The Wisconsin football program fell short of expectations and needs an influx of talent across the board. Luke Fickell and his coaching staff are anticipating plenty of Badgers players to enter the transfer portal, opening the door to a roster makeover — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
With the Big Ten conference welcoming plenty of new faces and doing away with divisions in 2024 — the Badgers need to re-tool this roster fast and find a way to win quickly and consistently.
Thanks to the transfer portal, Coach Fickell can bring in another crop of players he deems as schematic fits — and speed up the roster turnover much faster than in years past (for better or for worse).
After a 7-5 season, it’s clear that Wisconsin football needs to find some difference-makers on both offense and defense to compete.
With minimal NFL talent currently on the roster — most departures won’t crush the team beyond repair — so here’s a look at three Wisconsin Badgers who (probably) won’t be back in Madison in 2024.
Wisconsin Football OLB TJ Bollers
Wisconsin football defensive coordinator Mike Tressel did his best to mesh the inherited personnel with the scheme the Badgers would like to run moving forward.
With the outside linebacker group, the rotation deployed at the end of the season was down to just three players — and TJ Bollers wasn’t one of them. As a matter of fact, he never played a single down this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
The former four-star outside linebacker was a big recruiting win for the Badgers but quickly fell out of favor with the new coaching staff after opening up fall camp with the starters. It’s clear that Wisconsin wants to get smaller and more athletic at its linebacker spots — which doesn’t bode well for a 270-pound tweener.
Bollers deserves a chance to play in a scheme that better fits his skill set, and unfortunately, Wisconsin doesn’t look like the best place for that to happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if he enters when the transfer portal window opens on December 4.
Inside Linebacker Bryan Sanborn
Another player who simply might be the odd man out due to a systematic change is inside linebacker Bryan Sanborn.
After red-shirting in 2021, the younger brother of former Wisconsin football star Jack Sanborn appeared in 11 games and was on the verge of cracking the two-deep.
However, in 2023, he appeared in just five games, primarily on special teams, and didn’t play a single defensive snap. True freshman Christian Alliegro has already passed him on the depth chart — and it doesn’t look like Coach Fickell prefers run-stopping thumpers at LB.
It’s a shame because, under the previous regime, Sanborn likely would have become a core member of the inside linebacker rotation — but a change of scenery might be what’s best for his career at this point.
Wisconsin Football QB Myles Burkett
I know this one might not come to fruition because Myles Burkett has been fiercely loyal to the Wisconsin football team, but hear me out.
The answer at quarterback for the Wisconsin Badgers might not even be on the roster right now. But the current coaching staff sat through bowl prep last season and decided they needed to bring in three single callers through the transfer portal to overhaul the room completely.
Burkett appeared in two games in 2022, completing 4-of-5 passes for 84 yards. But this past season, he was third on the depth chart, primarily because he was better prepared than Oklahoma transfer Nick Evers.
But Braedyn Locke is clearly ahead of him — and was hand-picked by Phil Longo. Plus, Evers has the highest upside in the room, and I have no doubt the staff won’t hesitate to elevate him on the depth chart once it all clicks for him. That’s not even mentioning the strong possibility that Wisconsin football goes portal and brings in another stop-gap option to start. Lastly, Mabrey Mettauer, with whom the staff is enamored, is also stepping onto campus next season.
That’s a lot of things working against Burkett, and it sucks because he’s such an easy kid to root for, especially as the in-state kid. If he enters the transfer portal, plenty of schools should be interested in giving him a shot — and they’ll likely reap the rewards of a hard-working, well-prepared quarterback if they do.
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