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Wisconsin Football: Don’t Press Panic on Tanner Mordecai



Tanner Mordecai, Starting Quarterback for Wisconsin Badgers Football
Apr 11, 2023; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) is shown during practice Tuesday, April 11, 2023 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Madison, Wis. –  Okay, it’s been a few days post “The Launch” of Wisconsin Football under HC Luke Fickell. So we’ve all had more time to digest the performance or, rather, poor performance from Tanner Mordecai. It was probably a very sinking feeling for those who thought we were in the Post GM5 era of Badger Football. Don’t despair any further because I’m here to tell you that it’s all going to be okay!!!

I’ll leave you with a chart that explains my thinking, and then I’ll dive into it all:


Mordecai is a PROVEN FBS QB:

Mordecai Career Stats:

ATTs: 968 | COMP %: 66.7% | YDS: 7,791 | YPA: 8.05 | TD:INT Ratio: 3.30

Mordecai 2022 Stats:

ATTs: 444 | COMP %: 64.9% | YDS: 3,524 | YPA: 7.94 | TD:INT Ratio: 3.30

Mordecai 2021 Stats:

ATTs: 454 | COMP %: 67.8% | YDS: 3,628 | YPA: 8.00 | TD:INT Ratio: 3.25

How is this in comparison to the Most Productive & Successful UW QBs??

Let’s start with Yards per Attempt (YPA):

When looking at YPA, he’s right in line with the best years from Scott Tolzien and John Stocco! Falling a couple of YPA short of Russel Wilson, who TRULY gave us the most profound single season of production from a Wisconsin Football Quarterback we might ever see in our lifetimes. So don’t compare Mordecai to that! And while it might not seem like a big deal to be compared to Tolzin and Stocco, trust me, it is!! Especially on a YPA basis.

Although Saturday was rough, how does his MACRO TREND (2 FULL SEASONS) look from a TD:INT Ratio:

This is where Mordecai really separates himself from a QB Production standpoint that Wilson was able to achieve over and above other successful Wisconsin Football Quarterbacks (Stocco, Tolzien, Stave, Horibrook, Coan) in the Modern Era. Extrapolating the production of those other UW QBs to their Win % and we’re looking at an almost guaranteed 10 Win season next year with Mordecai! If you look at just their best season Win %….you’re looking at an 11-Win Average.

As I referenced in my post on Phil Longo, YPA is the most predictive of Scoring Margin, meaning it is also predictive of your expected Win %. As you can see, each of these QBs was hovering around the 80% Win Percentage margin. which would equate to 10.5 wins in a 13 Game Season.

Now that’s really all surface-level stuff!

How does Mordecai fit into Longo’s Reimagined Wisconsin Football Offensive Attack?

Well, first things first, we know Longo loves his PA/RPO:

Historically Longo has liked to use about a 42% PA/RPO Mix in his Pass Attempts.

However, this year with Drake May specifically, that dropped to about 27% of Pass ATTs using Play-Action or Run-Pass Option Concepts. When comparing the 2022 season’s Mordecai and Maye had near identical PA/RPO as % of Pass ATTs:

But Mordecai is comfortable playing in a less PA/RPO intense style and heavy PA/RPO Style.

Let’s take a look at his time at OU (Heavier PA/RPO Concepts) and SMU:

  1. We can see he’s played in two starkly different systems (One more RPO/PA focused and one less so)
  2. He actually performed BETTER in the system more highly concentrated with PA/RPO (Much smaller sample size)

Why does this matter? Well, Longo actually prefers to play in a higher PA/RPO “scheme” than he displayed with Drake Maye last year:


How do I KNOW Mordecai will fit well into a higher PA/RPO System?:

Let me throw two charts at you:

If you look at COMP % he’s almost dead even in Straight Drobbacks (SB) vs. PA/RPO Concepts, but where the separation begins to form is in the efficiencies of those Passes. Over his career, Mordecai averages about 9.29 Y/A on PA/RPO throws while only averaging 7.62 Y/A on Straight DBs. That is a 1.67 Y/A Difference or 22% INCREASE in YPA.

And wait…there’s more!!!

When you look at TDs & INTs by Passing Concept, it gets even better:

Tanner Mordecai is absolutely deadly in attacking the defense on PA/RPO concepts. With 31 TDs to only 3 INTs!! Which isn’t to say he’s bad in Straight DBs….he is most certainly not!! With a 2.37 TD:INT Ratio in Straight DB situations, that is still 2nd best among Wisconsin Football QBs in the “Modern” Era! But the more PA/RPO you give him, I think the better he will perform!!

Let’s look at the “Scheme Fit” by Depth of Target:

Vs. Drake Maye:

Vs. Phil Longo AVG QBs:

When looking at how Longo likes to Distribute Targets by Depth, it looks like Mordecai is a tailor-made fit for his system!! He even has a higher proclivity for those quick BLOS (Behind Line of Scrimmage) throws, which accounted for over 25% of Moredecai’s Targets!

When you look at Time To Throw (TTT) in Seconds:

Mordecai is right on par with Drake Maye. In fact, he’s actually slightly better in terms of decision-making on Deep Balls and those quick BLOS throws.

I’m not deep into the X’s & O’s to understand what exactly, from a scheme standpoint, would be impacting these #’s other than pure noise. But I’ll say I know enough to pontificate the mesh points & timing of routes for the RPO Action Longo runs & Mordecai was running at SMU are somewhat similar, which should ease and quicken his transition. The fact that it hasn’t been a major discussion point throughout Spring Ball, I think, slightly confirms that!!! You add in Summer Workouts, and everyone should be on the same page going into Fall Camp!

Tanner Mordecai’s Ball Security at “The Launch” was a Blip and nothing Wisconsin Football Fans need to fret about:


Lastly, let’s define Ball Security.

Pro Football Focus defines it for QBs as Turnover Worthy Plays (TWP) – a pass that has a high percentage chance to be intercepted or a poor job of taking care of the ball and fumbling.

Let’s take a peek at how Mordecai stacks up by Passing Depth vs. Drake Maye and Graham Mertz:

You can see that Mordecai really blows both of them out of the water!! With the exception of short throws, on those throws he is a little too loose. It’s very odd to see that pop as much as it does, but in totality, he takes care of the ball EXTREMELY well, and that matters for UW Teams.

Why does that matter?

Well, when UW crosses that 2:1 TD:INT Ratio…They’ve never won less than 8 games!!!

We can get into why (2017, 2016, 2014, 2009, 2015) are outliers within this. But more importantly, how in the heck did a RS Freshman Joel Stave, Danny Obrien & Curt Phillips Platoon at QB combine for a 2.2 TD:INT Ratio in 2012?!?!? Completely destroying up the nice little stat I wanted to use, saying UW has never won Less than 10 Games when they have a QB with a > 2.00 TD:INT Ratio.

But alas, we’ll have to trudge on without it!!!

But the point remains, Mordecai has proven he can be that guy, given the illustrious college career he’s already had. If he can maintain that level of play, and the MAJORITY of the data says to me he can. So sleep well and feel safe in maintaining your high expectations going into the 2023 Wisconsin Football Season!

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Gard Your Fickell is a leading authority on Wisconsin Badgers analytics, specializing in dissecting the intricate data behind football and basketball. With a deep passion for the game and an analytical mindset, Gard Your Fickell offers readers a unique perspective on the Badgers performance.