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Wisconsin 2023: The “Dairy Raid” Unleashed

Or “Dairy Air Raid.” Or something. This whole passing thing is still new to us.

This is Robert Luongo, not Phil Longo. But, as you’ll see, we had all sorts of problems with images.

The last three years, Wisconsin has averaged 25.1 (2020), 25.4 (2021), and 26.3 (2022) ppg.

Evidently a trend that would have the Badgers breaking 30.0 ppg sometime in the 2070’s was not enough to preserve everybody’s job. Probably because the last time UW’s offense averaged fewer ppg was 2004.

So, Wisconsin decided to move in a new direction.

Dammit! I said NEW direction!!!

Will it work? Maybe? Ultimately?

The early returns are largely encouraging, but nobody really knows anything at this point. Let’s just cover a few of the more notable changes.


Now, better than most fan bases, Wisconsin realizes a highly-touted recruit doesn’t automatically mean on-field success. However, all things being equal, you don’t mind having four-star players on the roster. And UW now has two—SMU transfer Tanner Mordecai, and Oklahoma transfer Nick Evers. HC Luke Fickell saw Mordecai close up the last two years and was excited to land him as the 2023 starter.

Evers was the first big recruit to transfer to UW, but currently trails Mississippi State transfer Braedyn Locke in the race to back up Mordecai. Locke has earned rave reviews for his ability to pick up the Air Raid, which is unsurprising given his previous stop. Evers’s path has been a bit more circuitous, but he’s a true dual threat QB so the coaches won’t be giving up on him any time soon.

Looking forward, UW has already received a ‘24 commitment from high 3-star Mabrey Mettauer out of Texas, and Locke’s brother, Landyn (you can’t stop the “y” in male first names; it’s a new era), a ‘25 recruit, just received an offer from UW. All of these guys are 6’2” or taller, so it’s pretty clear Fickell and company aren’t just after taller DBs.


Running Backs

Braelon Allen is back for what is likely to be his final season in a Badger uniform, and Chez Mellusi returns for his senior season. Mellusi is one of the best backups in the B1G, if healthy, and might flourish in Longo’s offense given his shiftiness. Both Allen and Mellusi are saying the right things about the potential running lanes that 3 WR sets might provide and comparison to Longo’s 2020 offense at UNC are easy to encounter. Cade Yacamelli (rsFr) and Jackson Acker (Soph) both have plenty of potential but probably aren’t ready to carry the load at this point.

There’s a new offense headed went with THIS photo???

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

All due respect to the TEs, but the days of two TE sets seem numbered. So, let’s just say that Clay Cundiff has a ton of potential if he can stay healthy, which he hasn’t, and that there’s plenty of experience behind him, with varying degrees of production.

But, oh my, the WR group.

Chimere Dike, Keontez Lewis, and Skyler Bell combined for 97 catches, 1,446 yards, and 14 TDs last year. I realize those aren’t earth-shaking numbers when combining three players, but you have to remember how challenged UW was on offense.

And also this:

Only Dike is likely to start this year (though Longo wants to rotate at least six, maybe eight, WRs regularly).

All the talk has been about USC transfer C.J. Williams, the #7 WR prospect in the class of ‘22. While he started off spring a bit slowly, by the end he was making multiple circus catches per day. Again, no guarantees, but Williams is the best WR prospect to call Madison home since...Al Toon?

But that’s not all. Both Will Pauling and Quincy Burroughs came to Wisconsin from Cincinnati. Pauling is likely to start and Burroughs—a rsFr—may crack the rotation if Longo goes eight-deep.

Two WRs transferred from Cincinnati and this is what you came up with?

That said, the biggest impact among transfers this year just might come from Bryson Green, who came in from Oklahoma State. At 6’2”, 215, Green has size and showed some deep threat ability in 2022, especially in scorching Texas for 133 yards on 5 catches (is Texas back?). Green is currently listed with the second team on the depth chart, but that may just be a function of having missed most of the spring with injury. Keep Green’s name in mind.

Offensive Line

Wisconsin returns about half a dozen guys with substantial playing experience, and they added two quality transfers from Cincinnati: Jake Renfro and Joe Huber. Renfro was first-team All-AAC in 2021, but missed last year (and this spring) with an injury. Huber started spring on the second-string but ascended to first-team by the time spring was done. Ideally, Renfro is healthy and holding it down at center. If not, Huber, who can play multiple line positions, could fill in. Among the returnees, Tanor Bortolini and Michael Furtney are the likeliest to start a guard (though watch rsFr Joe Brunner, who might start sooner rather than later). At tackle, Jack Nelson, Riley Mahlman, Nolan Rucci, and Trey Wedig will all be competing to start.

Honestly, this is probably when the offense’s success will be determined. There’s a ton of talent in the OL group going by recruiting rankings, but the recent performance has been lacking. Asking the line to adjust to a drastically new offensive approach adds a wrinkle, but, given that the pass blocking has been uneven for quite a while, it may also be a welcome change.

On the one hand, wider line splits sounds like a recipe for more one-on-one blocking breakdowns. On the other, Air Raid offenses require less time holding a block (seriously, some of UW’s passing game the last few years was sloooooow developing). It’s Wisconsin, so talk of line play is never far away. But this year, it really is crucial.

My research assistant has been fired