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Wisconsin Football: 3 Things to Watch at Spring Practice



Wisconsin Badgers football

In an offseason with tremendous change for Wisconsin football, all eyes will be on spring practice. With a new head coach, offensive system, and starting quarterback (to name a few), there are plenty of storylines to keep tabs on. Fans can view the new-look Badgers up close on April 22nd at Camp Randall during an open practice. Before then, Wisconsin begins spring practice on March 25th. 

Who Emerges as Wisconsin’s Backup Quarterback?

Head coach Luke Fickell and offensive coordinator Phil Longo seemingly transformed Wisconsin into a quarterback recruiting powerhouse overnight. SMU graduate transfer Tanner Mordecai will be Wisconsin’s starting quarterback in 2023. After two more significant additions from the transfer portal, it is unclear who will be Mordecai’s backup. 

The Badgers have added two quarterbacks with four years of eligibility remaining in the transfer portal this offseason. Nick Evers from Oklahoma and Braedyn Locke from Mississippi State are former four-star prospects. Because Mordecai has only one year of eligibility remaining, Evers and Locke are the frontrunners to be Wisconsin’s starting quarterback in 2024. Although winning the backup job will not determine the 2024 starter, it may give insight into Longo’s direction.

Wisconsin has more young talent at quarterback than ever. Although Evers and Locke are the likely favorites for the backup position, do not count out the other quarterbacks in Madison. Myles Burkett spent his first season in Madison as Graham Mertz’s backup in 2022. Cole LaCrue is entering his first season as a Badger after early enrolling out of high school. The Colorado native was a three-star recruit. 

Where Will Wisconsin Football Get its Pass Rush From?

With the departures of Nick Herbig and Keanu Benton, Wisconsin is losing a lot of its defensive production. Herbig and Benton were the driving force behind Wisconsin’s pass rush in 2022. Outside linebacker Herbig led the nation in sacks and the Big Ten in tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Benton had his best season as a Badger with 35 tackles, 28 pressures, ten tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks.

Outside linebacker CJ Goetz is as good a candidate as any to step up in Herbig’s absence. Goetz was an All-Big Ten Honorable mention in his 2022 breakout season. Before 2022, he recorded 28 tackles in 33 games. Last season, the Muekego native’s 61 tackles were the third most of any player at UW. Goetz recorded nine tackles for loss and two sacks in 2022.

Will There Be a Clear Wide Receiver 1?

Wisconsin football has added five wide receivers this offseason. With talented wide receivers like Skyler Bell, Chimere Dike, and Keontez Lewis already in the program, Mordecai has plenty of talented pass catchers at his disposal. With so many options available, who, if anyone, will emerge as WR1?

Dike and Bell were the top two wide receivers last season. Dike led the team, followed by Bell in each category, in catches, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Dike’s 14.8 yards per catch ranked 4th in the Big Ten among players with at least 40 catches.

Earning top billing for incoming wide receivers is CJ Williams. Williams, a transfer from USC, was a high four-star prospect coming out of high school. Listed at six foot two inches and 190 pounds, the California native recorded four catches for 34 yards at USC last season. His longest reception was for 14 yards against Arizona. Williams has three years of eligibility remaining.

Overall, Wisconsin may not have a true WR1 under Longo. His Air Raid offense tends to spread the ball around to a stable of talented wide receivers. In two of Longo’s last three seasons at North Carolina, his offenses produced eight receivers with 200 or more yards. In 2022, Wisconsin only had three 200-yard receivers. Only twice during Paul Chryst’s seven-year tenure did the Badgers have more than four 200-yard receivers in a single season.

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Kedrick Stumbris covers Wisconsin football, basketball, hockey, and volleyball. He received his B.A. with economics and political science majors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018 and has had his work published on Bleacher Report and Verbal Commits.