Tanner Mordecai moves to Wisconsin: Former SMU star QB in line to lead offensive overhaul under Luke Fickell

SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai announced on Friday that he was moving to Wisconsin for his final season of eligibility in 2023. Mordecai still has one more year of eligibility through the blanket waiver granted by the NCAA because COVID-19 has affected the 2020 college football season.

Mordecai started his career as a top rookie in Oklahoma under Lincoln Riley, but transferred to SMU after losing the starting quarterback position to Spencer Rattler in 2020. Like Shane Buechele before him, Mordecai transformed his career on the Hilltop, completing more than 66% of his passes and ranking among the most productive quarterbacks in college football.

The Waco, Texas native joins new Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell and offensive coordinator Phil Longo to lead a major quarterback room overhaul in Madison. Mordecai threw for 7,152 yards and 72 touchdowns in an SMU uniform while leading the program to a 15-10 record under coaches Sonny Dykes and Rhett Lashlee.

Mordecai previously told reporters he planned to enter the NFL Draft after the season. However, he is only the latest talented signalman to be moved to another destination in hopes of raising his draft stock for 2024 instead of entering as a potential late-round prospect. Notably, Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman has opted to enter the transfer portal, the ACC’s all-time leader and is expected to land with Notre Dame.

With Mordecai out, SMU will be looking to highly touted 2021 rookie Preston Stone. The Dallas native completed 58% of his passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns before suffering a season-ending injury.

New era

To call Mordecai a different type of quarterback than Wisconsin has seen in recent years is an understatement. Mordecai has thrown the ball all over the field during his career and has built a solid relationship with All-American receiver Rashee Rice. He threw for significantly more yards in two seasons (7,152) than previous Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz threw for three (5,405).

Likewise, new offensive coordinator Phil Longo is one of the most aggressive offensive coordinators in football. His North Carolina team ranked No. 11 nationally in passing offense with star quarterback Drake Maye. Former quarterback Sam Howell is also in the NFL after learning from Longo.

Fickell’s offenses in Cincinnati were mostly about ball control and ball control, but that seems to be more personnel-based than philosophy-based. Expect the Badgers to get aggressive with Mordecai and Longo up front.

Cascading effects

Former Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst was largely fired due to poor quarterbacking and lackluster offensive production in his final two seasons at Madison. Immediately, Fickell turned to the transfer portal to try and shore up the long-term position.

In addition to Mordecai, the Badgers added former top-notch quarterback Nick Evers — ironically, also from Oklahoma. Class of 2023 quarterback Cole LaCrue stuck with the program as a rookie thanks to the coaching change. The Badgers are also bringing back senior Chase Wolf for another year of eligibility, as well as promising quarterback Myles Burkett.

While Mordecai should easily start for the Badgers in 2023, Fickell isn’t leaving the quarterback job’s future up to chance. After a year-long stop-gap, there will be several players vying to compete for the starting position.

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