BadgerNotes received a wide variety of questions about the Wisconsin Badgers football and basketball teams from our dedicated readers/followers earlier this week.
So, without further adieu, Let’s jump into your mailbag questions…
There’s been a lot of talk about Greg Gard being on the hot seat entering this season. Realistically, how hot is his seat, in your opinion?
As I write this, the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team is coming off a disappointing season that finished in an NIT appearance, and the Greg Gard detractors certainly didn’t take long to grab their pitchforks.
Coach Gard is, was, and will always be a hot-button topic among the Wisconsin faithful, but people need to pump the breaks a little here.
Greg Gard has won two of the last four Big Ten regular season championships, and I’ll never understand how anyone in the fanbase can be dismissive of that feat. But from a fanbase standpoint, it’ll always be a what have you done for me lately type of deal.
There were some serious issues from a roster construction standpoint last season, which falls squarely on Gard’s lap. However, he’s done an excellent job keeping the team’s core together (he only lost Jordan Davis) while adding an impact wing like AJ Storr, a former top-100 recruit with impactful athletic traits.
Returning Tyler Wahl was huge, and then you sprinkle in his 2023 recruiting class, and all the ingredients for a bounceback are in place. If Gard fails to live up to this group’s expectations, I think his seat will start getting warm.
Also, consider that Chris McIntosh extended Greg Gard’s contract through 2027 last offseason. That extension increased his base salary, provided additional compensation bonuses, and upped his termination buyout.
Plenty of areas in this program need to improve in 2023-24, and it’s reasonable for Badgers fans to want results in the postseason, but his seat is probably lukewarm at best.
Can the Wisconsin Badgers compete for a Big Ten title in football this season?
Luke Fickell has been the head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers for roughly seven months now, and the life he’s injected into the fanbase is truly incredible.
Based on talent, expectations, and schedule makeup, Wisconsin winning the Big Ten West and appearing in the conference title game is where the bar of expectation currently lies, at least in my eyes. By no means do I think it’ll be a cakewalk, but there’s enough talent to suggest it’s possible.
However, winning the Big Ten title game is another discussion entirely. The B1G East features Ohio State and Michigan, both of which were in the college football playoffs this past season, and Penn State, who won the Rose Bowl.
Call me a pessimist, but I just don’t see us leap-frogging those teams that quickly. There’s a size-able gap the Wisconsin Badgers still need to close, and in time I think they’ll get there. To expect them to win and put themselves in a position to appear in the college football playoffs is too rich for my blood.
Who is a Wisconsin Badgers football player not getting enough love that you think can make a major impact this upcoming season?
Personally, my pick for an “under the radar” player that can make a major impact is sitting at the top of the cornerback depth chart.
Entering 2023, sixth-year cornerback Alexander Smith could be among the most impactful players on the entire defense–even if he doesn’t fill up a stat sheet.
According to PFF, Smith was the highest-graded cornerback on the Wisconsin Badgers last season (72.8) and only gave up 14 catches in 185 coverage snaps.
His most significant impact will come from players like Ricardo Hallman making plays on the ball as a result of him blanketing the opposing team’s top WR. At “The Launch,” while sitting with the crew from Locked on Badgers, we all marveled at just how impressive he was out on the boundary.
Smith gives UW a legit CB1 for Mike Tressel to set and forget, and I think he will put enough on tape to be considered a late-round NFL draft pick or priority UDFA at season’s end.
Which Wisconsin quarterback do you see being the successor after Tanner Mordecai graduates?
It’s still hard to wrap my head around the fact that the Wisconsin Badgers have a quarterback room full of high-pedigree signal callers.
After Tanner Mordecai graduates, the answer to your question becomes which one of Braedyn Locke and Nick Evers is most ready to step in and run Phil Longo’s air raid system. You can throw in four-star QB Mabrey Mettauer in 2024, but starting as a true freshman seems unlikely.
Right now, I’d have to lean toward Locke because of how quickly he picked up the system and carved out the role of QB2 during spring practice.
“He [Locke] is the model of consistency, and he’s gotten better with each practice,” Longo told reporters.
According to reports, he was consistently accurate, made good decisions, and showed an elite understanding of the playbook. He also demonstrated a passable arm, capable of making all the throws required in Wisconsin’s offense.
If Evers can close the gap in terms of playbook knowledge and execution, it could make for an exciting QB battle. But the safe choice and one that Wisconsin Badgers fans should feel good about is Locke.
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