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Why Wisconsin QB Tanner Mordecai is the Missing Piece of the Puzzle



Tanner Mordecai, Starting Quarterback for Wisconsin Badgers Football
Apr 11, 2023; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) is shown during practice Tuesday, April 11, 2023 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Why Wisconsin Football QB Tanner Mordecai is the Missing Piece of the Puzzle

Ever since the Russell Wilson and Scott Tolzien seasons over a decade ago, Wisconsin football fans have longed for more than a game-managing quarterback under center. I also like to include 2019 Jack Coan in this group, but I digress.

The BadgerManiac did a compelling case study dating back to 2003 that charted passing efficiency numbers, TD/INT ratio, and yards per attempt that suggest UW QB play hasn’t been as terrible as the man at the bar would have you believe — and overall, I agree with his assessment. Production is all relative to the system they’re playing in and who you’re comparing them to.

However, Wisconsin will need more from their QB1 to elevate the program in a more pass-happy ‘dairy raid’ offense under Phil Longo, one of the nation’s most accomplished offensive coordinators.

Last season, the Badgers finished No. 91 in the country in total offense (363.6 yards per game) and No. 77 in scoring offense (26.3 points) — but there is one major reason Wisconsin football fans should feel confident in a quick turnaround — the missing piece of the puzzle if you will — SMU transfer Tanner Mordecai.

Why Tanner Mordecai Could Be the Badgers Missing Piece of the Puzzle 

Turnovers can be a killer when you’re a low-possession team like UW has traditionally been. The running game also takes a hit when the offense can’t push the ball downfield effectively. 

No matter how you felt about Graham Mertz, Wisconsin football upgraded at the position this offseason. Mertz averaged 7.0 yards per attempt for his career, roughly the 20-year Big Ten average from starting QBs. He also registered a career 127.7 QB rating (140+ is average) and had 29 touchdowns with 21 interceptions the past two seasons. 

Compare that to Tanner Mordecai, who has an 8.1 yards per attempt average for his career, which is more in line with Ohio State QBs in the last two decades. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound signal-caller also has a career 155.7 QB rating, plus he threw for 72 touchdowns and had 22 interceptions the past two seasons. 

For reference, 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 Wisconsin — he can sling the rock.

I fully acknowledge that he faced lower-level competition at SMU, but Mordecai was also considered a fringe NFL prospect. He’s had success playing in a similar spread type of system and is a more accomplished passer than Mertz. 

When you consider that Wisconsin football returns 72% of its total production from 2022, the third most in the Big Ten, and also mix in a top 10 transfer portal class, I think there’s plenty of reason to believe the Badgers will find their way back to Indianapolis this season. 

Final Thoughts on Tanner Mordecai, Wisconsin Football Program 

Fair or not, much of the Wisconsin football program’s success in year one of Luke Fickell’s tenure hinges on the one-year rental of Tanner Mordecai.

Under Phil 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. 

This offense will be vastly different from what you’re used to seeing. 

“I think he’s the top offensive guy in college football and in the NFL,” SMU transfer Tanner Mordecai told UW reporters. “And, you know, that’s a big reason why I am here in a really successful offense.”

Going from a ground and pound, four yards, and a cloud of dust offense to the spread normally takes a transition period. However, UW returns core players at offensive line, running back, and wide receiver. Then you add Mordecai (the missing piece) and a slew of talent transfer portal additions, giving Wisconsin football the necessary components to hit the ground running and lay the groundwork for the years ahead. 

The new regime gets a talented QB1 with experience and pedigree who can run their new 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 Braedyn Locke and Nick Evers, both of which were four-star QBs and are redshirt freshmen, time to develop and learn from a sixth-year veteran. Win-Win. 

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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.