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Wisconsin football fall camp 2019: defensive line preview

Wisconsin will need freshmen to provide depth in 2019.

Wisconsin v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

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.

After looking at the linebacker position yesterday, we check in with the defensive line.

The defensive line is critically important to the 3-4 defense. While the linebackers get all the glory, the d-line is critical in holding the offensive line and freeing space for linebackers to shoot through the gaps and make plays.

2018 was a rough year for Wisconsin’s defensive line. The Badgers struggled mightily with injuries and were razor thin on the depth chart at the conclusion of the year. If there was one factor in Wisconsin losing the Axe last season, it was the defensive line wearing down against Minnesota.

2019 has to be better for this unit, right?

2018 Statistical Leaders

  • Matt Henningsen: 32 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 pass breakup
  • Olive Sagapolu*: 23 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks
  • Isaiahh Loudermilk: 15 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 pass breakups
  • Bryson Williams: 12 tackles, 1 pass breakup
  • David Pfaff: 11 tackles
  • Players with 10 or fewer tackles: Kayden Lyles^ (7 tackles), Aaron Vopal^ (2), Gonnar Roberge (0)
  • Redshirt: Boyd Dietzen, C. J. Goetz, Isaiah Mullens,
  • Did not play: Garrett Rand (injury), Michael Balistreri, Kraig Howe*
*Not on 2019 roster ^Listed as OL in 2019

2019 Roster

  • Seniors: David Pfaff (RS), Gunnar Roberge (RS),
  • Juniors: Garrett Rand (RS), Isaiahh Loudermilk (RS)
  • Sophomores: Bryson Williams, Matt Henningsen (RS), Michael Balistreri (RS),
  • Freshmen: Isaiah Mullens (RS), Boyd Dietzen (RS), C.J. Goetz (RS), Rodas Johnson** (4-star), Keeanu Benton** (3-star), Gio Paez** (3-star)
**Not on 2018 roster

Projected Defensive Line Depth Chart

Position Starter Backup
Position Starter Backup
Defensive End Isaiahh Loudermilk Matt Henningsen
Nose Tackle Bryson Williams Gunnar Roberge
Defensive End Garrett Rand Isaiah Mullens

2019 Position Discussion/Overview

First impression is: concern about the lack of depth at the nose tackle position. There are only three listed on the roster, and sophomore Bryson Williams surely cannot play every single snap. The other returning nose tackle, Gunnar Roberge, has yet to record a tackle since enrolling in 2015.

Who is the third person on the roster? That would be true freshman Keeanu Benton. “Please be big; please be good,” my soul wishes of Benton.

Could that... could that be... good news? Thank you, Matt Belz!

As we look at the defensive ends, there is quite a bit more depth here. Garrett Rand and Isaiahh Loudermilk are going to be the opening day starters as long as they are healthy, and it’s reasonable to expect 2-4 more to competently serve in the rotation.

The Badgers could get the bulk of this support from freshmen and sophomores. Isaiah Mullens seems to have taken a big step forward in the offseason, and Wisconsin has already seen solid contributions from Matt Henningsen.

If Rodas Johnson performs well enough to demand a spot in the rotation, I expect 2019 to be a significantly better year than 2018 for this unit. The question is: how much better?