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Why Wisconsin Football Hiring Luke Fickell Was a No-Brainer



Wisconsin Football Head Coach Luke Fickell
Wisconsin football coach Luke Fickell speaks to the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Clinic at the Easton Hilton on Feb. 3, 2023. Dsc05130

Why Wisconsin Football Hiring Luke Fickell Was a No-Brainer

Madison, Wis. – The existential question for the Wisconsin football program has seemingly been, “how do we take the next step?”

Since 2014, UW has accumulated the most wins of any program that hasn’t made the College Football Playoffs, although former head coach Paul Chryst seemingly had the Badgers on the cusp at its peak.

Since then, Wisconsin’s offense became stale, unimaginative, and in many ways, broken. Whatever you want to call it, UW took steps backward.

After accumulating four 10+ win seasons in five years, the Badgers haven’t won the Big Ten West in three consecutive years – a sentence I never thought I would utter given the trajectory UW was on a few seasons ago.

The answer to Wisconsin’s problems, at least in the mind of Athletic Director Chris McIntosh, was hiring Cincinnati HC Luke Fickell.

Today, Badger Notes lists three reasons hiring coach Fickell was a no-brainer for the Wisconsin football program.

Wisconsin Football Landed a Proven Commodity

The heart wanted Jim Leonhard as the Wisconsin football program’s next head coach for obvious reasons, but the head understands that hiring Luke Fickell was the right choice.

Fickell, the reigning National Coach of the Year, who is only 49 years old, has as good of a resume as you’ll find in college football.

In six seasons with the Bearcats, he compiled a 57-18 overall record, winning two AAC Championships (2020, 2021) with Cincinnati. He also became the first Group of Five football coach to lead his program to the College Football Playoffs in 2021.

And if you want to take it a step further, he took a team comprised of two and three-star recruits that he developed — to college football’s final four and didn’t look outclassed against Nick Saban and Alabama.

Let’s call a spade a spade; this man was on the short-list for just about every Power 5 job that would come open – the fact that Wisconsin football landed him is both a surprise and a blessing.

Nobody knows if it will work out, but this is a grand-slam hire for UW on paper — and the early returns are VERY promising.

His Core Principles Align With Wisconsin Football

Albeit slightly different from an aesthetic, Luke Fickell’s core principles mirror the University of Wisconsin’s – a sentiment echoed by AD Chris McIntosh.

“My objective is not to change that [Wisconsin’s identity],” Fickell told UW reporters. “My objective is to try and find ways to grow it and enhance it … I wouldn’t expect it to be much of any different or change in those ways of it being the tough, hard-nosed kind of guys that have made this place special.”

Luke Fickell understands games are won and lost in the trenches, values offensive line play is a defensive-minded coach and has Midwest roots. He already sounds like a “Wisconsin guy” to me.

He’s a program builder who wants the foundation of his team built on recruiting hard-nosed local players and utilizing his strong track record of player development to field a winner. He acknowledged he’s willing to use the transfer portal to fill gaps on the roster, but it’s not a preferred method of roster construction.

So, it’s not like he’s going to reinvent the wheel here, and quite frankly, I’m not sure Wisconsin football needs that. He can, however, bring an outside voice with a different perspective to a program that needs fresh ideas.

He’s cut from the same cloth as many of his predecessors, and I mean that as a compliment.

Luke Fickell Is Known for Player Development

Wisconsin football has been a recruit-and-develop program for as long as I can remember. And anyone who follows this program closely knows that’s an area they’ve faltered in recently – Jim Leonhard acknowledged as much this past season.

Enter coach Fickell, who is known for his track record of player development.

At Cincinnati, a school I’d argue has less talent at its disposal than Wisconsin; Fickell had a player selected in the NFL draft every season since taking over the program in 2017. Last April, the Bearcats had nine players selected in the 2022 NFL draft, trailing only LSU and Georgia.

Since 2020, Fickell had players like Josiah Deguara, Sauce Gardner, Alec Pierce, Bryan Cook, Desmond Riddler, and Myjai Sanders all selected in the first three rounds. For reference, Wisconsin football produced four NFL players taken in the top three rounds during that time frame.

He recruits local talent and gets the most out of them. Wisconsin football will always be a developmental program at its core, and the Badgers picked up one of America’s most recognizable player development coaches. It’s hard not to be excited about that.

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, Notes from Days Two and Three of Spring Ball



Wisconsin Football

The Wisconsin football program has begun its spring practices. After a quick first day last week, the Badgers have completed two practices this week.

Here’s a quick recap of storylines and observations from days two and three of The Launch.

Badger’s safeties stand out on day two of spring practice.

Although other position groups, such as quarterback and wide receivers, have garnered the most attention, UW’s safeties have shown out early in the spring.

The Badgers used a 2-3-6 defense on Tuesday, with Kamo’i Latu, Hunter Wohler, and Travion Blaylock taking the starting reps. The alignment was a change from the first day of spring practice, where UW ran a 2-4-5 defensive package.

BadgersExtra reporter Colten Bartholomew noted Hunter Wohler’s exceptional play on Tuesday, as he intercepted Tanner Mordecai on a short pass over the middle before returning it to the endzone. 

Defensive coordinator Mike Tressel has stated that he wants to blend his style of defense with the style Wisconsin is used to. In the 2-3-6 defense, the Badgers put a spin on the dime package, which will be something to keep an eye on as Wisconsin figures out its defensive strategy.

Cade Yacamelli stands out as a top RB3 option

Heading into 2023, the Badgers will have their running back duo of Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi returning. As spring practice began, a big question would be who would fill in the third-string running back role. After multiple days of practice, Cade Yacamelli is starting to stand out.

Yacamelli, a redshirt freshman, made the change to offense after spending last season as a safety. It seems to be the right move, as he’s continued to impress early. 

Jackson Acker is another option for the RB3 spot, but it seems that Yacamelli has taken the lead in the position battle. Still, the running back competition will be one to watch as spring ball continues.

Wide receivers are making good impressions early for the Wisconsin football program

After a slew of additions through the transfer portal, the wide receiver corps was a group to watch during spring ball. After days two and three, plenty of pass catchers are making their mark.

Zach Heilprin noted Cincinnati transfer Will Pauling has been impressive early. He has started taking first-team reps and looks like an excellent slot receiver option.

Pauling wasn’t the only receiver who impressed, as Chris Brooks Jr. has started to garner some attention. On day one of practice, Brooks hauled a jump ball on a throw from Nick Evers. Then, on day three, the 6-foot-2, 255-pound receiver hauled in another contested catch to add to his impressive play. 

UW has no shortage of talent at wide receiver. It’s still very early in spring, so other receivers will make their presence known as practices continue. The pass catchers will continue to be a group to watch as we approach the 2023 season.

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 football news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Jake Maier on Twitter. @JakeJMaier.

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Wisconsin Football Picks Up Crystal Ball Prediction, In-State Recruit Visiting, More



Wisconsin football
Sep 22, 2012; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers helmets sit on the field during warmups prior to the game against the UTEP Miners at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin defeated UTEP 37-26. 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 Badgers Hosted Talented In-State OT on Visit 

Wanting to get a closer look at Garret Sexton, a fast-rising 2024 three-star offensive tackle from Arrowhead High School in Wisconsin, Luke Fickell and his coaching staff got him on campus this past weekend. 

This visit was the 6-foot-7, 240-pound offensive tackle’s first known trip to Madison since the Badgers’ loss to Washington State in September under the Paul Chryst regime. 

It’s also worth noting that Sexton is a high school teammate of another 2024 target of Wisconsin, three-star OT Derek Jensen. 

Sexton has only played offensive line for one season but currently holds offers from Tennessee, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Iowa State, Baylor, Illinois, Rutgers, Northwestern, Syracuse, Missouri, Kansas, and a host of other schools.

You can watch his HUDL film here.

Thus far, no official offer has been reported, but the high-upside offensive tackle certainly profiles as someone UW would want to keep in-state. We’ll have to go into wait-and-see mode on Sexton. 

Wisconsin Football Picks Up Crystal Ball for 2024 Recruit

On Tuesday, after an unofficial visit to Madison, 247Sports recruiting insider Evan Flood placed a crystal ball prediction for the Wisconsin football program to land 2024 three-star wide receiver Kyan Berry-Johnson out of Bolingbrook, Illinois. 

UW offered the nation’s No. 103 WR back in January during his junior day visit, and the relationship has flourished since then. 

Berry-Johnson currently holds offers from Boston College, Cincinnati, Houston, Liberty, Syracuse, and Wyoming, plus he’s generating interest from multiple Big Ten schools. 

The Badgers are in a position to be picky about WR offers in 2024, given the recent influx of talent, and it’s clear the staff likes the upside from the 5-foot-10, 160-pound pass catcher. 

No commitment is imminent, as he reportedly intends to take some official visits in June, but Wisconsin is undoubtedly in the driver’s seat. 

Other Wisconsin Football News

Pro Football Focus released its top 10 offensive coordinators list earlier this week, and the Wisconsin football program, which has been atrocious on offense the past couple of seasons, has a representative. 

Luke Fickell was a home-run hire in his own right, but everything started coming together for UW when he brought offensive guru Phil Longo on board after several seasons at North Carolina. 

During Longo’s time at Ole Miss, the Rebels finished 1st in passing yards, 2nd in total offense, 3rd in passer rating, and 5th in scoring offense. His offense also finished 5th nationally in passing yards and total offense. 

At North Carolina, Longo led offenses finished top-3 in the ACC in yards per play in all four seasons. Additionally, UNC finished 1st in the ACC in passing yards, passing touchdowns, passer rating, rushing yards, and total offense. The Tar Heels’ offense also finished 3rd in scoring offense. In short, this man has a track record of success. 

He hopes to work his magic on the Wisconsin Badgers and bring a more modern approach to Madison.

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 Badgers QB1 Snubbed in Big Ten Quarterback Rankings



Wisconsin Badgers QB Tanner Mordecai
Wisconsin quarterback Tanner Mordecai throws a pass during first spring football practice of the season on Saturday March 25, 2023 at the McClain Center in Madison, Wis. Uw Football Spring Practice 9 March 25 2023

The Wisconsin Badgers QB room received a major shakeup during the offseason. UW has had a complete overhaul, with Graham Mertz hitting the transfer portal to Tanner Mordecai, Nick Evers, and Braedyn Locke all transferring in.

Former SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai will likely be Wisconsin’s QB1 this year, as he took first-team reps at spring practice this weekend. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound signal caller stood out for the Mustangs. In his two years with SMU, Mordecai amassed over 7,000 yards and 72 touchdowns.

That kind of production is hard to ignore, but Mordecai was given a very interesting placement among other Big Ten quarterbacks…

Where does Wisconsin Badgers QB Tanner Mordecai rank among other Big Ten signal callers?

Earlier this week, 247Sports released their Big Ten QB rankings, where Mordecai landed at No. 5. Here’s what 247Sports’ Brad Crawford says about Mordecai and his ranking. 

“There’s a reason Wisconsin is picking up measurable dark-horse buzz in the Big Ten ahead of Luke Fickell’s first season. The Badgers went transfer-heavy in their quarterback room following Graham Mertz’s exit, and Mordecai comes to Madison as a decorated player. Mordecai is fresh off a 2022 campaign where he threw for 33 touchdowns at SMU. In two seasons for the Mustangs, the former Oklahoma signal caller totaled 72 touchdowns and 22 interceptions and eclipsed 3,500 passing yards in each campaign. Mordecai had an absurd performance in SMU’s 77-63 win over Houston last fall, throwing for 379 yards and nine scores. He’ll be playing his sixth year of college football in 2023.”

The QBs ranked ahead of Wisconsin Badgers signal caller Tanner Mordecai include Ohio State’s Kyle McCord, Penn State’s Drew Allar, Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa, and Michigan’s JJ McCarthy.

Reaction to Tanner Mordecai’s Ranking

The decision to place Mordecai fifth among Big Ten quarterbacks is a surprise, especially when looking at the signal callers placed ahead of him.

McCord is one of the most surprising. The junior QB did step in for CJ Stroud occasionally over the last two years, as he has amassed 606 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. In fairness, 247Sports did say that his ranking was due to his potential, but ranking the inexperienced QB over a seasoned vet is an interesting choice. 

Allar is another unproven QB who was rated higher than Mordecai. The sophomore signal caller appeared in 10 games for the Nittany Lions and amassed 344 yards passing and four touchdowns. Once again, comparing that to Mordecai’s resume, the ranking seems to be a little high. In defense of the young QB, he is mechanically sound and has a high upside. However, he is unproven, while Mordecai boasts an exceptional record as a starter.

Tagovailoa coming in at second is also a surprise. While he has improved over the last two years, Maryland’s signal caller had a less productive year than his first campaign in 2021. Tagovailoa threw for 3,008 yards, 18 touchdowns, and eight interceptions in 2022. Comparing that to Wisconsin football QB1 Tanner Mordecai, it’s surprising that Tagovailoa was ranked higher.

At the end of the day, these rankings mean nothing. However, that doesn’t make the picks less surprising. Mordecai will have a chance to prove himself this year as the Wisconsin Badgers look to climb back into Big Ten title contention. Under a revamped offense, 2023 could be one of the most exciting years yet. 

Contact Info
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 football news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Jake Maier on Twitter. @JakeJMaier.

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