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2021 Breakout Badgers: Isaiah Mullens

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The third year player hasn’t played a lot. Can he be productive starter on the defensive front?

Duke’s Mayo Bowl - Wake Forest v Wisconsin Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Last football offseason we went through every single player on the Wisconsin Badgers roster. While it was certainly interesting to dig into some of the lesser known players, there were a lot of players where, well to put it politely there just wasn’t a lot to say about every player on the team.

This offseason we decided to go in a bit of a different direction and now each writer (who wanted to participate) has picked one player that they think is going to breakout this year in Madison. We are using “breakout” in the broadest sense so that this isn’t all guys buried on the depth chart. To us, “breakout” means taking the next step in your career and reaching the next level.

You’ll find many names you are already familiar with, and so without further ado, let’s get started!

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Isaiah Mullens
Position: defensive end
Year: junior (we use the official listing from UWBadgers.com’s roster which doesn’t take into account the COVID year until the player takes it)
2020 stats: seven games played, four tackles (two solo), one pass defended

2021 breakout reasons: Looking at last season’s stats from Mullens — a former 3-star recruit from Ohio — pretty much anything more than no stats is a breakout year, right? Which, fine, that is fair. Am I hedging my bet already? Maybe.

But for the sheer fact the Wisconsin defensive front needs to get more pressure on the quarterback, and with Mullens now the presumed starter heading into camp, the defensive end can really look to make a splash this year up front for the Badgers.

Other than senior Matt Hennigsen, Mullens is the only other defensive end with much game action for Wisconsin. The main men as defensive ends last year — Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garret Rand — both graduated, which means it would be time for the 6-foot-4 defensive end to fill the void and get a lot of defensive snaps.

UW struggled to rush the passer at times last season, finishing the year with only 11 sacks. While much of the production statistically in the Badgers’ defensive system comes from the linebackers, Mullens adds size up front enough to disrupt things on the edge.

With younger defensive ends coming in and hopefully creating some decent depth up front, the Badgers will still need some push from a reliable, veteran starter. We know what Henningsen, coming off a season-ended injury, is capable of. We know what Keeanu Benton — another B5Q Breakout Badger candidate — and Bryson Williams can do to create some action in the middle of the defensive line. Mullens can add some push off the other side, and allow the UW front to be a force again this year.

2021 season prediction: I predict Mullens will be the starter for the whole season at defensive end across from Henningsen. Mullens can wreak havoc up front, paving the way for the linebackers, and clean up enough sacks and tackles for loss so the offense still has to worry about the big boys disrupting the play.

Matt Henningsen (No. 92) and Isaiah Mullens (No. 99) at spring practice back in April.
Kelli Steffes; UW Athletics Communications

An productive season for a Badger DE is a huge breakout role for Mullens. And statistically, that means about 20 tackles (five for loss), three sacks and maybe a fumble recovery or forced fumble here or there.

Is that too much to ask? (please God say no).