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Post spring practice thoughts: outside linebackers

Can the unit bring more of a pass rush this year?

C.J. Goetz running through drills at practice.
Kelli Steffes; UW Athletics Communications

The Wisconsin Badgers football team ended their spring practice period on Friday. After missing out on spring practice last year, having an extra 15 sessions proved to be extremely useful for Paul Chryst’s group. The Badgers didn’t have a spring game, or anything like that, but we were still able to glean a decent amount of information from the open practices and media availability.

In a position group filled with depth and promise, last year’s output from the outside linebackers was surprisingly...not great. Especially at getting a pass rush.

Wisconsin ranked No. 100 in the nation in sacks per game with only 1.57. Considering previous years’ outputs and the lofty recent history of Badgers at this position, the players have said they want to improve their output. Let’s see where things likely stand heading into next season.

Depth chart

Starter Backup Backup
Starter Backup Backup
Noah Burks Spencer Lytle Aaron Witt
Nick Herbig C.J. Goetz Izayah Green-May

Spring standouts

Outside of the two returning starters in Noah Burks and Nick Herbig, outside linebackers coach Bobby April has said that three of the less experienced players were playing very well during the spring.

The likely penciled in backups of Spencer Lytle, C.J. Goetz and Aaron Witt were names that were playing well and adding depth to the group.

“They’re bringing energy, high effort and a physicality that we didn’t have from them last season. They’re definitely pushing the group and forming some depth out there,” April said.

Sixth year linebacker Burks singled out Lytle in saying he has made the most strides so far this year. The sophomore from California was a highly touted recruit, but April said he struggled with injuries until this offseason and now he is “popping.” Hopefully that’s in a good way.

Remaining questions

Can the Badgers get some production out of senior Izayah Green-May?

In very brief flashes, the lanky linebacker has shown he can play. The issue is the playing part. Green-May has struggled with injuries throughout his Wisconsin career at seemingly pivotal times in his development. Even during spring, Green-May was unable to practice either.

If he can be healthy, he would likely add another type of player to the outside linebackers. It just seems that is a big “if.” With, like, size 48-font.

Other questions might be what can the incoming freshman add to push even more from the back of the two deep? Early enrollee TJ Bollers has already stood out to April and fellow freshmen Daryl Peterson and Ayo Adebogun will join the team this summer, in what should be a loaded outside linebacker room.