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Failure to Launch: Wisconsin Football’s Offense Leaves Fans Wanting More

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Wisconsin Badgers Football

Madison, Wis. — Luke Fickell and the University of Wisconsin football program held their spring game titled “The Launch,” at Camp Randall on Saturday afternoon in front of approximately 10,000 fans who battled inclement weather, eager to see their new-look team and, more specifically, Phil Longo’s air raid offense. 

Despite the excitement surrounding the spring game, the Badgers offense seemed out of sync for most of the day and struggled to find its footing throughout the scrimmage. And while most people’s first look at Longo’s offense may have been disappointing, coach Tressel’s defense made a statement of their own by recording five interceptions and 10 sacks. 

When all was said and done, the defense won the unconventionally scored scrimmage, 33-24. 

Here are a few takeaways from the Wisconsin football spring game. 

Tanner Mordecai Struggled…

The rebuilt quarterback room as a whole didn’t have their best day under center, but SMU transfer Tanner Mordecai easily turned in the most underwhelming performance of the group. 

Running with the first-team offense as expected, Mordecai threw an interception on Wisconsin’s first three possessions and finished the day with four overall. Unofficially, the Texas native completed 17-of-32 passes for 97 yards with no touchdowns.

“It would be easy to look at Tanner and say, OK, the ball was picked off three times or whatever it was,” Fickell said in a radio interview afterward. “But he didn’t bat an eye, and he didn’t get down. He kept coming back, kept firing. Guys rallied behind him.”

Additional Wisconsin Football Quarterback Room Notes

Backup Braedyn Locke looked the best among the QBs on Saturday and had a few moments where he looked sharp. Unofficially, he completed 20-of-36 passes for 236 yards, two touchdowns, and, more importantly, no interceptions. Wisconsin football has something with Locke. 

Walk-on Marshall Howe earned the most reps with the third team and unofficially completed 5-of-8 passes for 42 yards with a touchdown. Arm strength might be a question mark here; he left one deep ball well short. That said, it was an overall decent showing from the unheralded QB impressing in spring ball. 

Nick Evers didn’t receive a ton of snaps for the Wisconsin football team on Saturday, but he made some impressive plays with his feet when he got into the game and, later on, threw an INT to fellow freshman Jonas Duclona. 

Myles Burkett earned one series, but it’s clear that Mordecai and Locke are a tier above the rest right now. 

Running Backs Looked Sharp 

As previously mentioned, there wasn’t a ton to get excited about for the Wisconsin football offense, but I thought the running backs had a strong showing. 

Unofficially, Braelon Allen had 15 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown and looked lighter on his feet. Behind him, Chez Mellusi looked decisive and practiced well, carrying the ball 12 times for 67 yards. 

The law office of Allen and Mellusi should make up one of the better 1, 2 punches in the Big Ten this season, and without seeing eight or nine-man boxes on every play, the two could flourish. 

Mike Tressel’s Defense Shined 

The impressive defensive performance, which included five interceptions and 10 sacks on the day, was a testament to the Wisconsin football coaching staff, who has emphasized the importance of creating turnovers and being aggressive on defense.

New defensive coordinator, Mike Tressel, has been working to ‘mesh the elite’ between the Badgers previous system and the one he ran at Cincinnati. 

Inside linebacker, Jordan Turner had two sacks on the day. I thought the pairing of him and Maema Njongmeta, who also recorded a sack, was disruptive from the inside, much like we saw late last season. 

Others who recorded sacks during the scrimmage were: Rodas Johnson, Jake Chaney, Gio Paez, Bryan Sanborn, Kaden Johnson, Jordan Mayer, and Garrison Solliday. 

Overall, it’s early in the installation phase, so you’d expect the defense to be ahead of the offense, but there’s no denying that Tressel’s D looked sharp, especially in the secondary. 

Ricardo Hallman Balled Out

Redshirt sophomore Ricardo Hallman has been one of the biggest stars of spring practice and he did nothing but add to his strong camp by tacking on THREE interceptions on Saturday. 

“If you asked me, in particular, one guy that’s been as consistent as anybody, I’d say Ricardo [Hallman],” Fickell told reporters after practice. “Each and every day, we try to strive to not be that occasionally great but the consistently good, which then turns you into consistently really good, which in the long run makes you great. If I were to pick one, I’d say Ricardo; every single day has been consistently good, and you’ve seen him grow and get better.”

The Florida native started eight games last season, played 341 total snaps, and registered 9.0 tackles, 3.0 pass deflections, and one interception while playing on the boundary. 

It’s no secret that Wisconsin football is looking to add a transfer corner this offseason, but Hallman doesn’t have much to worry about; in my opinion, he will be starting opposite of Alexander Smith. 

Other Wisconsin Football Spring Game Notes

I can acknowledge the weather wasn’t ideal, but you can never guarantee what that will be like when the season rolls around. That said, the kicking game could have been better…a lot better. 

Sophomore Nathanial Vakos went 1-of-3 on his attempts on Saturday, hitting from 47 but missing left on one from 40 yards and another from 43. Meanwhile, Nate Van Zelst went 0-for-2, missing from 43 and 44 yards. 

Some younger wideouts that caught my eye were Vinny Anthony, who showed some wheels, and Quincy Burroughs, who I know the staff was high on from his time at Cincinnati. Another one was Tommy McIntosh, who made back-to-back big plays–he’s an intriguing talent because of his size (6-foot-5) and speed combination. 

Left tackle Jack Nelson looked fantastic, and his backup Nolan Rucci looked much improved, especially in pass-pro. I’m excited to see if he earns his way onto the field this season. 

Freshman corner Jonas Duclona ran with the second team and had a strong showing for the Wisconsin football team. He had an interception and a great pass breakup in the back of the endzone on what would have otherwise been a touchdown to Burroughs. 


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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author and the Owner of BadgerNotes.com, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.

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