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The Burning Questions Surrounding Wisconsin Football During Fall Camp

Wisconsin football opens fall camp on August 1 at UW-Platteville, and when they do, the Badgers will have some question marks to address.

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Wisconsin Badgers Football — Barry Alvarez Field
The name of former Wisconsin football coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez has been stitched into the new turf field at Camp Randall Stadium. The field has been named in his honor. Camp Randall 1 July 12 2022

Madison, Wis. — With fall camp quickly approaching, the Wisconsin football program is eager to return to the field under new head coach Luke Fickell to erase the bad taste left behind during their rollercoaster 7-6 season.

It’s been three years since the Badgers have appeared in Indianapolis for a Big Ten championship, and with a favorable schedule ahead — and a revamped coaching staff — the bar of expectation begins with winning the West.

Even though there is unparalleled optimism surrounding the program, there are still several question marks surrounding the Badgers when they begin fall camp on August 1 at UW-Platteville. Let’s explore what those are.

Who Claims the Badgers RB3 Job? 

I get it, talking about the Wisconsin football third-string running back job isn’t glamourous, and it might seem nit-picky, but the Badgers must find someone reliable. Although Braelon Allen and Chez Melluis make up one of the best RB tandems in the country, the duo has also endured plenty of injuries, and the group behind them is full of unproven options. 

The top contenders entering camp are converted fullback Jackson Acker (my pick), former safety Cade Yacamelli, incoming freshman Nate White, and walk-on tailback Grover Bortolotti. There are some intriguing skill sets in that group. However, they have little experience- much less at the Power 5 level. 

Reinforcements for Wisconsin football are on the way in 2024, with Darrion Dupree, Dilin Jones, and Gideon Ituka all committed to the Badgers. But UW needs someone who can take a few carries this season and provide an insurance policy if one of their top backs succumbs to injury. 

How Does Wisconsin Football Replace its Pass-Rushing Production? 

The Wisconsin football program had two absolute game-wreckers on defense last season in Keeanu Benton and Nick Herbig

According to Pro Football Focus, Wisconsin’s defense generated 209 pressures this past season, good for roughly 16 per game. Of those 209, 62 came from Herbig and Benton. Those two players were the heartbeat of the defense and accounted for over half of the team’s sacks (15.5) and nearly 30% of the Badgers’ total pressures.

However, they’re collecting NFL paychecks now — so UW has a serious void to fill. 

Wisconsin football returns starting outside linebacker C.J. Goetz and No. 3 OLB Darryl Peterson, both of which saw significant snaps last season. They also have Kaden Johnson and T.J. Bollers — two former four-star pass-rushers in the mix for playing time along with Michigan State transfer Jeff Pietrowski

That group has some intriguing options but minimal proven pass-rushing production. Hopefully, the cream will rise to the top, and the next stud pass-rusher will reveal himself, but for now, this is a major question mark that I am concerned about. 

Does Wisconsin Football Have Enough Talent on the Defensive Line? 

As previously mentioned, Wisconsin football lost an absolute dawg on the defensive line in Keeanu Benton. The Badgers were a completely different defense when he was off the field — leaving some questions about how good the defensive line will be now that he’s gone. 

UW returns experienced options like Rodas Johnson, Isaiah Mullens, James Thompson Jr., and Gio Paez. Each has shown flashes and can play snaps without being a net negative, but none have proven themselves as impact players. 

Can someone from that group step forward? 

Wisconsin football also added Temple transfer Darian Varner who wasn’t able to practice in the spring but has some pass-rushing upside that very few players on the Badgers’ defensive line do. He’s someone to watch once camp opens. 

It would also be nice to hear some reports on Ben Barten, Curt Neal, Cade Mcdonald, Mike Jarvis, or even true freshman Jamel Howard as insurance policies for the future. 

I’m not concerned about this group being replacement level or even marginally better than that — I’m just not optimistic that Wisconsin has any playmakers in the room (I hope I’m wrong).

How Do Wisconsin’s WR Snaps Get Distributed? 

I’ll keep this one short and sweet since everyone knows how I feel about the depth of the Wisconsin football wide receiver room. 

Phil Longo is bringing the dairy raid to UW and has a stud quarterback in Tanner Mordecai to lead the charge. That said, only so many guys can see the field — and even fewer of them can be integral parts of the offense. 

Right now, it looks like Chimere Dike, Bryson Green, Will Pauling, CJ Williams, Skyler Bell, and Keontez Lewis are all a shoo-in for playing time. 

Can anyone else truly push for a spot in the two-deep? Will there be enough targets to go around/keep everyone happy? Only time will tell — but this is a wonderful problem for Wisconsin to have at wide receiver. 


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

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