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Debunking One Major Misconception About the Wisconsin Football Offense



Wisconsin football offensive coordinator Phil Longo
Wisconsin Badgers offensive Coordinator Phil Longo answers questions during Wisconsin Badgers football media day at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023.

When the Wisconsin football program announced that they’d be transitioning to the air raid offense under Phil Longo this offseason, a few Badgers traditionalists lost their collective minds.

How could the Badgers, who carved out an identity as a team that won at games by wearing down opponents in the trenches and pounding the rock, shift to a full-blown pass-happy program?

It’s a lot to wrap your head around. And if you’re one of those people who is struggling to accept this new offensive direction, I’m here to talk you off the ledge. Because after doing a closer examination of Longo’s play-calling history, it reveals a much more balanced approach.

Let’s discuss.

Clearing the Air 

Contrary to popular belief, the Wisconsin Badgers are not going to abandon the run. If you’ve paid attention to Luke Fickell and Phil Longo speaking during the offseason, they’ve continually reassured Wisconsin football fans the run game will not die out.

The Badgers will execute a power running game out of the spread, featuring more RPOs & read-and-react principles, similar to Ohio State and Michigan.

While Longo is known for his innovative offensive schemes, which include elements of the Mike Leach Air Raid system, his play-calling distribution has actually been reasonably balanced throughout the 2017-22 seasons. On average, Longo’s teams have maintained a near 50-50 split between running and passing plays.

That’s still a big difference from the Wisconsin teams Paul Chryst rolled out — who were 63% run & 37% pass during the same time frame. And even though Longo’s offense averaged 30 rushing yards less per contest than Chryst’s, they averaged 89 yards more per game overall.

Wisconsin Football Will Feature a New-Look, but Still Balanced Offensive Approach.

One of the biggest reasons Phil Longo has such a glowing reputation as an offensive guru stems from his ability to adapt his scheme to fit the strengths of his personnel. It seems simple, but for some reason, most coaches prefer to try fitting a square peg into a round hole. 

“We don’t want to be one-dimensional — I’ve said this a thousand times,” Longo said. “I don’t care if we run it 70 times or throw it 70 times. I just want to take what they’re giving us on defense.“


Tailoring his offense to the available talent allows the Wisconsin football team to highlight playmakers from all position groups, which will help the Badgers attract a wide variety of talented skill position players in the portal and on the recruiting trail

A quick Google search into Longo’s past show that quarterbacks, running backs, wideouts, and even tight ends have all taken their turn becoming stat stuffers when they had the talent to warrant the workload. That’s why the program was comfortable shifting to a more modern offensive approach. 

So rest assured, even though the Wisconsin Badgers coaching staff may incorporate some elements of the Air Raid offense, and throw far more than years past, the notion that they are transitioning to a full-blown aerial attack is a misconception. 

There’s plenty of room at the table for Tanner Mordecai, Braelon Allen & Chez Mellusi, and several members of the wide receiver room to eat on offense for Wisconsin football in 2023.

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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.