fickell had a connection with Longo, a longtime OC who has said he would only take head coaching jobs unless a coordinator role opened with Fickell. Longo produced some of the most prolific offenses of the last few seasons, With him he brings the unofficially termed trademark-pending Dairy Air Raid offense, incorporating Air Raid passing concepts with a power run game. Expect to see a lot more of Wisconsin in “11” personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE) and, sadly, the death of the fullback. In his own words, Longo highlights his team’s strengths in his playcalling: he runs the ball more when his run game is better and passes when the pass game is better. After a lifetime of sprinting directly into 9-man boxes this does seem like a novel concept. There will be plenty to adjust to in the coming year, like wider OL splits and passes moving beyond the first down marker, but Wisconsin seems committed to modernizing this side of the ball.

Phase 3: Blow Up the QB Room

2022 Depth Chart
1) Graham Mertz
2) Chase Wolf
3) Myles Burkett

Out- Graham Mertz (transfer; Florida)
In- Tanner Mordecai (transfer; SMU), Nick Evers (transfer; Oklahoma), Braedyn Locke (transfer; Mississippi State), Cole LaCrue (HS)

Projected 2023 Depth Chart
1) Mordecai
2) Evers / Locke
3) Locke / Evers
4) Wolf

Here’s where we really start cooking with gas. Anyone that has spent time on OTE knows that Graham Mertz is a revered presence on and off the football field and leaves a challenging hole to fill in Wisconsin’s QB room. If that wasn’t true, he wouldn’t have been tabbed to replace Tim Tebow at Florida. But I’m quickly learning that if there’s anyone I should trust at the vanguard in these trying times it is Luke Fickell. Since joining the program, Fickell has responded to the QB situation with the philosophy of bringing in multiple 4-star recruits and having them compete from there. I was not aware that was legal. Over the previous eight seasons combined, Wisconsin signed one 4-star quarterback. Not only that, but the prospects they did sign over the last two classes were the lowest-rated position recruit they offered. If you want to include the 2nd-lowest rated recruits and seasons where they failed to find a quarterback at all, that streak stretches to four seasons (shoutout Rudy) and is mercifully broken by known sexpot Mertz.

By contrast, in the month or so since Fickell has taken over, he has brought in four (HS recruit Mabrey Mettauer joins the team in 2024). The presumptive 2023 starter is Mordecai, who threw for over 7,000 yards and 72 touchdowns in his two seasons starting for SMU. Following his departure, Wisconsin will have the most competitive QB position battle in its history with Evers, Locke, and Mettauer vying for the job as presumed frontrunners. Three high-end Texan QBs squaring off to earn the job. At Wisconsin. To throw. Forward.

Phase 4: Reign Supreme

The only logical explanation must be that Madison is the new location for “QBU.” At this rate, Wisconsin will have secured more than 20 4-star QB commitments by fall camp and I can’t wait. I don’t even want to get myself worked up on what this has done for wide receiver recruiting, as I do have a cheese curd partially lodged in my widowmaker.

Championships are won in January (one way or another) and it’s clear to my unbiased eye that the Badgers are now destined for their best season yet. Soak it in now, for a new era has begun. In no way will this age poorly.


Have you told your kids about the forward pass?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Yes I do live in Columbus
    (31 votes)
  • 42%
    What’s that?
    (111 votes)
  • 46%
    We already do that with our foot
    (121 votes)
263 votes total Vote Now