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Most important Badgers for 2019, No. 2: Bryson Williams

Williams may set the tone for Wisconsin’s entire defense in 2019.

Matt Fleming

To continue our summer of football preview content at Bucky’s 5th Quarter, we are counting down Wisconsin’s Top 10 Most Important Players for the 2019 football season. These aren’t necessarily the “best” players on Wisconsin’s team, although you will find many of those listed, but they have been deemed the most important to Wisconsin’s success this year by our motley crew of writers.

There was much debate via email over who should be on the list and it even resulted in Drew going to Owen’s house and ding dong ditching him. Cooler heads eventually prevailed and now we have our final list to present to you.

We have finally arrived at No. 2 on that list, nose tackle Bryson Williams. If you’re the first to guess who is #1 is on our list, I’ll give you a free chess lesson.

2018 stats: 13 games (3 starts), 6 solo tackles, 12 total tackles, 1 pass defended.

2018 year in review: In his true freshman season, Williams was given the opportunity to ease into the all important role of nose tackle in Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense. He started off the season behind Olive Sagapolu, but then was thrust into a more prominent role after Sagapolu’s injury mid-way through 2018.

The razor thin depth at defensive line was a key factor in Wisconsin’s disappointing season in 2018. The Badgers ranked 50th nationally in rush defense, giving up 155 yards per game. Contrast that with 2017 when Wisconsin was 3rd in rush defense at 98 yards per game. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2014 when Wisconsin last failed to have a top-10 rushing defense.

2019 year in preview: Here’s the key, folks. Williams is Wisconsin’s only nose tackle with serious experience heading into the 2019 season. No disrespect at all to Wisconsin’s other nose tackle, Gunnar Roberge, but Williams is going to determine to what extent Wisconsin can hold the interior point of attack. Williams is Wisconsin’s bulkiest defender, and if he can plug up the middle the way Sagapolu did or Beau Allen did, that will free up other defenders to swarm the ball carrier.

If Wisconsin’s going to improve significantly in 2019, it is going to start with Williams and the rest of the Badger defensive front. Williams now has a full year of collegiate strength, conditioning, and training behind him. It’s reasonable to expect growth from Williams and the rest of the defensive front. Will it be enough?