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Where Is the Wisconsin Football Offense Better or Worse Entering the 2023?



Wisconsin football; Badgers QB Braedyn Locke
Wisconsin quarterback Braedyn Locke runs an option play as coach Luke Fickell watches during The Launch, the football team's intrasquad scrimmage at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday April, 22, 2023 in Madison, Wis. Uwgrid Launch 11 April 22 202three

The Wisconsin football team made some changes in the last calendar year — big ones. Paul Chryst is out, and Luke Fickell is in. And unless you’ve been living under a rock this summer — you probably know that the Badgers are ditching the pro-style offense in favor of the spread formation under Phil Longo.

“It’ll look different,” Fickell told reporters at Big Ten Media Days. “There’s no doubt.

“It’s still about people. It’s still about players. It’s still going to be about the guys up front; it’s still going to be about physicality; it’s still going to be about winning the lines of scrimmage, whether it’s offensively or defensively. We’ll figure it out as we continue to grow, but our core values won’t change.”

Under Coach Fickell’s leadership, Wisconsin hopes to right the ship in year one and make a trip back to Indianapolis for the first time in three seasons.

But before the Badgers football team takes the field against Buffalo on September 2, I thought it would be a valuable exercise to examine how Wisconsin’s offensive position groups have evolved or declined over the last calendar year.

Let’s begin.


In 2022, Wisconsin football had Graham Mertz leading the Badgers offense. Mertz showcased potential and made some impressive strides but struggled with consistency. During the offseason, he and Chase Wolf moved on and paved the way for an influx of talented transfers. 

In 2023, the Badgers have added talented transfer quarterbacks such as Tanner Mordecai, Braedyn Locke, and Nick Evers into the fold, giving them considerably more depth upside. 

To me, this is a no-brainer. The Badgers have a quarterback capable of elevating the offense and giving Wisconsin a viable passing attack, which they’ve desperately needed.

The quarterback room is undoubtedly stronger this season.

Verdict: Better

Wisconsin Football Running Backs

Wisconsin’s running game has long been a source of strength, and it remained solid in 2022. The combination of Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi provided a good 1,2 punch, while Isaac Guerendo supplied them with a home-run threat as the third tailback. 

However, in 2023, I think the running back room is slightly worse because of the depth lost when Guerendo hit the portal. Allen and Mellusi are both back — which is huge — but if someone goes down with an injury, we don’t know if the combination of Jackson Acker and Cade Yacamelli can hold up in a meaningful way. 

I’m probably being nit-picky — but I’ll say SLIGHTLY worse. 

Verdict: Worse

Wisconsin Football Wide Receivers

Historically, the Badgers passing attack has not relied heavily on wide receivers. However, in 2022, UW showed signs of improvement. The emergence of Chimere Dike, Skyler Bell, and Keontez Lewis offered some promise for the future.

But this offseason, Wisconsin football hit the jackpot in the transfer portal. The Badgers returned their top three pass-catchers from last season and added Bryson Green, Will Pauling, and CJ Williams into the mix, who are already three of the top four pass-catching options.

UW’s overall talent and playmaking ability going into 2023 is considerably better, and that’s not a hot take in the slightest.

Verdict: Better

Tight Ends

I’ll keep this one short and sweet. Clay Cundiff showed some significant promise and chemistry with Graham Mertz last season before going down with his second straight season-ending injury. Behind Cundiff was an unproven group of specialists with limited upside. 

Fast forward to this season, and the Badgers no longer have Cundiff or Jack Eschenbach, who was a decent depth piece. They also have a limited amount of healthy bodies at the position — forcing true freshman Tucker Ashcraft to play snaps from day one. 

The bar wasn’t particularly high — but I still think Wisconsin football is worse at tight end than a year ago. 

Verdict: Worse

Offensive Line

The offensive line has been a cornerstone of Wisconsin’s success over the years. In 2022, the unit was still pretty damn solid but faced some challenges and inconsistencies due to injuries and constant shuffling. 

However, in 2023, the Badgers return several key starters such as Jack Nelson, Tanor Bortolini, and Riley Mahlman, plus the depth has improved with the offseason additions of Joe Huber and Jake Renfro

With more stability and experience, the offensive line should be a strength if Wisconsin can avoid the constant lineup shuffling. 

Verdict: Better

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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.