Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell talks about his recruiting class, the return of a spring game and more during visit to Milwaukee

Wisconsin football coach Luke Fickell, shown during his introductory news conference Nov. 28, appeared at the Big Red Rally at the Italian Community Center on Thursday in Milwaukee.
Wisconsin football coach Luke Fickell, shown during his introductory news conference Nov. 28, appeared at the Big Red Rally at the Italian Community Center on Thursday in Milwaukee.
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Milwaukee’s University of Wisconsin alumni greeted Luke Fickell for the first time Thursday and of course, they welcomed him with a standing ovation.

That is how well the Badgers' new football coach has been winning the offseason.

Since he was hired at the start of December, Fickell hired an offensive coordinator who plans to employ perhaps the most quarterback-friendly offense the state has seen from the Cardinal and White, has scored big with a handful of high school recruits, and added a steady stream of budding players from the transfer portal.

Thursday he kept the momentum going at the Big Red Rally at the Italian Community Center where a full house heard a 30-minute Q&A with the coach during which he revealed that the Badgers will host a spring game this year.

But before meeting with the masses, he spoke to the local media on a wide range of topics that included his first recruiting class, the composition of his staff, the buzz for the program created through social media and billboards, and his desire to connect with high school coaches in the state.

Here are the highlights:

What will a Luke Fickell spring game look like for Wisconsin?

Mark your calendars for April 22. That is the day Fickell gave fans at the Big Red Rally for a spring game.

Fickell provided an idea of what the affair will be like, noting the talent won’t be split evenly between the two teams. He also warned fans that there might be some creative scoring that takes place in order to ensure a dramatic finish.

That said, the game sounds like it could give fans a good early view of the team.

“It will be ones on twos,” he said. “It will be the best of the best and it will be a very, very competitive day that I’m actually looking forward to as well.”

Mission accomplished for Badgers in building depth at receiver, O-line

Counting high school players and pickups from the transfer portal, Wisconsin’s 2023 recruiting class has 23 players. Where does Fickell believe his first recruiting class best addressed the team's need for more depth?

He said receiver, a position group that added five players, and offensive line, where there will be three newcomers.

The Badgers were especially thin on the line where James Durand of Chandler, Arizona, was the only lineman signed during the December early period. Since then UW added right tackle Joe Huber and center Jake Renfro who both played for Fickell at Cincinnati to bolster a unit that returns a lot of experienced players.

“I think we have some really good top-end guys who played some ball for us, but it didn’t look number-wise like what we’d carry as far as offensive linemen (and) not just because it’s a critical position,” Fickell said. “In order to practice and have a great spring you have to have offensive linemen. You have to have guys you’re developing at that position.”

The position Fickell didn’t mention was quarterback, but UW will enter the spring with six scholarship signal callers. Former SMU signal caller Tanner Mordecai, who has the most experienced of the group, faced Fickell in the American Athletic Conference.

More:Badgers adding veteran quarterback Tanner Mordecai from SMU

"I think what we saw more of this year that made us even more nervous was his athleticism, not that it created and developed in one year,” the coach said. “But in this past year, he showed some other things that make him an even bit more dynamic as a not a dual threat guy, but a guy who can create and extend plays. Different than what I’d even seen in the past.”

Tackling the lack of former Badgers on the coaching staff

Most of the members of Fickell’s first coaching staff worked with him previously. The exceptions are offensive coordinator Phil Longo, offensive line coach Jack Bicknell and outside linebackers/special teams coordinator Matt Mitchell.

None of the members of the staff are former UW players or have ties to the state, a hurdle Fickell admitted the staff would have to overcome.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a bunch of former players on our staff,” Fickell said. “I wish we did, but that is how things worked out. That is why it’s even more important for us to be in these schools whether it’s in Milwaukee or Green Bay or Madison or wherever so these high school coaches of these kids recognize that yes, we might not have played here, but boy do we have the utmost respect for all the things you’ve done, especially how you do them.”

Luke Fickell takes no credit for the ‘Bat signal'

If you follow Fickell on Twitter then you’ve seen the tweet. The aerial view of Camp Randall Stadium, the cheerleaders, Bucky, ‘Jump around”. When the coach sends that tweet, fans have come to know that good news is on the way about Badgers football.

He takes no credit for that idea or the idea of using billboards around the state, in Illinois and even Times Square to increase the program’s visibility, however, he appreciates the results.

“I know we all love it when we start getting our players' parents calling and saying this is really cool and they start retweeting,” Fickell said. “And you do recognize and see those things and our kids do. I can say I live under a rock and you’ll hear that a bunch, but I think you definitely feel it, the momentum, even in the program.

“Little things like putting up a billboard of a kid on our team … I didn’t realize how much that even lifted him up.”

More:Badgers football players and recruits departing during coaching changes

More:A running list of transfers and recruits for University of Wisconsin football; latest: Jamel Howard

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin football coach Luke Fickell talks about his recruiting class