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Wisconsin Football Analytics: Breakout Year for Bryson Green?

Could Badgers WR Bryson Green be on the verge of a breakout?



Wisconsin receiver Bryson Green Anderson makes a leaing catch during practice at the McClain Center in Madison, Wisconsin on Tuesday April 23, 2024.

What’s the biggest question mark entering the 2024 Season for Wisconsin Football?

Some might say it’s the defensive or offensive lines. Some may even say it’s Tyler Van Dyke.

I’ve discussed TVD at length, how to view his performance at Miami, and how he’ll fit with what Wisconsin is trying to do under Phil Longo and desperately lacked last season.

Read that here.

Biggest Question Marks for Wisconsin Football in 2024?

The Offensive Line was unfairly maligned last season; the metrics were actually very good for that unit. They were Top-25 in Pressure Rate Allowed (21st), Hit-at-Line % (25th) & Stuff Rate (21st). While not ELITE levels it was certainly an acceptable year even with high expectations! Bad snaps causing inconsistent timing are really where poor performance crept in from that unit. And yes it certainly kept the ceiling for that unit much lower. But it didn’t cause the floor to fall out from under that unit as some may have said.

The defensive line is, without a doubt, a big question mark. With the departures of Gio Paez, Rodas Johnson, Darian Varner, and TJ Bollers, a group that already had performance issues got a lot thinner.

While the honus of these upcoming metrics can’t fully be attributable to a singular unit, a portion of the blame can and should be pushed to the defensive line. Our Sack Rate and Pressure Rate were 51st and 90th Nationally, and our Stuff Rate was 47th Nationally. This is performance far from the top-15 nationally we were accustomed to in these areas year in and year out under Jim Leonhard.

However, whereas many are ready to sound the alarm on D-Line depth & production, I don’t share the exact same sentiments. I would attribute much of the issues in the above metrics to the play at our LB spots, which based on the scheme change, required a uniquely different skill set from them.

The staff answered the bell this off-season, bringing in John Pius and Leon Lowerey to shore up our OLB depth hopefully increasing our Sack & Pressure Rates. Then, just as important was for the staff to get length and athleticism at the ILB position. Bringing in Jaheim Thomas, Tackett Curtis, and Sebastian Cheeks adds the exact skillset Mike Tressel needed desperately last season.

Too often did Njongmeta & Turner look completely out of sorts reading their keys and making athletic tackles in space. Two talented players who ultimately had the wrong skill set for Tressel’s defense. So, while the Defensive Line is a concern, my concern isn’t as large as others because I view that unit in a much larger context based on how Tressel likes to be extremely creative with how he generates disruption from his Front Seven. And while the D-Line isn’t where it needs to be to seriously contend in the CFP, having that level of talent at the ILB & OLB should generate a heck of a lot more production than what we saw last year.

Where I do have concerns for this roster is with this receiving core, particularly with our Outside/Boundary Receivers. I’m not sure anyone has or should have any concerns about what production Will Pauling and Trech Kekahunna will have. But without an outside threat, I can foresee heavy traffic in the box, making life difficult for the two ultra-talented slot receivers. We need those two to have room to operate freely and flash that talent in the open field!

Who is going to answer the bell to deliver that?

Bryson Green.

Let’s dive into why I think Bryson Green is primed to be a dependable target for Wisconsin football in the passing game in 2024.

Bryson Green’s Performance in 2023:

Below you’ll see Bryson Green’s Cumulative Expected Points Added (EPA) and how that trended over the Season in 2023. What you’ll see is that he got off to an extremely rocky start but came on extremely strong over the last 6 games he participated in at full strength.

(Remember he was hurt early in NW Game & DNP in the Nebraska/Minnesota Games)

After the Purdue Game, Green generated about 1.675 EPA/Game. With huge outings against Iowa, LSU, and Indiana where, he generated an average of 5.18 EPA/Game in those matchups!

Please note that I’m judging him on targets where he DIDN’T make receptions and the “lost” EPA of that down where he was the intended target. If I had tracking data, I could build out a model based on the Completion % Expectation on factors like Ball Placement, Defender Proximity at the Throw-Point & Catch Point, and several other factors. To parse out what level of EPA Green is responsible for and what the QB was responsible for. So, while this is a rougher metric, it still serves a valuable purpose!

We see a similar story when you look at it on a season trend for his EPA/Target. It was a really rough start to the year, but it was also a really nice end to the season!


One interesting thing I found is that as his Targets increased, so did his EPA/Target.


To me, there is some signal that the more opportunities he gets, the more chances you’re giving him to make the explosive high EPA play that can really open up a game for Phil Longo’s Offense. The plays I’m thinking of are his Indiana Touchdown Catch & Run, his opening drive catch vs. Iowa, and his multiple 20+ Yard catches vs. LSU. But there are plenty of other examples to cite as well.

Explosiveness & High-Value EPA Plays MATTER for Wisconsin Football – Bryson Green Delivers:

Here’s a stat: Only 9 plays account for ~60% of his positive EPA, even though they only account for 34% of those positive EPA Plays.


For reference, that is the same ratio for Will Pauling. Where 60% of his positive EPA comes from only about 34% of his positive EPA Plays. Here are some graphs to illustrate this point:


Like Pauling, for most of the season, Green did most of his damage on short routes and on 2nd/3rd down.


Where things went wrong for Bryson Green in 2023:

Green came in with the second-most proven production of that WR Room, and had that production in an Air Raid system. All signs indicated that he was going to be an explosive target across all downs and doing so while stretching the field vertically.

It looked like the perfect match!

So, it was a disappointment for myself and probably most Badger fans that it didn’t end up that way in 2023. Let’s look to see where those challenges came from. In examining his 2023 performance there was only one area where Green took a step back in and it’s where many of his EPA “losses” came in as well.


Below is a comparison of his Yards per Route Ran Y/RR & Reception %’s in 2022 (OSU – Orange) vs. 2023:

We can see that in nearly every area but one, he took a step up in production from 2022. But on those Medium/Intermediate Routes (10-20 Yards from the LOS), he took a pretty sizeable step backward. On the surface this is strange because although Mordecai was barely pushing the ball downfield in that Route Depth (13.1 ADOT) he was much more On-TGT than Spencer Sanders was for Oklahoma State & Green in 2022.

But when you dissect it a bit deeper, Mordecai was not very accurate on the shortest of his Intermediate Throws. Which also happened to be the throws he made at that depth with the most volume. And Locke was significantly worse in those Intermediate Routes.

It really seemed to be a problem coming out of the gates for Green and Mordecai, as his connection was only bad in the first four games. In those games, he had a 0% Reception Rate on four Targets in these Intermediate Routes.

In the remaining games, that connection started to heat up, and he saw his Reception Rate rise, and although it still was not to 2022 Levels, it was much better at 45%. His Y/RR also came in at a respectable level at 7.8 Y/RR in that period. With more opportunities to flash I believe he’ll take advantage and will shine in 2024.

Bryson isn’t just a Deep Threat:

Green is a very physical receiver with very good size at 6’0 215, and he rightfully gets a lot of attention for those Intermediate to Deep routes, but where he does some of his most damage…is in Short Routes (Air Yards 0 – 10 Yards).

And as you can see, his Yards per Route Run (Y/RR) was the best of any receiver in 2023 for Wisconsin football, better even than Will Pauling!!! But he only received ~11% of the Team’s targets at this depth. That should hopefully change given what I’m about to show you next. Which is that most of that production is coming AFTER the catch, with almost 60% of his Yards coming after the catch.

This was right on par with what we saw in 2022 from Bryson, where a large portion of the total yards came after the catch in these short routes. But in 2023 he got even more efficient!

What’s interesting with this graph is that it may also highlight some of the gaps we saw in Green’s performance from a statistical standpoint on those Intermediate Routes. His lack of production after the catch is striking in that pass depth when you look at the dip in YAC from 2022 → 2023. Where it dropped by about a 1/3. Something was off last year, or the opportunities for those Deep Digs/Crossing routes with chances to extend those plays weren’t given to him. Based on this data we need to get the ball to him early and in space in more volume so he can do what he’s proven he can do very well. And that is to go make more out of his receptions with the ball in his hands.

RECAP of what Bryson Green will add for Wisconsin Football in 2024:

While there were tons of things to nit pick last season for Wisconsin football, for me, the passing game was at the top of the list. Someone must step up to relieve the pressure on TVD and Will Pauling. I firmly believe that player will be Bryson Green, as he moves into the primary outside receiver and replaces Chimere Dike’s spot and ideally absorbs most of his Targets.

When given the right opportunities, he really shined last season. He arguably produced at a 3rd-Team/HM All-B1G level when you look at those last 6 games he played in fully. Especially if you focus solely on the Bowl Game vs. LSU, but even if you exclude that game from your judgment (you should at the very least discount it slightly), he put up extremely strong numbers vs. Iowa/Indiana/Ohio State/Rutgers, where over those matchups plus the Illinois matchup he averaged 4 RECs for 63.66 Yards.

That level of production would equate to 44 RECs & 764 Yards over a 12-game regular season. I’ll tell you right now if we can get that level of production from one of our outside receivers, it will take loads of pressure off the middle of the field! This should allow Pauling & Trech to garner a higher % of their matchups in one-on-one situations. Giving TVD the ultimate safety valve when those shots downfield aren’t there and he can avoid trying to force balls into spots that lead to easy INTs.

This can only happen when the risk of clogging up the middle of the field leaves you vulnerable to the all too real risk of Green beating you on the outside! If Green picks up where he left off in 2023, that last question mark turns into a serious weapon for Phil Longo, and he can unleash TVD and show College Football what the Dairy Raid is supposed to look like.

On Wisconsin!

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Gard Your Fickell is a leading authority on Wisconsin Badgers analytics, specializing in dissecting the intricate data behind football and basketball. With a deep passion for the game and an analytical mindset, Gard Your Fickell offers readers a unique perspective on the Badgers performance.