The Wisconsin Badgers currently stand at 5-4, including 3-3 in conference play, heading into Week 11 in head coach Luke Fickell’s first year at the helm.
It’s been a bumpy ride for the Badgers, as they’ve lost top players Chez Mellusi and Tanner Mordecai to injuries, prompting them to adjust, which led to Braedyn Locke’s first action of his career.
Through three starts, Locke has thrown for five touchdowns on zero interceptions, but has completed slightly under 50 percent of his passes, while the Badgers have gone 1-2 during the span.
Locke, a redshirt freshman, was one of three quarterback transfers this offseason, and was dubbed as a potential quarterback of the future in due time.
However, I’ve held my reservations about how soon that can occur, both during the offseason and in-season, recently sharing this evaluation of Locke in our weekly roundtable.
Earlier this season, both prior to Braedyn Locke’s first action at Illinois and during the preseason, I made the bold take that Locke would not be Wisconsin’s starting quarterback in 2024.
Through a few games of action, we’ve now seen Locke’s talent unfold and I’m remaining firm on my take, believing the Badgers will hit the transfer portal once again and give their young corps of quarterbacks an extra year of development.
I do think there are several questions around Locke: does he have the requisite arm strength needed to complete all the throws in Phil Longo’s system? Is his limited athleticism an issue? Can he overcome the physical limitations with his accuracy, which has wavered through four appearances?
It’s way too early to tell about future projections, but it’s clear right now that the Badgers do have a work-in-progress with their redshirt freshman quarterback. With an infusion of talent coming to the Big Ten next season, I’m not sure if that’ll be enough to remain competitive on a weekly basis.
Now, while the Badgers could choose to roll with Locke and work through his development next season, I’m predicting that they will be players in the transfer portal once again, providing their younger options a chance to develop for another year before being the starter.
Who could be potential options for the Badgers in 2024 via the portal?
QB Jayden De Laura, Arizona
Looking across the nation, Arizona Wildcats senior quarterback Jayden De Laura is a name of intrigue that could enter the transfer portal after the upcoming season.
The Wildcats have been rolling with redshirt freshman Noah Fifita, who has excelled in replacing De Laura following the latter’s injury.
That leaves questions about De Laura’s future, and the Badgers could certainly use his skillset and experience.
Through four games this season, De Laura threw nine touchdowns and five interceptions (four in one game), while completing nearly 70% of his passes.
Moreover, he’s a Hawaii native, and the Badgers have established that pipeline in recent years with the additions of Nick Herbig, Kamo’i Latu, and most recently, freshman Trech Kekahuna, who coincidentally de-committed from Arizona prior to joining Wisconsin.
QB Devin Brown, Ohio State
Probably considered more of a pipe-dream prospect, given the likely interest he’d receive as a highly-toughted recruit in the transfer portal, Devin Brown may not be the most realistic option.
But, his first camp and visit was at Wisconsin back in 2019, and with quarterback Kyle McCord likely earning the starting job for another season at Ohio State, it might be time for Brown to move on and earn a starting opportunity.
With the Air Raid offense now installed at Wisconsin, there may be more appeal to play quarterback under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Phil Longo, with the scheme differences to Ryan Day’s RPO-style at Ohio State not very drastic.
The one downside would be the lack of experience, which is something Wisconsin would probably covet from a transfer portal quarterback, but Brown could be a dream quarterback of the future.
QB Max Johnson, Texas A&M
Another starter with a ton of experience, there just may not be enough room for Max Johnson at Texas A&M with talented quarterback Connor Weigman at the helm.
Johnson, who will still have two years of eligibility because of a redshirt season, would have to be a graduate transfer, given that he’s already transferred from LSU to Texas A&M.
In place of the injured Weigman this season, Johnson has completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 1,452 yards, nine touchdowns, and five interceptions.
Now, Johnson has only played in the SEC throughout his career, and his brother Jake was a four-star tight end recruit in Texas A&M’s 2022 class, but Wisconsin could provide him with a change of scenery and the option to be “the guy”.
QB Preston Stone, SMU
Double-dipping in the portal from SMU at quarterback sounds unexpected, but the Mustangs have another talented signal-caller in Preston Stone, who waited for his opportunity behind Tanner Mordecai to start.
A redshirt sophomore, Stone has completed 58.9 percent of his passes, tossing for 2,355 yards, 21 touchdowns, and five interceptions, while also demonstrating some athleticism.
While the accuracy numbers aren’t as high as you’d hope, Stone is a good all-around quarterback that would have two years of eligibility remaining as a current redshirt sophomore.
Coming out of high school, Stone was a highly-touted recruit with offers from all over the country, including one from UNC, but chose his hometown school SMU.
If Stone would consider a move to a bigger school, Wisconsin could be in play in the portal.
QB Ethan Garbers, UCLA
Ethan Garbers is another quarterback in a situation of potentially being squeezed out as the starter, only it may be in place of true freshman five-star quarterback Dante Moore.
Garbers, a Southern California native, saw offers from mainly West Coast schools, but would be an intriguing transfer candidate for the Badgers.
In four starts this season, Garbers has completed 68.1 percent of his passes, tossing for 786 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions.
As a junior, Garbers is experienced, and likely will look for a starting opportunity somewhere should Moore be given the reigns after 2023.
Again, all of these names are merely predictions of who could hit the transfer portal, but it could be another intriguing year, not only for portal action, but what the Badgers will do in the offseason at the quarterback position.