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Wisconsin football: Jim Leonhard and Joe Rudolph meet with media

The two coordinators spoke about their respective units on Friday afternoon as fall practice continues.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Michigan at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Friday afternoon, Wisconsin Badgers defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph were made available to us, the unwashed media, via Zoom. The two coordinators touched on almost all of the position groups and both seem happy to be back to some semblance of normalcy after an extremely abnormal offseason.

Here are a few highlights from their media availability:

  • Leonhard started off his portion by discussing the safeties. As you may know, Reggie Pearson will not be playing football this season and Leonhard was asked about who might step up and fill in for Pearson, who Leonhard said “did a great job last season for us and we were really going to rely on him to be a big time playmaker.”

Leonhard also went on to say that Scott Nelson appears to be well on his way to being back on the field.

  • The depth of the defensive line is something that has been a problem in recent years, most notably two years ago, but that is no longer the case. Wisconsin now has two starting caliber nose tackles and three defensive ends that they can rotate throughout games. Obviously, this excites the defensive coordinator.
  • “There is definitely uncertainty when you talk both linebacker spots, inside and outside...there are a lot of question marks, a lot of youth. I think we can have a dynamic group, the names are just going to be a little bit different,” Leonhard said when asked about the outside linebackers.

Leonhard also says he expects starting OLB Noah Burks to “take another big jump forward” and “we like having a healthy Izayah Green-May going into this season.”

  • Even though the offseason was particularly difficult for players and coaches, Leonhard feels blessed for having the players he has.
  • Next up we turned to the offensive side of the ball with Rudolph answering questions. He was asked about the backfield first, which will obviously be a position where much of the media’s focus will be on since a new starting tailback is in order.

Rudolph also talked at length on how important having Garrett Groshek in the running backs room is. He mentioned how he is a veteran presence that brings the team together, across position groups, and helps the young guys fit in.

  • With top WR Quintez Cephus off to the NFL and A.J. Taylor exhausting his eligibility there are questions about who will step up next and catch passes from Jack Coan beyond Danny Davis III and Kendric Pryor.
  • The tight ends have a lot of talent, most of it young and unproven, and added a new weapon this year in converted OLB Jaylan Franklin who Rudolph says “flashes route running ability” but still has work to do.

The veteran of the group, Jake Ferguson, has taken on a larger leadership role according to Rudolph and has also looked really good in practice.

  • While it isn’t a sure thing to happen, if Coan takes a step forward this year the Badgers might not miss Taylor as much as everyone thinks. Mentally, it appears, Coan is right where Rudolph wants him to be.
  • It wouldn’t be a Wisconsin press conference if the offensive line wasn’t discussed at length. Rudolph had nice things to say about Jon Dietzen, and how versatile he is, Logan Brown, and how much potential he has, and the center position, where a number of players are competing for snaps.