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Wisconsin Football: Offseason Report Card - Coaching Staff

A quick review of how the Wisconsin Badgers revamped the football program this offseason through a new coaching staff.

The day is October 2, 2022, and the news just broke of head coach Paul Chryst being fired following a rough 2-3 start to the season.

The Badgers had dug themselves into a deep hole, and it seemed like little to nothing was connecting for the team.

Graham Mertz looked as if he hadn’t improved at all over the offseason.

The defense gave up 52 points to Ohio State and 34 points to Illinois at home.

And the offense was completely stuck in the 1960s.

Athletic Director Chris McIntosh decided enough was enough and threw down the hammer. He fired Chryst and promoted defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard into the head coaching position for the remainder of the season.

The season had hit rock bottom for the Badgers.

Yet, Leonhard rallied the team and led the Badgers to a 6-6 record as the team went 4-3 in their final 7 games.

The regular season included wins against the west champions Purdue and a solid Maryland team.

This led to a bowl game berth where the Badgers won the Guaranteed Rate Bowl 24-17.

After a dreadful start to the season, the Badgers rebounded under the most difficult of circumstances and managed to win their bowl game against another power-five program at Oklahoma State.

Yet, that obviously wasn’t enough to make this team competitive again.

Let’s take a look at how the Badgers revamped the football program through new coaching hires:

Head Coach: A

Not only did the Badgers hire a top head coach this off-season, but they managed to hire Luke Fickell.

Fickell, one of the top coaches in college football, took the Cincinnati Bearcats to the College Football Playoff in 2021 and they became the first ‘Group of 5’ school to ever make the playoff.

Fickell also put together a team that had 9 players drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft - third most in the country.

Fickell had an overall 57-18 record over 6 seasons at Cincinnati including 3 seasons with 11+ wins and 5 seasons with 9+.

He also has years of experience in the Big Ten after spending 14 seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio State and 1 season as the head coach in 2011.

Offensive Coordinator: A-

After last season’s poor offensive performances, the Badgers knew they needed a change in offensive playcalling.

Some expected Fickell to hire an offensive coordinator with familiarity with the typical Big Ten style of play.

However, Fickell went and hired Phil Longo to be the new offensive coordinator.

Longo has been known for using a variation of the “air raid” form of offense, but he envisions a more balanced offensive attack with Wisconsin.

With the hiring of Longo came a major increase in skill players transferring to Wisconsin. Longo brought in 3 new transfer quarterbacks and a number of wide receivers including former 5-star CJ Williams.

Not only should this offense look completely different this season, but it will likely be extremely entertaining to watch.

Defensive Coordinator: A-

After the hiring of Luke Fickell, there were a lot of questions regarding the previous defensive coordinator and interim head coach, Jim Leonhard.

Would he stay on the staff as defensive coordinator?

Would he be moving on to the NFL or finding a new role at another college program?

However, Leonhard elected not to stay at Wisconsin and instead decided to move on from the program.

With this decision, Fickell brought Mike Tressel with him from Cincinnati to become the defensive coordinator for the Badgers.

Tressel, the AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year, led the 2021 Cincinnati defense to be the 5th best in scoring defense, 10th in total defense, and the best overall pass defense in the country.

Tressel also holds prior Big Ten coaching experience after coaching as an assistant at Michigan State for 13 seasons.

Although the Badgers lost the beloved Jim Leonhard, coach Fickell was able to bring Mike Tressel along to fill the defensive coordinator position.

Assistant Coaches: A-

Brady Collins was hired to be the new director of strength and conditioning for the Badgers.

He has already made an incredible impact on the team and has clearly elevated the culture within the program.

Jack Bicknell Jr. was hired to be the new offensive line coach after a 1-year stint at North Carolina, where the Tar Heels ranked second in total offense in the ACC.

Paul Haynes was hired as the new cornerbacks' coach after coaching the Minnesota Gophers to the 7th best pass-efficiency defense in 2022.

Greg Scruggs became the new defensive line coach for the Badgers after coaching that position for the New York Jets last season.

The Jets allowed just 4.84 yards per play, the second-fewest in the league.

And the Badgers hired Devon Spalding to coach the running backs.

Spalding coached running backs at Youngstown State where he coached their star running back to MVFC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2022.

These are only a handful of the new hires, but Luke Fickell definitely did a great job recruiting strong coaching talent into the program.