Wisconsin’s running the what!?
Wisconsin’s been a model of consistency for the past 30 years, and they’ve achieved their success with a very specific formula: developing massive Midwesterners along the OL to pave the way for an incredible lineage of RBs and coupling that ground game with strong defenses.
But it’s a new era in Madison as new HC Luke Fickell is choosing to break that mold with the hire of Phil Longo as OC.
Phil Longo comes in after four seasons at North Carolina, and his brand of football is anything but “three yards and a cloud of dust.” Longo is an Air Raid guy with a reputation for coaching some of the sport’s most explosive and fast-paced offenses.
Last year, North Carolina put up over 460 yards and 34 points per game. They finished 11th nationally in passing at 309 yards per game. Wisconsin, meanwhile, was 114th in passing with less than 184 yards per game.
Talk about a culture shock.
This is a program that has just one 3000-yard passing season in it’s history – Russell Wilson in 2011. Needless to say, Longo’s got his work cut out for him.
To ease the transition, Wisconsin brought in transfer QB Tanner Mordecai, who played in the Air Raid at both SMU and Oklahoma, as well transfer WRs with more familiarity in a pass-heavy attack.
But don’t think Wisconsin is abandoning the running game. Longo’s passing game is pure Air Raid, but he firmly believes in his team being capable of successfully running the football. If he thinks the ground game gives his team the best chance to win, he’ll lean on it.
In 2020 at UNC, he had two RBs go over 1000 yards rushing with both averaging over seven yards per carry. For a Wisconsin team that still has road graders along the OL and a superstar in RB Braelon Allen, you can still expect to see the Badgers lean heavily upon their running game.
But rather than doing it out of the I-Formation and burning up the entire play clock between snaps, they’re going to spread out the defense and run as many plays as possible.
Wisconsin will be one of the most interesting teams to watch in 2023. Snowy Saturdays in Madison are going to look quite different going forward.