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!
Name: Nick Herbig
Position: outside linebacker
Year: sophomore (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: 26 tackles, six tackles for loss, one sack, and one fumble recovery in seven games.
2021 breakout reasons: Nick Herbig’s ability to snag a starting spot as a true freshman was historic in many ways, but I believe his potential makes him a prime candidate to put together a much bigger season in 2021.
Herbig came to Madison with a lot of fanfare after signing with the Badgers out of Hawaii as a consensus 4-star recruit. He opted to join the team a semester early to participate in spring practices as an early enrollee and quickly gained the respect and trust of his teammates and the coaching staff.
In his first year on campus, Herbig displayed a knack for getting into the backfield in all seven starts and was routinely one of the team's best pass rushers. However, as a team, Wisconsin struggled to consistently generate a pass rush. Overall the Badgers finished the season ranked No. 100 across the NCAA in quarterback sacks and No. 93 in tackles for loss.
If Wisconsin wants to further improve their defense in 2021 the pass rush will be a vital component, and that this point Herbig appears to be the player with the most talent and upside to breakthrough and make a big leap.
Herbig is a twitchy athlete with a tireless motor that, when paired with his burst and tenacity off the edge, makes him tough to account for. Players tend to make tremendous strides after their first year with the Badgers, making Herbig a player likely to make an even greater impact with added strength and improved hands. Herbig’s experience from a year ago should help him elevate his game in 2021.
2021 season prediction: It is very easy to say that Nick Herbig already broke out last season, but I think he would have liked to have added a few more sacks and big plays for the defense from his edge spot. Last season he ranked fourth on the team in total tackles and second on the team in tackles for a loss, and I would not be surprised if he repeated that this fall.
With that in mind, assuming he stays healthy, I don’t think it is crazy to think that Herbig could put together a stat line similar to what Andrew Van Ginkel had in 2018. I’m extremely high on what Herbig brings to the defense, and will take a wild guess that he has 60 tackles, 11+ tackles for loss, eight sacks, and a pair of crucial forced fumbles in 2021. Those numbers would likely put him in consideration for post-season recognition in the Big Ten and would definitely give the Wisconsin defense a big boost off the edge.