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Wisconsin football 2020 review/2021 preview: defensive linemen

The Badgers are losing two starters on the d-line. Who will step up for Wisconsin in 2021?

Wisconsin v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

2020 starters

  • DE Garrett Rand (RS senior)
  • NT Keeanu Benton (junior)
  • DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (RS senior)
NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

2020 statistics

  • Loudermilk led the unit with 13 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks.
  • Rand had 11 total tackles with one tackle for a loss.
  • Benton had nine total tackles and two forced fumbles.
  • Defensive end Isaiah Mullens had four total tackles.
  • Defensive end Matt Henningsen had two total tackles.
  • Nose tackle Bryson Williams had two total tackles.
  • Defensive end Rodas Johnson had one total tackle.

2020 season review

The Wisconsin Badgers season started off with a bang housing Illinois and demolishing Michigan, with a few weeks between which I don’t remember why they didn’t do anything but anyways.

The Badgers were stout against the run as usual, and a lot of that starts with the big guys up front. In Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense, the three defensive linemen are responsible for occupying blockers for the linebackers to run around and make plays. Isaiahh Loudermilk, Keeanu Benton and Garrett Rand were a complete, competent unit for UW, but will need to replace both ends after Loudermilk left for the NFL and Rand stepped away from the game after five collegiate seasons.

2021 season preview

As aforementioned, both starting defensive ends are gone. Benton is one of the best defensive linemen in the Big Ten, and will be an NFLer in a year or two, but he’ll need some help to his sides if Wisconsin plans on being the elite run stopping unit they’ve been since Dave Aranda took over in 2013.

At nose tackle Benton and Bryson Williams are rock solid. Wisconsin should look to recruit their eventual replacements, but those two are both proven contributors.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

At end, Matt Henningsen is almost a lock to occupy one of the spots. He’s made big time plays in the last three seasons, and entering his fifth season in Madison, he’ll be a primary player at the position to make some more. Isaiah Mullens is another likely option, as he played a decent amount this season, especially down the stretch.

After those two, I’d expect Boyd Dietzen (Kimberly), Cade McDonald (Hudson) and Rodas Johnson (Columbus, Ohio.) to be among those receiving rotational snaps. James Thompson Jr. should also be in consideration to receive snaps, as he played early on during the season.