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Wisconsin Badgers HC Luke Fickell Is a Helluva Salesman

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Madison, Wis. UW athletic director Chris McIntosh made a statement when he hired Luke Fickell as the 31st head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers football program. 

That statement was clear and concise; the expectation is for UW to win the Big Ten West, compete for B1G titles and push for an appearance in the college football playoffs. 

However, there was a checklist of things that needed addressing and in short order to put the best possible product on the field in 2023. 

Luke Fickell inherited a 2023 recruiting class holding only eight commits for next season, lost starting quarterback Graham Mertz to the transfer portal, and UW legend Jim Leonhard decided to part ways with the program after the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. There were also no guarantees the current players on the roster would stay amid the coaching turnover.

That said, during this period of complete and utter chaos surrounding the program, I’ve learned one thing: Luke Fickell is one helluva salesman.

Luke Fickell Retained In-House Talent 

Step one for Luke Fickell was retaining the players already in-house. Besides Graham Mertz, Isaac Guerendo, and Semar Melvin, UW didn’t lose any irreplaceable contributors to the transfer portal. He even kept star running back Braelon Allen on board despite rumors during the season he was considering a change.

Coach Fickell also convinced players like Michael Furtney, who started eight games at right guard – and Markus Allen, who entered the portal in October, to withdraw their names and rejoin the program.

He acknowledged that there was no desire to build a football team through the transfer portal – so sharing his vision for the program and selling the current Badgers players was critical to the team’s short/long-term success.

I was very impressed at Wisconsin football’s lack of turnover because there is plenty of talent returning next season – now he can add to it.

Revamped the Coaching Staff 

When a new head coach gets hired, it’s common for them to clean house and bring in their own guys – usually ones they’ve worked with at previous stops. For Wisconsin, a clean slate, particularly on offense, was non-negotiable.

On offense, coach Fickell replaced Bobby Engram, a first-year OC with no previous play-calling experience, and made a splash hire – getting Phil Longo, one of the best in the country, to leave UNC and help rebuild/run his offense in Madison. Talk about an upgrade.

The Badgers offense is getting a complete and utter facelift – and I, for one, couldn’t be more excited.

Although coach Fickell couldn’t convince Jim Leonhard to stay – he brought Mike Tressel, the 2022 AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year, over from Cincinnati to run his defense. He also convinced his co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Colin Hitschler to join him at UW to help implement their 3-3-5 defensive scheme.

While I can acknowledge these people aren’t Jim Leonhard – it’s hard not to be optimistic about his replacements.

Salvaged the Wisconsin Badgers 2023 Recruiting Class

It wasn’t long ago that the sky was falling on the recruiting front. Several 2023 commits backed off their respective pledges, and numerous others were reportedly on the fence. With national signing day only weeks away – Luke Fickell had his work cut out for him.

He and his staff hit the road and prioritized keeping everyone the school already had committed for next season. Then, he quickly got several talented players on campus for official visits and closed the deal on SIX prospects: Braedyn Moore, Amare Snowden, Jonas Duclona, Trech Kekahuna, Christian Alliegro, and Tucker Ashcraft.

He quickly came in and salvaged UW’s recruiting class which now sits at 14 commits and counting.

Rebuilt the Wisconsin QB Room

Two days after Oklahoma QB Nick Evers entered the transfer portal, coach Fickell locked down the former four-star signal caller for an official visit. Before we knew it, Wisconsin landed a commitment from a blue-chip mobile quarterback capable of running Phil Longo’s air-raid offense – with four years of eligibility remaining, to boot.

But Luke Fickell didn’t stop there.

He and Phil Longo wasted no time pursuing a cornerstone piece for their 2024 recruiting class, gaining a verbal commitment from four-star QB Mabrey Mettauer out of The Woodlands, Texas.

Per the 247sports Composite, Mettauer is the No. 285 overall prospect in the 2024 recruiting class, the No. 21 QB in the country, and the No. 41 player in Texas.

I was in complete and utter disbelief at how quickly Luke Fickell was to come in and turn the University of Wisconsin into a legitimate destination for QBs.

Then, when Badger fans thought it couldn’t get any better, UW pulled one last rabbit out of their hat, landing SMU star QB Tanner Mordecai in the transfer portal.

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

What Luke Fickell has accomplished in such a short time is remarkable, he’s one helluva salesman.


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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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