January in college football is usually a time of excitement as bowls get underway and wrapped up, and then the coaching/transfer carousel begins. Coaches and players are all faced with decisions on what to do and where to go next. This year though has been unlike any other, though. In normal times a senior player doesn’t quite have the same options as they do in 2020-2021.
With the NCAA granting players a free year of eligibility rosters across the country will be bringing back players that would normally be onto the next phase. For the Wisconsin Badgers, the decisions by many of those players have been made and more are still to come as the offseason continues to move.
In positive news, the Badgers received word from outside linebacker Noah Burks that he will return to Wisconsin next season. In 2019, Burks broke onto the scene somewhat surprisingly to put together a very strong year. 2020 was a bit more of a struggle, but overall the Badgers will likely be pretty excited to have a presumed starter penciled in at outside linebacker.
With Burks, Nick Herbig, Leo Chenal and Jack Sanborn all back Wisconsin will have all four starters back to their linebacker core.
With four linebackers back the Badgers should be solid at that position and will likely lean on their experience as they work some new defensive lineman into the fold.
Another announcement came for the Badgers as defensive end Garrett Rand announced he was stepping away from football to focus on the next phase of his life. Rand cited numerous injuries that could have a long-term impact as part of his decision.
As a true grinder through multiple injuries you have to tip your cap to all Rand did at Wisconsin. With Rand and Isaiahh Loudermilk, both moving on the Badgers will look to the likes of Cade McDonald, Matt Henningsen and Isaiah Mullens to fill the void on the defensive line.
In case you missed it, left tackle Cole Van Lanen also announced his plans to enter the NFL Draft and forgo his extra year of eligibility. A senior from Green Bay, Van Lanen played in 45 career games for the Badgers paving the way for the likes of Jonathan Taylor, Garrett Groshek, and Jalen Berger for each of the last four seasons.
Van Lanen battled injuries in 2019 but will still likely be a mid-round steal for any NFL team looking for a solid Wisconsin offensive lineman to play all over their offensive line.