There have been a dizzying number of players who have transferred in and a correspondingly large pool of Badgers who have left the program this offseason. In this two-part series, I’m going to talk about both directions by updating you on the ten most impactful players who have used the portal in and out of Madison recently.
I’m starting off with the players who have left the Badgers and committed to a new program. While not all of these guys were impact players for Wisconsin, each of them had upside/traits that landed them on this list.
1. Chimere Dike: A Wisconsin guy and starter at wide receiver since 2020 (97 catches, 1479 yards, 9 TD across 4 seasons), Dike leaving took some Wisconsin fans by surprise. But, getting the opportunity to reunite with Gators’ QB Graham Mertz in Gainesville should help to ease any transition pains for Dike, who will likely emerge as one of Florida’s top weapons in 2024 for his COVID season.
2. Nolan Rucci: A heralded five-star offensive line recruit from Pennsylvania in 2021, Rucci was never able to crack the starting lineup at left tackle for the Badgers. Former offensive line Coach Jack Bicknell being demoted recently is telling. Now at Penn State, his athlete parents’ alma mater, Rucci has a fresh start and is definitely excited for the next chapter of his career while playing for a Big Ten rival.
3. Rodas Johnson: A solid player for the Badgers, who never hit his four-star recruiting upside, Johnson heads to College Station to play for aspiring SEC power Texas A&M this fall. Where he projects on the Aggies’ depth chart is unknown for now, but a change of scenery from an underachieving defensive front in 2023 may be just what Johnson needs.
4. Trey Wedig: An occasional starter for an offensive line unit that improved some as the season went on, Wedig nonetheless moved on from the Badgers, heading to Bloomington to play for the Hoosiers and their brash new coach, Curt Cignetti. Trivia: Ex-offensive line coach Bob Bostad will oversee Wedig at Indiana, and it’s a good bet that he starts for the Hoosiers.
5. Jordan Turner: A solid, perhaps even underappreciated, starting linebacker for the 2023 Badgers who was asked to retrofit his game in a new scheme, Turner recently left Wisconsin to play for Michigan State. He’ll be a redshirt senior for the Spartans. The writing on the wall for this move became pretty apparent when Wisconsin brought in several lauded transfer linebackers recently, likely squeezing Turner out of his starting spot in 2024.
6. Skyler Bell: While his impressive upside and speed were never an issue for the Badgers, Bell’s drop rate was high, and clearly frustrated both himself and the coaching staff in 2023. So, it’s hardly shocking that he entered the portal looking for a new opportunity, which he’s since found with the Connecticut Huskies, where he will immediately step into a starting role. If Bell can clean up his drops, there’s no reason to think he won’t thrive in the new environment given his plus physical tools.
7. Darian Varner: Heralded as a vital piece of Luke Fickell’s first transfer class, Varner made little impact in 2023, largely hampered by injuries. He’s now at Cincinnati, playing for Fickell’s former school, and will have one season with the Bearcats to try and recapture his outstanding 2022 form at Temple where he registered 7.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.
8. Myles Burkett: A Wisconsin kid through and through and a great locker room presence who stuck it out through Luke Fickell’s first year, Burkett saw the writing on the wall in the quarterback room and recently joined solid FCS program Albany, where he will likely get an immediate opportunity to start. He’s said that he wants to bring the school a national championship, so expectations are already high for the Wisconsin native.
9. Jordan Mayer: Another Badger is off to Penn State in the portal, as Mayer, a recruit from the Class of 2023 who redshirted this season, tries his luck in Happy Valley playing for James Franklin. Likely another casualty of the Badgers’ huge influx of portal linebacker talent, Mayer announced his intentions just one day before Nolan Rucci did. Hopefully, Mayer can carve out a role for the Nittany Lions, who apparently see him as an edge rusher in the future.
10. Keontez Lewis: Although Lewis has not yet announced his new home, he entered the portal back in September of 2023, apparently unhappy with his role in Phil Longo’s offense. But, he flashed enough upside during his time in Madison to make me believe that he’s going to find a new team (Louisiana Tech is the frontrunner now) that can utilize his talents more than Wisconsin was able to.