Badgers: Projected two-deep on offense entering spring practice

Wisconsin closed the 2022 season last Tuesday with a 24-17 win over Oklahoma State in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. While the game was about sending the seniors out with one last victory, it also proved to be an opportunity to look at the future for new coach Luke Fickell. The Badgers leading passer, rushers, receivers and tacklers from the game are all expected to return. While that, and plenty else could and likely will change before spring practice, here is our look at what Wisconsin’s two-deep on offense might look like when practice opens in March.


Starter: Tanner Mordecai (6th year SR)
Backup: Chase Wolf (6th year SR), Myles Burkett (RS FR), Nick Evers (RS FR)
Others: Marshall Howe (RS FR)
2023 recruits: Cole LaCrue

Last week at this time, it appeared the battle for the starting job would come down to Burkett and Evers. Wolf threw a bit of a wrench into the situation when he announced he would return for a sixth season, making the battle for the starting spot a three-man competition. But then came news of Mordecai’s decision to transfer to Wisconsin from SMU. He won’t be handed the starting job, but after throwing for more than 7,000 yards and 72 touchdowns the last two seasons, he is the overwhelming favorite to jog out with the first-team offense when Wisconsin opens the season against Buffalo in September.

All five of the team’s scholarship quarterbacks will take part in spring practice. It should be fascinating to see how new offensive coordinator/QBs coach Phil Longo builds the depth chart.

Running back

Starter: Braelon Allen (JR)
Backup: Chez Mellusi (5th year SR)
Others: Julius Davis (SR), Jackson Acker (RS SO)
2023 recruits: Nate White

If healthy, Allen and Mellusi give Wisconsin a great 1-2 punch. We saw that in the bowl game as the duo combined for 193 yards and a pair of scores. But depth behind them is a concern with Isaac Guerendo in the transfer portal.

Julius Davis has stuck around despite carrying the ball just 35 times in the last three seasons. It would be great for the Badgers if the Menomonee Falls product could be counted on in that No. 3 role. With the fullback position likely to be phased out in the new offense, Acker likely ends up at running back.

Wide receiver

Starters: Chimere Dike (SR), Skyler Bell (RS SO), Keontez Lewis (JR)
Backups: Dean Engram (SR), Markus Allen (RS SO), Vinny Anthony (SO), Chris Brooks Jr (RS FR)
Others: Tommy McIntosh (RS FR), Cam Fane (RS FR), Cole Toennies (RS FR), Haakon Anderson (JR)
2023 recruits: Trech Kekahuna

Wisconsin will return its top five pass catchers from this past season, four of which were wide receivers. Dike, Bell, and Lewis seem settled in as the top three and figure to see a ton of snaps next season as Longo uses 11 personnel – three wide receivers, one running back, one tight end – more than any other grouping.

Behind them are intriguing options, including Anthony and Brooks Jr. Anthony has some big play speed, while Brooks Jr.’s name came up a bunch when defensive players were asked which young players on offense were standing out.

Allen is a bit of a wild card after entering the transfer portal in October, committing to Minnesota in December only to pull his name out of the portal and decide to return to Madison. He’s physically gifted but had some issues with drops and route running.

Tight end

Starter: Clay Cundiff (SR)
Backup: Hayden Rucci (SR)
Others: Cole Dakovich (JR), Cam Large (JR), Jack Pugh (RS SO), JT Seagreaves (RS FR), Riley Nowakowski (JR)
2023 recruits Tucker Ashcraft

There won’t be as many tight ends on the field as Wisconsin fans have become accustomed to but the offense certainly would benefit from having a dynamic weapon at the position. That isn’t exactly what they have right now, though when Cundiff was healthy, he provided a spark, catching nine passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the first four games of the season before a broken leg ended his year.

Rucci, Dakovich and Large are your typical Wisconsin tight ends who excel more in blocking than pass catching, though Rucci did grab his first career touchdown in the bowl game. Dakovich and Large have both battled injuries the last two seasons.

Pugh and Seagreaves have the athleticism to be difference makers in the new offense. Nowakowski likely ends up here after spending most of the season at fullback.

Offensive Line

LT — Jack Nelson (JR)
LG – Joe Brunner (SO)
C – Tanor Bortolini (JR)
RG – Trey Wedig (JR)
RT – Riley Mahlman (RS SO)

LT – Nolan Rucci (RS SO)
LG – JP Benzschawel (RS SO)
C – Dylan Barrett (JR)
RG – Michael Furtney (6th year SR)
RT – Trey Wedig (JR)

2023 recruits James Durand

We aren’t exactly sure how new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell will look at things, but he will have plenty of experience to work with. The Badgers get back four of their five starters with only center Joe Tippmann leaving. Unless Wisconsin adds a center from the transfer portal, which is a possibility, Bortolini would seem to be the man to replace him, as he did in the bowl game.

Furtney went into the transfer portal for about 10 days before deciding to return to Madison. It’s possible he grabs a starting job back after losing it midway through the season, but Brunner has a ton of upside and a chance to be special.

Tuesday: Defense and special teams