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Wisconsin Football Roundtable Discussion: Talking Badgers With the Fellas

A BadgerNotes staff roundtable discussion of the Wisconsin football program with the season opener just weeks away.



Wisconsin Badgers Football coach Luke Fickell
Jul 27, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell speaks to the media during the Big 10 football media day at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin football program is now entering the back half of fall camp, so the fans and media won’t get another chance to see the Badgers until September 2 at Camp Randall Stadium against Buffalo. 

Given the unusual amount of noteworthy storylines to follow this offseason, the staff takes a stab at answering some of the key questions and topics associated with the Badgers heading into week one of the regular season. 

Let’s dive in. 

Who is your breakout player on offense for Wisconsin football, and why?

Dillon Graff: Will Pauling is my pick, and it’s not particularly close for me. Given the number of mouths to feed in the Badgers offense, Pauling might not lead the team in any major receiving category (maybe catches). However, his acceleration and short-area quickness should give most defenders trouble and help Wisconsin football move the sticks. His skill set is precisely what UW needs in Phil Longo‘s offense — he could be a significant contributor. 

Jake Maier: I’ve been on the Will Pauling hype train, and I’m not getting off any time soon. Pauling has the explosiveness and big play ability that could make him a real threat in the air raid scheme. Sure, there’s a crowded field in the receiver room. However, with how Phil Longo uses slot receivers in his offense, I can see Pauling being a massive contributor. 

Christian Borman: I think the easy answer here would be to say, Will Pauling. He’s been the hot name out of camp because he’s playing the slot position which has been notoriously productive in Phil Longo’s offense. But I’m going to go a different direction and say, Bryson Green. I know he has been a popular name lately, too, but the Badgers haven’t had a guy this physical at the receiver position since Quintez Cephus. Longo has said 50/50 balls are not actually 50/50 balls with Green. If he’s one-on-one with a corner, it’s probably more like 80/20. There’s no way you’ll be able to double him either with Dike, Pauling, Bell, and Williams in the mix as well. I think Green is going to be a dude this year.

Who is your breakout player on offense for Wisconsin football, and why? 

Dillon Graff: I’d love to take Hunter Wohler, but that’s the sexy pick, so for me, it has to be Jake Chaney. The Florida native is a plus run-defender, tackler, and pass-rusher the Badgers can use as a moveable chess piece on defense. Chaney can play in the box, create pressure, or drop into coverage — that type of versatility is hard to come by, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t play starter snaps this season. 

Jake Maier: There are a lot of really good options, but I’m leaning toward Hunter Wohler. We’ve heard only good things coming out of fall camp about his level of play. He’s coming off a nice season where he logged 21 tackles and an interception, but I could see this being a true breakout year for the junior safety if he can stay healthy.

Christian Borman: Defensively, I think it’s going to be Hunter Wohler. I think he’s always had the ability, but injuries have gotten in the way. By all reports, he’s had a very good camp. He’s been playing up on the line in the dollar defense. Not only will he be able to help with run defense, but he’ll be able to get after the quarterback too. I’d expect a big year from Wohler.

Which transfer — on either side of the ball — will have the most significant impact this year?

Dillon Graff: The layup answer is SMU transfer quarterback Tanner Mordecai, so I’ll pivot and take the road less traveled by picking nickel cornerback Jason Maitre. Listen, this man has north of 2,000 career snaps across five seasons at Boston College. That experience is invaluable for a Wisconsin football team changing defensive schemes. Maitre probably won’t be a stat stuffer, but his physical style of play and lack of proven options behind him in the nickel role makes him all the more important.  

Jake Maier: I think the most obvious one here is Tanner Mordecai, but it’s the right answer. The SMU transfer threw for over 7,000 yards and 72 touchdowns for the Mustangs, and he is really going to thrive in the air raid scheme. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mordecai break some UW passing records this season. 

Christian Borman: You have to go Tanner Mordecai here. The quarterback always has the biggest impact in games. They touch the ball every play, and we all know what happens when there is poor quarterback play. Mordecai brings a ton of experience to the Wisconsin football team this year. I’m not expecting the numbers he put up at SMU, but I think he’ll definitely bring some production to the position that we haven’t seen in a long time.

What is your most significant area of concern for the Badgers entering 2023?

Dillon Graff: It’s the pass-rush, hands down. Wisconsin lost Nick Herbig and Keeanu Benton, the heartbeat of the Badgers defense in 2022. The duo accounted for 62 of UW’s 209 total pressures and over half of the team’s sacks. For the first time in a long time, I don’t see a star pass-rusher coming up through the pipeline — and I’m skeptical that the defensive line has many playmakers. Can Wisconsin football get after opposing QBs? Only time will tell, but this is my biggest concern heading into week one. 

Jake Maier: The defensive line is giving me some pause heading into the season. Keeanu Benton’s departure is just such a significant loss. While there are a lot of returning contributors at the position, I’m not convinced that they’ll be able to replicate the kind of production Benton had. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit worried.

Christian Borman: The obvious answer is tight end. The Badgers went through spring ball with a top two guys in mind, and neither of them was on the roster at the start of fall camp. Now you have Hayden Rucci, Riley Nowakowski (a converted walk-on fullback), Jack Pugh, and a freshman, Tucker Ashcraft, at the position. There’s not a ton of experience in that room. There’s going to be some growing pains there.

What will the Badgers regular season record be?

Dillon Graff: As hard as it is to completely buy into a year one coming-out party for the new coaching staff, all the pieces are in place. Returning talent, transfer portal additions, and a schedule that isn’t exactly murderers row. I’m going with a 10-2 regular season record — where most importantly, Wisconsin football takes The Axe back from P.J. Fleck. 

Jake Maier: I have Wisconsin finishing the season at 10-2, with losses to Ohio State and Iowa. It might be a bit of a lofty expectation for a program under a new head coach, but Luke Fickell is a proven winner, and having an offensive mastermind like Phil Longo on board doesn’t hurt, either. Plus, Wisconsin’s schedule is extremely favorable. There are some games that I go back and forth on — i.e. Illinois and Washington State — but I’ll lock in my prediction at 10-2.

Christian Borman: I feel optimistic about this team. I think Luke Fickell inherited some very talented players and brought in even more through the transfer portal. It may take a bit to get in the groove offensively, but luckily their schedule is relatively weak, at least until they face off with Ohio State late in October. There may be a game where they get tripped up, but ultimately, I think they go 10-2, winning the Big Ten West with losses to Ohio State and one of Iowa, Illinois, or Minnesota.

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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author 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, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.