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Why Wisconsin Football Could Produce a 1000-Yard Receiver

Can the Badgers break a decade-long drought?

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Wisconsin football; Badgers wide receiver Will Pauling.
Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Will Pauling (19) runs through a drill during fall training camp at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023.

Wisconsin football has long been known for its powerful ground game, producing countless standout running backs and offensive linemen over the last three decades. However, a new era is dawning upon the Badgers as they transition to the air raid offense under the guidance of head coach Luke Fickell and offensive coordinator Phil Longo.

With this shift in offensive philosophy, the question arises: Will the Wisconsin Badgers have a 1000-yard receiver in 2023?

Before you answer yes, please take a moment to consider UW hasn’t had one since Jared Abbrederis did it back in 2013. Additionally, only three players in program history have accomplished that feat.

Now that you have that set of information let’s explore the possibilities.

The Air Raid Offense and Its Potential Impact on Wisconsin Football

The air raid offense, made popular by Mike Leach, is characterized by an emphasis on the passing game, spreading the field with multiple receivers and utilizing quick, high-percentage throws to move the ball downfield. 

If executed properly, the D-AIR-Y raid offensive system is designed to create mismatches and exploit the weaknesses of opposing defenses. While the Badgers have traditionally relied heavily on the running game, this shift in philosophy and adding several new weapons through the portal opens up new avenues for their offense.

It also should give Tanner Mordecai a lot of control at the line of scrimmage to take advantage of whatever defensive looks he’s getting, knowing full well he’s got one of the nation’s top running backs to tote the rock.  

That said, there will be a ton of mouths to feed. Longo has discussed wanting to rotate six pass-catchers. We know those guys will be Chimere Dike, Bryson Green, Will Pauling, CJ Williams, Keontez Lewis, and Skyler Bell

And if the play-calling splits are somewhere near 50-50, as Longo’s historically done — will that create enough targets for anyone to reach that mark? I’m skeptical. 

The Verdict

The transition to the air raid offense presents an exciting opportunity for Wisconsin football to diversify its offensive approach and potentially produce a 1000-yard receiver in 2023. If that happens, the Badgers could see a significant uptick in skill position recruiting in the 2025 class. 

To hit the ground running, Tanner Mordecai must make quick reads, deliver accurate passes, and effectively distribute the ball to multiple receivers and let them do their thing. Given some of the top-end options the Badgers have — Chimere Dike, Bryson Green, or (maybe) Will Pauling could reach this milestone if they develop chemistry quickly enough and everything breaks right. 

Where history tells me I’m wrong and hopefully will deliver a 1000-yard pass catcher comes from Phil Longo, producing at WR who eclipsed the threshold in each of the last six seasons. 

Because I still believe that Wisconsin football will run the ball effectively and often, I will stick to my guns and say NO, but I predict there will be three pass catchers who exceed 600 yards — which is still widely impressive considering UW’s past. 

I hope I’m wrong — that would be amazing. With the spread offense being such a new concept to Badgers fans — maybe I just need to see it for myself to believe. 



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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author and the Owner of BadgerNotes.com, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.

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