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Massive Opportunity Awaits Wisconsin Badgers QB Tanner Mordecai in 2023



Wisconsin Football QB Tanner Mordecai
Oct 5, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) throws a pass as UCF Knights linebacker Walter Yates III (27) defends during the second half at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

After arguably the craziest offseason in recent memory, the Wisconsin Badgers football program has a chance to bounce back in a big way this upcoming season — thanks in large part to landing SMU star quarterback Tanner Mordecai in the portal.

UW returns 72% of its total production from last season, which is good for third in the Big Ten, trailing only Rutgers and Michigan. Sprinkle in a top-10 transfer portal class featuring some plug-and-play options — and the Badgers are officially back in business.

On top of that, new Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell brought in one of the country’s top coordinators, Phil Longo, to fix UW’s offense and implement his pattened “air raid” system in Madison.

Much of the Wisconsin Badgers Success Hinges on Tanner Mordecai

Whether the expectations are fair or not, much of the Wisconsin Badgers success in year one of Luke Fickell’s tenure hinges on the one-year rental of Tanner Mordecai.

In two seasons starting at SMU, Mordecai threw for 7,152 yards, 72 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, and had a 66.4% completion percentage.

He also added 302 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, giving UW a proven dual-threat option at QB with speed the Badgers haven’t seen at the position in a long time.

The 6-foot-3, 214-pound signal-caller is the most impactful transfer portal addition at QB for the Wisconsin Badgers since Russell Wilson in 2011. And the hope is that marriage will prove to be mutually beneficial — helping Wisconsin win the Big Ten West and usher in a new era of Badgers football — while boosting Mordecai’s draft stock in Phil Longo’s offensive system.

For Mordecai, it might just be his final stop before testing the NFL waters, but there are myriad opportunities in front of him that could help leave behind a lasting legacy.

Individual Accolades Within Reach for Tanner Mordecai in 2023

Throughout Wisconsin football’s long and rich history, the Badgers haven’t had a ton of elite, stat-stuffing quarterbacks. Instead, efficiency and ball security has been the name of the game for UW’s QB1.

But now that Phil Longo is bringing his air raid offense to Wisconsin, that will all change. UW’s long-standing records are officially on notice.

Under coach Longo, his starting QBs have a five-year average of 3,704 passing yards per season. Remember, only one Wisconsin Badgers QB (Russell Wilson in 2011) has ever passed for more than 3,000 yards in a single season.

Mordecai’s passing total of 7,152 yards in the last two seasons at SMU would place him at No. 4 all-time in career passing yards at UW, for reference.

Already familiar with Longo’s offensive system, Mordecai is a serious threat to break Wisconsin’s single-season passing record (3,175 yards), set in 2011 by Russell Wilson.

Seeing as Mordecai threw for over 3,500 yards in each of the past two seasons, there is a good chance that, with more opportunities this fall, the Texas native could rewrite the books.

Wisconsin Badgers Single Season TD Record 

Another one that’s well within striking distance for Tanner Mordecai is the Wisconsin Badgers single-season passing touchdown record.

Rusell Wilson’s 33 touchdown passes in 2011 is currently the highest single-season total in Wisconsin Badgers history. The SMU transfer threw 39 and 33 the past two seasons, respectively, so it’s possible that Mordecai could also push for that one. 

No. 2 on that list is Alex Hornibrook with 25 – so don’t be surprised to see him pencil his name in on the single-season passing lists regardless of whether he breaks the record. 

Win Now + Mentor the Young QBs

The Wisconsin Badgers haven’t won the Big Ten West or appeared in the conference title game in three years, but that could all change in 2023. 

Luke Fickell/Phil Longo inherited a broken offense; however, it does return core players on the offensive line, running back, and wide receiver. All they needed was a reliable No. 1 quarterback to turn this thing into a well-oiled machine. 

Tanner Mordecai’s addition to the Wisconsin Badgers makes for the perfect short/long-term situation. The new regime gets a talented QB1 with experience and pedigree who can run the offense and elevate the passing attack on day one – while kickstarting a new era of Wisconsin Badgers football. 

It also allows for talented transfer portal additions Nick Evers and Braedyn Locke, both of which were four-star QBs and are redshirt freshmen, time to develop and learn from a sixth-year veteran. 

With the Wisconsin Badgers easy schedule, offseason additions, and returning talent, winning the West should be the bar of expectation in year one — but a strong final act from Tanner Mordecai certainly wouldn’t hurt.

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Dillon Graff is a Substack newsletter best-selling author, publisher of AllBadgers, 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's BadgersWire, Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, Bucky's 5th Quarter, and FanSided.