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Luke Fickell Expedited Wisconsin Football Retooling Process Via Transfer Portal



Wisconsin Badgers football head coach Luke Fickell
Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell arrives at Sky Harbor International Airport on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, ahead of their Guaranteed Rate Bowl game against Oklahoma State University.

Luke Fickell, the new head coach of the Wisconsin football program, is entering his first year with the Badgers, who are coming off a 7-6 season where they endured a losing Big Ten record for the first time since 2008.

That said, expectations among the fanbase are sky-high because of the culture of competition and credibility he’s brought with him to Wisconsin.

“The excitement around our program right now is off the charts,” McIntosh said. “It’s been incredible. I credit Luke and his staff and this team for everything they’ve done in creating a lot of buy-in from the inside out. I think it’s pretty powerful right now.”

Understanding there were cracks in the foundation and the expectations that come with a fat paycheck, he wasted no time attacking the transfer portal during the off-season to fill gaps on the roster and expedite the retooling of the team to fit the mold of his system better.

The Wisconsin Badgers Were Aggressive in the Transfer Portal

The transfer portal has become an increasingly important tool for college football coaches in recent years. And even though Luke Fickell expressed his desire to be a recruit and develop type of program, utilizing the portal in his first season was always going to be a must.

There were already several position groups returning core players. However, he and his coordinators, Phil Longo and Mike Tressel, needed to fill some gaps on their roster and bring in experienced players who could make an immediate impact in their respective systems…and boy, did he deliver.

One of the most significant overhauls to the team came in the quarterback room. After losing Graham Mertz to the portal, the Wisconsin football program responded by adding a trio of highly-touted signal callers: Tanner Mordecai, Braedyn Locke, and Nick Evers. On paper, this makes up arguably the most talented Badgers QB room in program history. It’s still bizarre to type sentences like these.

Adding some wide receivers was also a priority, given the shift in offensive identity to Longo’s air raid system. Consider that box also checked because UW added former five-star WR C.J. Williams, Oklahoma State’s Bryson Green, and Cincinnati transfers Will Pauling and Quincy Burroughs, who each made plenty of noise this spring. I’d argue that UW hasn’t had this talented or deep of a WR room in my lifetime.

Additionally, Fickell and his staff brought players like Jake Renfro and Joe Huber over from Cincy, each competing for starting spots on the Wisconsin football offensive line to shore up depth concerns.

On defense, Wisconsin had more pieces already in place, so they added niche pieces such as defensive lineman Jeff Pietrowski and Darian Darner, along with slot cornerback Jason Maitre and boundary corner Nyzier Fourqurean, all of which should see snaps this fall.

Without going into specifics, the Badgers coaching staff also brought in a kicker and punter to shore up their special teams.

In short, Luke Fickell crushed the transfer portal.

Final Thoughts on Luke Fickell, Wisconsin Football Program 

Luke Fickell’s aggressive approach to the transfer portal has been met with praise from Wisconsin football fans and analysts, deservedly so.

Many see it as a smart way to quickly fill gaps on the roster and bring in experienced players who can help the team compete at a high level right away, but it also sped up the retooling process and weeded out players that didn’t have a future under the new regime.

There are obviously risks from a culture and chemistry standpoint when you rely heavily on the transfer portal, but this past offseasons usage won’t be commonplace moving forward.

One big takeaway from this offseason is that he and his coaching staff will be aggressive regarding team building, whether on the recruiting trail, in the portal, or on the player development end.

This program is doing everything it can to put the Badgers in a position to compete for a Big Ten championship in his first year at the helm.

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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author and the Owner of, 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.