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Why I’m Bullish on the Wisconsin Football Program

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I have, on more than one occasion, been accused of being overly hyperbolic. I usually embrace this but I also try to be as realistic as possible. My coverage of the Wisconsin football program roughly coincides with Luke Fickell’s hiring. I even wrote my audition piece on why the hiring was a good one.

As we move into the third month of the hire, I thought now would be a good time to step back and objectively look at things that Fickell has done with and for the program.

Maintain your house

The air of uncertainty oftentimes makes incoming recruits skittish and potentially leave. That’s why a new coaches first order of business is usually to reach out to the recruiting class and let them know where they stand. In an article written by The Athletics Jesse Temple, Fickell did just that by calling QB commit Cole LaCrue.

Of course there was some loss, as incoming recruits often develop relationships with the coaches that recruit them. Wisconsin football had commitments from 14 players and were able to maintain 8 of them, providing a solid foundation for Fickell as he added onto his house.

Assemble a quality staff

Many Wisconsin football fans were disappointed when Jim Leonhard decided to cut ties with the program after Fickell was hired. Had they known the all-star staff that he would be assembling, I’m certain most feelings would have been assuaged.

Every successful organization has a rock-solid base. Fickell created his base by bringing over the best coaches from his staff at Cincinnati. One of those hires that is widely overlooked but critical to the overall team’s success is the hiring of Brady Collins as the Director the Strength and Conditioning department. Any top-flight program has a world-class strength and conditioning department and Wisconsin football just upgraded theirs.

Wisconsin football has a new defensive coordinator in Mike Tressel. The nephew of ex-Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, Mike is a valuable addition for many reasons. He knows the Big Ten landscape, having coached at Michigan State for 13 years, first as a linebacker/special teams and then linebacker/co-defensive coordinator for 3 seasons before assuming full control over the defense for 2 seasons. He joined Fickell’s staff at Cincinnati as DC/LB in 2021 and now follows him to UW. His prior experience in the Big Ten will be invaluable for recruiting and knowing tendencies of the different programs.

The star of this list is bringing in Phil Longo as offensive coordinator/quarterback coach. Much has already been written about this particular hire but this key addition could possibly be the best assistant coaching hire in the off-season.

Start constructing the Wisconsin football roster

To say Luke Fickell has been active in the transfer portal would be an understatement of epic proportions. Not only has he managed to keep the majority of the players already committed, he has brought in multiple former 4-star recruits from other programs. Programs that undergo a coaching change are often labeled as unstable. The fact that Luke has been able to draw such a large number of highly talented players speaks volumes of the way he’s perceived in the football community.

Next year’s quarterback room will have so many stars that it’ll look like a mini-galaxy for meetings. Former 4-star QB Tanner Mordecai, who threw for over 7,000 yards and 70 TDs in just 2 seasons as a starter at SMU, comes to Wisconsin football for his final year of eligibility.

Another former 4-star QB joining an already talented room is Nick Evers, coming in from Oklahoma. Evers is a true dual-threat QB and arrives with 4 years of eligibility remaining. The last highly touted transfer is former 4-star QB Braedyn Locke, coming to Madison from Mississippi State and also has 4 years of eligibility remaining. The addition of Evers and Locke gives Wisconsin the #9 and #22 QB recruits from the recruiting class of 2022. Not even mentioned was the fact that Chase Wolf is coming back for his 6th year.

The wide-receiving corps recently got a huge boost when former 4-star USC’s C.J. Williams announced he was coming to the Wisconsin football program. Oklahoma State’s Bryson Green left Stilwell to come to Madison. In 2 years of playing for Ok. State, he hauled in 48 catches for 723 yards and 7 TDs. Following Fickell from Cincinnati are WRs Will Pauling and Quincy Burroughs.

Excitement and conclusion

During a 3 week stretch at the end of December through the first two weeks of January, the Wisconsin football program was getting so much press that the uninformed could easily have thought that the Badgers were in the college football playoffs.  Colorado got the high-profile hire of “Neon Deion” Sanders, yet the only QB to move to Boulder was Deion’s son, Shedeur.

Luke Fickell’s hiring is a beautiful example of substance over glitz. This is shown in the number of high-quality transfers since the Fickell took over the program. Deciding what college football program they want to play for is often these young men’s first important decision in their lives. Deciding that they want to have their skills molded by Luke and his staff shows just how highly the Wisconsin football coaches are thought of.

A wise man said that these moves are meaningless if they don’t produce victories on the field. That statement is 100% accurate. But part of the off-season is about generating excitement about the upcoming campaign.

As a fanatical follower for college football for 4 decades, I can honestly say that the last time I remember Wisconsin football garnering this much media attention, and love, was during the days when Ron Dayne was shredding Big Ten defenses.

I’m making my second bold prediction (the first was that Steven Crowl would get a double-double against Penn State in their most recent match-up which came true) is that Wisconsin football makes the CFB playoffs in the next 3 years. What a great time for a Badger fan!!


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Wisconsin Football: An Early Look at the 2024 Recruiting Class

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Wisconsin football completed its 2023 recruiting class just a few days ago. After putting together a top 40 class, UW has set its sights on 2024.

The Badgers have already secured multiple recruits for the 2024 cycle and are currently among the top choices for multiple recruits. Here’s an early look at Wisconsin’s 2024 recruiting class.

Mabrey Mettauer

Mettauer, a four-star QB, committed to UW on Christmas Eve, making him the first recruit of the 2024 class.

According to the 247Sports Composite, Mettauer is the No. 21 quarterback in his class and the No. 43 player in Texas.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound QB is a gunslinger through and through. In 2022, the Texas native threw for 2,621 yards and 32 touchdowns. Mettauer has excellent pocket presence and arm talent, making him a seamless fit for the air raid offense.

Mettauer is among the best in his class at quarterback, and he’ll have the opportunity to fight for the starting job in his first year on campus.

Grant Stec

Stec, a top tight end in the class, was UW’s second commitment for 2024. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound tight end has the attributes to make an immediate impact when he heads to Madison in 2024.

According to the 247Sports Composite, Stec is the No. 10 tight end in the class and the No. 4 player in Illinois. He also ranks inside the top 200 players in the class. In 2022, Stec hauled 17 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns.

The Illinois native is a do-it-all tight end. His size makes him a tough matchup in run block situations, and his pass-catching ability is among the best at his position.

With Clay Cundiff and Hayden Rucci entering their senior seasons, Stec could be a contributor on day one. His talent makes him an option to take the reigns as a potential freshman starter in 2024.

Rob Booker

Booker, a Wisconsin native, is the third committed prospect for 2024.

According to the 247Sports Composite, Booker is the No. 23 tight end in the class and the No. 5 player in Wisconsin. In 2022, Booker hauled in 27 catches for 380 yards and six touchdowns. After his impressive year, he was given an All-State First Team selection.

The 6-foot-6, 215-pound tight end is a mismatch nightmare. Booker’s frame makes him a big-bodied player who can do damage in the red zone, and he’ll be a red zone threat at the next level.

Other notable prospects for Wisconsin football

Jordan Marshall

The Badgers landed in top running back Jordan Marshall’s top four choices. He took to Twitter to announce his remaining choices.

Marshall is the No. 12 running back in the class and the No. 4 player in Ohio, according to the 247Sports Composite. UW will have a tough recruitment battle with other Big Ten schools in the race, but the Badgers are a top choice for the dynamic tailback.

Kari Jackson

Wisconsin landed in four-star LB Kari Jackson’s top seven choices. Jackson announced his final seven schools on Twitter.

Jackson is the No. 21 linebacker in the class and the No. 7 player in Michigan, according to the 247Sports Composite. UW offered Jackson in the fall, and he recently visited campus on Junior Day.

 

Wisconsin football is just starting to put is 2024 recruiting class together, and they’ve already secured multiple four-star recruits. We will have to wait and see if they can bring in other top targets, but regardless, UW is shaping up to have an excellent class next year.


Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Jake Maier on Twitter. @JakeJMaier.

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Wisconsin Badgers: Keeanu Benton Boosts Draft Stock at Senior Bowl

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Wisconsin Badgers Nose Tackle Keeanu Benton

Madison, Wis. — Anyone who has closely followed the Wisconsin Badgers football program knows that Keeanu Benton is an exceptional talent on the defensive line. 

The 6-foot-4, 315-pound nose tackle is coming off his most productive season at UW in 2022, where he registered 35 tackles, 28 pressures, 10 TFLs (2nd amongst B1G interior linemen), and added a career-high 4.5 sacks en route to third-team All-Big Ten honors.  

According to Pro Football Focus, Benton finished with the Wisconsin Badgers third-highest pass-rushing grade (83.6), trailing only linebackers Maema Njongmeta and Nick Herbig. 

The talented defensive lineman received an invite to play in the Reeces Senior Bowl this past week, and let’s just say he boosted his NFL draft stock quite a bit during the process. 

Senior Bowl Recap

The first significant event of the NFL draft season wrapped up on Saturday with the conclusion of the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

And now that Wisconsin Badgers DL Keeanu Benton had the chance to put his talent on full display in front of NFL talent evaluators, his draft stock is undoubtedly on the rise.

The Janesville native put his athleticism on full display and reportedly impressed all week long with his power, speed, and motor as a disruptive pass-rusher.

Keeanu Benton also received high praise from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler:

“Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton entered the week as my clear No. 1 senior defensive tackle, and he backed that up. A nose tackle in the Badgers’ scheme, Benton is a stout run defender, but his potential as a pass rusher is intriguing,” said Brugler. “Using both quickness and power, he consistently won his one-on-one reps and showed why he landed in the second round of my latest mock draft.”

The former Wisconsin Badgers standout will likely be a top-100 selection in April. Still, regardless of where Benton winds up, I have little doubt he’ll become a damn good NFL player – I’m just happy other people are finally putting some respect on his name.


Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Dillon Graff on Twitter @DillonGraff.

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Wisconsin Football News: Badgers Make Cut for 4-Star RB, NSD Surprise, More

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Wisconsin Football
Sep 3, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; General view of Camp Randall Stadium prior to the game between the Illinois State Redbirds and Wisconsin Badgers. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a busy couple of days for the Wisconsin football program, ladies and gents, but fear not because BadgerNotes can help get you back up to speed with a roundup of some important news you may have missed.

Wisconsin Football Makes the Cut for Four-Star RB Jordan Marshall

Earlier this week, four-star running back Jordan Marshall out of Cincinnati, Ohio, who recently visited Madison for junior day, trimmed his list of schools in consideration down to four.

Although the 5-foot-10, 193-pound RB accumulated more than 25 offers–he’s now down to a final four of Ohio State, Michigan, Tennessee, and the Wisconsin football program.

Marshall, a standout at Archbishop Moeller High School, registered 1,961 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns en route to being named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Ohio.

According to the 247 composite rankings, Marshall is the No. 105 prospect in the 2024 recruiting class, the No. 8 RB in the country, and the No. 2 player in Ohio.

You can watch his HUDL film here.

The top 10 running back wants to commit sometime this summer, but I’d be shocked to see Wisconsin football pull this one off.

Wisconsin Football Lands Commitment on National Signing Day

Since taking over the program, Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin football coaching staff fought tooth and nail to get three-star nose tackle Jamel Howard out of Chicago, Illinois, back into the fold.

Thankfully, on National Signing Day, the hard work paid off when Howard, who was trending towards the Michigan Wolverines, announced in front of friends and family that he was (re)committing to the University of Wisconsin and putting a cherry on top of the 2023 class.

Per the 247sports Composite, Howard is the No. 1,168 overall prospect in the 2023 recruiting class, the No. 124 DL in the country, and the No. 25 player in Illinois.

The 6-foot-3, 320-pound defensive lineman finished his senior season with 53 tackles, three sacks, and a forced fumble, according to MaxPreps.

Jamel Howard’s fit with the Wisconsin football program isn’t worth speculating about — he’s coming in to play nose tackle at the next level and provide immediate depth on the Badgers’ defensive line.

You can read his full recruiting breakdown here.

Wisconsin Football Announces Spring Game

You’ve been asking for it, and the Wisconsin football program heard you loud and clear — there WILL be a spring football game in 2023. 

The UW Athletic Department announced the Badgers will hold a spring game open to the public on April 22nd – helping usher in a new era of Wisconsin football in what they’re calling “The Launch.” 

UW’s spring game will be an open practice with drills and a live scrimmage toward the end of the event. It will give Badgers fans their first look at the team’s new direction under Luke Fickell and his coordinators, Phil Longo and Mike Tressell. 


Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Dillon Graff on Twitter @DillonGraff.

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