The Wisconsin Badgers underwent significant change in the offseason, revamping their coaching staff around new head coach Luke Fickell, which including the addition of offensive coordinator Phil Longo and his heralded “Air Raid” scheme.
Through the first seven games of the season, it’s been a mixed result for Longo’s offense, as the Badgers have gone through struggles, but also found ways to win games with an easier schedule.
Operating with a completely different scheme than what Wisconsin, Longo has looked to balance his vision with the Badgers’ current personnel.
Why has the balance been hard to accomplish for Longo and the Badgers offense?
It all started with the idea of really letting the talent dictate the direction of the offense, as the Badgers were implementing a number of new pieces all across the offense.
“So, one, it’s our scheme, first of all, but secondly, it’s been interesting because you implement the offense in the offseason and you go through the summer and we felt like we’re going to let, I said this a number of times, you’re going to let the talent dictate where you go with the offense. And so we start heading down a certain path,” Longo said.
However, in doing so, the Badgers went through a number of obstacles, with the first being Chez Mellusi’s season-ending injury.
Longo dubbed Mellusi as the team’s most explosive player, and the Badgers were forced to adjust after he went down for the year.
“You learn the character of the team and what our strengths are and then we hit our first obstacle, which was the loss of Chez Mellusi, who arguably was our most explosive player,” Longo said.
“So, Braelon has to shoulder more of the reps and more of the run responsibility. And Jackson Acker’s done a great job stepping in and saving or covering some of those reps, but he obviously has not played as much as we were playing Chez from a perception standpoint.”
Then came the loss of quarterback Tanner Mordecai, causing an even bigger shift with the Badgers offense.
“So you regroup after that and I think then we get hit again. The loss of Tanner Mordecai obviously is a huge loss and Braedyn has done a good job stepping in and being the next guy up. That’s the attitude right now,” Longo said.
It’s hard to implement a new scheme in Year 1, let alone deal with significant injury issues to players at key positions.
That has prompted a constant evaluation period for offensive coordinator Phil Longo, who is still figuring out how his personnel best fits his system.
The hope now? The Badgers hopefully have some level of consistency in the injury category, and are smoothly able to settle in and find their identity through the second half of the season.
“So we are we’re trying to figure out how our people plug into the system. I think we know that. But we’ve had two major changes,” Longo said. “The road has changed twice already. So now I think hopefully that is the last major obstacle for the season and we can start to settle in and get a feel for what we do.”
The Badgers have dealt with some adversity thus far this season, which has hindered their plans offensively to a degree.
But, offensive coordinator Phil Longo and the offense are trying to fight through that adversity, operating with the next-man-up mentality to try and develop an identity for the team, which continues on Saturday when the Badgers face off against Ohio State in primetime.