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Spring Football 2021: defensive line preview

The Badgers will look to replace two four year contributors in Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand

Syndication: Milwaukee Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

If it seems like there have been more sports than ever this March it is because, well, there have been! What’s one more to add to the pile? The Wisconsin Badgers football team starts their spring practice on Tuesday, March 30 and we are going to start previewing each position group. UW will have 15 practices after having zero last year due to COVID-19.

Instead of the traditional position previews we’ve done in the past, these ones are going to be a little more focused on just a couple of players. We will feature one or two players who we think a full spring practice will really help and focus on one position battle that we think will be important.

Next up, the defensive line!

Players who will benefit from a full spring practice schedule

Wisconsin will be entering an era of transition, as they’ll lose their two starting defensive ends who were both four year contributors for the Badgers. Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand played a majority of the snaps at the defensive end positions in the Badgers 3-4 defense, but one of, if not both of these spots, become the defensive tackles in the Badgers’ Nickel package. Matt Henningsen and Isaiah Mullens are likely the front runners for the spots after getting most of the reserve time last season.

I’d look for Boyd Dietzen and Rodas Johnson to make use of the spring practices, as guys who should be next in line. Dietzen was a bit undersized entering Madison for what they look for in their ends, but now entering his third offseason in the program, should be ready to make the most of this opportunity. Johnson, a sought after Ohio native, should also be looking to capitalize on this opportunity and get into the lineup with recruiting mate Keeanu Benton.

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

Key position battle

Keeanu Benton has the nose tackle job down pat, but in a 3-4 defense, the nose tackle position is a physically taxing one. Bryson Williams is slated in as the backup right now, but reserve defensive lineman Gio Paez should push for rotational reps at nose as well. The North Carolina native fought injuries his first year on campus, but was a sought after recruit in North Carolina and has the strength to anchor in the middle of the defensive line.

Other freshmen who got time last season, Cade McDonald and James Thompson Jr., should also use this time to expedite their development. Longer and lankier than the other defensive ends, they provide an interesting dynamic to the defensive line.