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Report: Tim Tibesar emerges as favorite for Wisconsin defensive coordinator

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Wisconsin's current outside linebackers coach could be its next defensive coordinator.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Is there now a front runner for the open Wisconsin Badgers defensive coordinator position? There appears to be.

Current UW outside linebackers coach Tim Tibesar has become the expected successor at defensive coordinator, according to a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus on Saturday evening.

Per Potrykus, sources familiar with the Wisconsin program believe Tibesar is the "likely replacement" for former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who left Wisconsin for the same position at LSU earlier this month.

Tibesar coached a successful group of Badgers' outside linebackers during the 2015 season. Senior Joe Schobert and redshirt junior Vince Biegel combined for 33.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks and formed one of the most potent linebacking duos in college football.

As Potrykus also reported, head coach Paul Chryst praised Tibesar for his development of redshirt sophomores Jack Cichy and T.J. Watt throughout the year. Cichy ended the year with 60 tackles -- eight for loss -- mostly working at inside linebacker when true freshman Chris Orr went out with a leg injury. Watt saw substantial playing time in certain defensive subpackages, especially towards the end of the year, after transitioning from tight end.

As we noted earlier this month, Tibesar has experience working in the Big Ten and at the professional level:

He has Big Ten experience, working as a defensive consultant at Northwestern in 2014 and the defensive coordinator at Purdue in 2012, when the Boilermakers led the Big Ten in interceptions, forced fumbles and takeaways. On top of that, he's also worked as defensive coordinator at Kansas State for two seasons from 2007-08 and North Dakota from 2004-05.Tibesar also can sell his time in the NFL and CFL. In 2013, he was the linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears after helping the Montreal Alouettes win back-to-back Grey Cup championships as linebackers coach from 2009-10 and defensive coordinator in 2011.

The veteran assistant can be credited with helping outside linebackers Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel become one of the best duos in the nation, as they tallied 33.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks this season. Converted tight end T.J. Watt developed quickly under the tutelage of Tibesar, who saw his playing time increase through the season in various subpackages.

One wonders if Wisconsin would look from within to hire, or bring in someone from the outside. Also, as Fox Sports Wisconsin's Dave Heller tweeted on Saturday, some of the statistics with his time at Purdue or Kansas State weren't so hot.

Potrykus noted, per a source, that Chryst did entertain the idea of hiring Houston defensive coordinator and former Wisconsin linebacker Todd Orlando; however, Orlando is loyal to current Cougars head coach Todd Herman.

If Tibesar is tabbed as the next defensive coordinator, he will have some big shoes to fill with Aranda's departure. Wisconsin's defense finished No. 1 in scoring defense, allowing only 13.7 points per game -- and No. 2 in total defense, allowing 268.5 yards per game. The Badgers ranked No. 11 nationally in third down conversion percentage, allowing opponents to convert only 31.2 percent of the time.

Wisconsin's defense does return seven starters in the front seven, only losing Schobert, though three of the four starters in the secondary from the 2015 season will be gone. The Badgers will also face a tougher schedule in 2016, with the opener against Aranda and LSU at Lambeau Field, then having back-to-back-to-back games at Michigan State, at Michigan, and at home against Ohio State.