Fall camp for the Wisconsin Badgers has gotten underway so it is time for us to speculate wildly as to what the divvying up of reps during practice means for the depth chart come August 30th. Over the next two weeks we will be previewing each position group so that you’ll have an idea of what to expect once the season actually kicks off.
Now we turn to the lightning and thunder of Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense, the linebackers.
Wisconsin’s defense took a serious step back in 2018 in spite of having a well-stocked linebacking corp. For context, Wisconsin was ranked fourth in Def S&P+ in 2017, but that ranking dropped down to 29th in Def S&P+ in 2018.
Wisconsin’s 2018 linebackers were good, but not good enough to compensate for a green secondary and a defensive line that contracted a bad case of the injuries.
Heading into 2019, Wisconsin will need to replace T.J. Edwards (first-team All-Big Ten), Ryan Connelly (third-team All-Big Ten) and Andrew Van Ginkel (third-team All-Big Ten).
2018 Statistical Leaders
- T.J. Edwards*: 113 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 3 interceptions, 5 pass breakups
- Ryan Connelly*: 89 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3 sacks
- Zack Baun: 63 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups
- Andrew Van Ginkel*: 60 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 pass breakups
- Chris Orr: 27 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 interception
- Players with 10 or fewer tackles: Tyler Johnson (10 tackles), Jack Sanborn (7), Griffin Grady* (6), Noah Burks (4), Mike Maskalunas (4), Christian Bell (2), Seth Currens (2), Izayah Green-May (1)
- Redshirt: Jacob Heyroth, Marty Strey, Jaylan Franklin, Mason Platter*
- Did not play: Ethan Cesarz*, Paul Jackson*, Hegeman Tiedt,
*Not on 2019 roster
2019 Roster - Inside Linebacker
- Seniors: Chris Orr (RS); Travis Wiltjer**
- Juniors: Seth Currens (RS); Mike Maskalunas (RS)
- Sophomores: Jack Sanborn
- Freshmen: Leo Chenal**; Maema Njongmeta**; Jacob Heyroth (RS); Marty Strey (RS); Jackson Kollath**; Tatum Grass**;
2019 Roster - Outside Linebacker
- Seniors: Zack Baun (RS); Tyler Johnson (RS)
- Juniors: Noah Burks (RS); Christian Bell (RS); Hegeman Tiedt (RS)
- Sophomores: Izayah Green-May (RS)
- Freshmen: Spencer Lytle**; Jaylan Franklin (RS)
**Not on 2018 roster
2019 Position Discussion/Overview
Wisconsin needs a few folks to step up in 2019 and fill the space left behind by Edwards, Connelly and Van Ginkel. Fortunately, in the past ten plus years, Wisconsin has made a habit of reloading these positions without much of a drop-off.
If we look at replacing the production of the three outgoing linebackers, we need to start with Orr. Orr is a very capable linebacker who was boxed out from playing time in 2018 because of the strength of those in front of him. I believe it is quite reasonable to project Orr to settle into the 80-100 tackle range if he can remain healthy.
That leaves Wisconsin with one gap at OLB and one gap at ILB.
At OLB, Burks is the clubhouse leader to start across from Baun. It’s worth to keep an eye on Green-May, Bell, and Lytle as well. Similarly at ILB, Sanborn and Chenal will likely be vying for serious playing time in 2018.
1st team linebackers were the usual group of Orr, Baun, Sanborn paired with Green-May at the other outside.— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) August 8, 2019
The most up to the minute linebacker reporting in Madison! This was the group at practice on Thursday morning.