The Wisconsin Badgers’ surprise hire of Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell has given the program what they’ve desperately lacked in recent years — momentum.
New offensive coordinator Phil Longo is bringing the “Air Raid” offense to Madison, which will represent a culture shock relative to the traditional plodding offenses that Badger fans have become so accustomed to. Longo’s system emphasizes passing. It’s built to stretch out receivers to create open windows in the defense.
The system was pioneered by the late Mike Leach, who led moribund programs such as Texas Tech and Washington State to new heights with the help of the Air Raid.
In order for the offense to work optimally, it must be led by a dynamic quarterback with enough arm talent to throw vertically, while also providing a rushing threat.
In a matter of weeks, Fickell completely evolved the quarterback room via the transfer portal and recruiting. The wealth of new options should give the Badgers a chance to contend in the Big Ten for years to come. Let’s preview who might be behind center this year.
Of Fickell’s many transfer portal acquisitions, Mordecai was the big fish. The graduate transfer is coming off of two prolific seasons at SMU where he played in 24 games over two seasons, while also posting huge numbers. In those two years, he racked up 7,152 yards and 72 touchdowns, with only 22 interceptions.
Mordecai started his career in Oklahoma under the tutelage of quarterback whisperer and coach Lincoln Riley. ESPN rated him a four-star recruit out of high school, and despite barely playing for his first two seasons, Mordecai has more than lived up to his rating. The transfer will almost certainly be Wisconsin’s starting quarterback next year, and fans will hope his one and only year will be as successful as Russell Wilson’s Badger stint a decade ago.
Evers was Fickell’s first quarterback addition out of the portal, and many viewed him as the next expected starter before Mordecai came along. Evers most likely won’t start this year, but it’s entirely possible he will get the keys to the offense after this upcoming season.
Evers is still young, as he was only a true freshman for Oklahoma last year. As a consensus four-star prospect out of high school, Rivals tapped him as the fourth best dual threat QB in his class.
Evers didn’t get the chance to prove himself this year, but considering he received offers from Auburn, Florida and Oklahoma, he is clearly a talented passer who can start for multiple years after 2023.
Wolf is the elder statesman of the Badgers quarterback room, as he is entering his sixth year on the roster. Most of his tenure has been spent doing mop up duty, as he has backed up multiple Badger quarterbacks over the years, mostly Graham Mertz.
The veteran got his moment to shine this past December, when he led Wisconsin to a win in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl by going 14-31 for 229 yards and two touchdowns in Fickell’s first game on the sideline. Wolf’s experience and leadership will be useful this season, but don’t expect him to get major playing time unless there are injuries.
Burkett is another young quarterback who is certainly intriguing, but is simply stuck behind more experienced options on the depth chart. The Franklin, Wisconsin native was a true freshman last year and is entering his sophomore season in 2023.
He was a three-star recruit — according to Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN — but had a prolific high school career. He earned the Wisconsin AP and Gatorade Player of the Year honors as a senior, and led his high school to a sterling 14-0 record and a Division 1 state title. Burkett is an under-the-radar name and could realistically compete with Evers for the starting job once Mordecai leaves. Keep your eye on Burkett.
LaCrue is the youngest in the room, as he will be a true freshman next fall. He was mostly recruited by the previous Badger regime as a three-star prospect, but he will have as much of a chance as any young Wisconsin signal-caller.
He led Broomfield High School to a state championship and an undefeated season in Colorado, where he threw for 2,648 yards and posted a stellar 26-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. LaCrue is a developmental project right now but will have every opportunity to learn behind more experienced Badger quarterbacks and will provide depth.