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Wisconsin inside linebackers seeing things from offensive line perspective

The Badgers’ returning ‘backers are getting coached in a different way by Bob Bostad.

Wisconsin v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers transitioned to the 3-4 defense in 2013 and since then, the outside linebackers have gotten the most attention.

Granted, that’s been due in large part to the talent at the position. Joe Schobert was a fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, and this past year T.J. Watt was the 30th pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Vince Biegel was snatched up by the Green Bay Packers with the first pick in the fourth round. That made for the second year in a row a Badger had been picked in that spot (Schobert).

This spring, head coach Paul Chryst hired a coach to lead the inside linebackers. Thing is, that new assistant has coached offensive lines for the entirety of his coaching career.

Bob Bostad became known for his work with the Wisconsin offensive line from 2008–11, and after coaching stints in the NFL as well at Northern Illinois, he’s returned to coach the inside linebackers in Madison. Bostad was a standout linebacker at UW-Stevens Point, but has coached exclusively offense throughout his coaching career up to this point.

“The thing that coach Bostad brings is physicality to the group and can bring an o-line perspective to really help us build our game and learn how to really beat o-linemen,” T.J. Edwards said at media day on Friday.

The inside linebacker position is one of the most talented on Wisconsin’s roster and is arguably the strongest across the country. Jack Cichy is a likely top-100 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Edwards was a two-star safety prospect coming out of high school and has quietly led the Badgers in tackles the past two seasons. Chris Orr, the younger brother of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Zach Orr, replaced Leon Jacobs after a targeting penalty as a freshman and was a starter to begin 2017. Ryan Connelly, a former walk-on, replaced Orr to begin 2017 and Cichy to finish it, becoming one of the most consistent at the position in the Big Ten. Then consider Griffin Grady was in the two-deep at different times last season and Mike Maskalunas had an excellent spring ball. The Badgers are positively loaded at the position.

While this is an ideal situation for a coach inexperienced at coaching the position to step into, this is far from the players guiding Bostad through the season. While it was expected, the returning players have had nothing but positive comments about the former offensive line coach.

“It’s just a different perspective,” Connelly said. “I’ve had Aranda and Wilcox, and now Bostad, I just try to take something from each of them.

“Sitting in meetings in spring, you can tell he knows what the goal of the offensive line is, and he can convey that to us, which helps us out on how we attack the offense.”

Back in the spring, Orr offered an interesting perspective on his new coach.

“He’s coached the (at the time) highest-paid center, guard, and right tackle in the NFL,” Orr said. “He knows what he’s talking about.”

It will be intriguing, to say the least, to see how the position performs under Bostad, but expect the group to be tough and physical—just like Bostad expected his offensive lines to be.