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Wisconsin football: 2019 defensive line review, 2020 preview

The Badgers enjoyed a healthy defensive line in 2019, a huge improvement over 2018.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 07 Big Ten Championship Game Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over the next week or so, we here at B5Q are going to run through every position group on the Wisconsin Badgers football team and give you a recap of how they did in the 2019 season. In the same damn post we are also going to give you a preview of what we think 2020 is going to look like! Without further ado, here is your review/preview of the Wisconsin defensive line.

2019 statistical leaders

  • Garrett Rand- 27 total tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
  • Isaiahh Loudermilk - 24 total tackles, 5.0 TFLs, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
  • Matt Henningsen - 24 total tackles, 5.0 TFLs, 4 sacks, 2 fumbles recovered, 2 defensive touchdowns
  • Keeanu Benton - 12 total tackles, 4.0 TFLs, 2 sacks,
  • Bryson Williams - 6 total tackles

2020 returning statistical leaders

  • See above.
  • Badgers graduated defensive linemen David Pfaff and Gunner Roberge, neither recorded a stat in 2019.
  • All contributors return for 2020.

2019 defensive line overview

In 2018, the Badgers’ defensive line was not, what’s the technical term for this? They weren’t good. That’s it. Garrett Rand missed the season with an Achilles injury suffered in the summer. Isaiahh Loudermilk missed multiple weeks throughout the season several times with injury. They had a redshirt freshman walk-on Matt Henningsen starting at one defensive end spot, and an offensive lineman Kayden Lyles starting at defensive tackle.

Not ideal!

2019 was better. Rand, a former 4-star recruit, was back and better than ever, AND playing in his rightful 3/4i tech position. Loudermilk was back and healthy. The emergence of true freshman Keeanu Benton after Bryson Williams’ injury was also a godsend. The four of them, along with Matt Henningsen (pictured below) being perhaps the most improved player on the team, allowed the defense to operate as we’ve become accustomed to seeing a Wisconsin stop unit perform.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 28 Northwestern at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The really exciting concept? They’re all back in 2020. The Badgers didn’t lose a tackle of production from the defensive line. This will help mitigate the loss of Chris Orr and Zack Baun while Leo Chenal and a likely combination of outside linebackers look to fill those gaps in the front seven.

2020 defensive line preview

The Badgers are in an interesting position heading into 2020. As we’ve stated throughout this article, they return almost everybody heading into next season. This is the opportunity that Wisconsin hasn’t had often over the past few seasons to continue to build depth along the defensive line, for when Rand and Loudermilk graduate AFTER next season.

Big Ten Football Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Rodas Johnson, Gio Paez, Isaiah Mullens, Boyd Dietzen and C.J. Goetz are all scholarship defensive linemen who haven’t seen the field much, if at all, during their Wisconsin tenures. This spring and fall season are crucial opportunities for them to find their way into the rotation or onto the field in garbage time. Rand and Loudermilk have both been around for seemingly forever (that’s good), and when they’re gone, there will be a lot of snaps for guys to pick up (somewhat similar to the offensive line this past season once Deiter, Benzschawel and Edwards all left).

Name to watch for 2020

Keeanu Benton is my pick for this.

It’s somewhat difficult to pick a newcomer for a position where everyone comes back, but Benton saved Wisconsin’s behinds this season playing as well as he did as an eighteen year old nose tackle in the Big Ten. Wisconsin hasn’t recruited the nose tackle position very well, and they’ve still only got two scholarship players on the roster. Benton has an opportunity to cement his role on this defense in 2020, and could even usurp Bryson Williams, depending on how long he’s out with injury.

2020 spring depth chart projection (2020 eligibility)

  • Defensive end (5 tech): Isaiahh Loudermilk, Isaiah Mullens
  • Nose tackle: Bryson Williams, Keeanu Benton
  • Defensive tackle (3/4i tech): Garrett Rand, Matt Henningsen