4. College Football News Preview 2020: Wisconsin Badgers Defense 3 Things To Know
– The defense was special. Coordinator Jim Leonhard – who somehow isn’t someone’s head coach yet – put together a killer that finished fourth in the nation overall and No. 1 in third down defense.
And now 18 of the top 20 tacklers are expected to be back. The two guys missing, though, are big ones.
Zach Baun and Chris Orr were special linebackers, but the Badgers are used to having to replace irreplaceable linebackers – the 2019 D was fantastic despite losing TJ Edwards, Ryan Connelly, and Andrew Van Ginkel.
Baun and Orr combined for 24 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss, and now it’s up to senior Noah Burks to take over as the potential big star on the outside, and for leading tackler Jack Sanborn to be Jack Sanborn again on the inside.
The pass rush will come from several spots – there are just enough options to play around with the rotation – and Sanborn and sophomore Leo Chenal will eat up everything against the run.
– The line might not have a whole slew of brand-name stars, but it’ll be among the nation’s most effective. Seniors Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand aren’t going to be pass rushers, but they’re tough run defenders around 315-pound Keeanu Benton and 300-pound Bryson Williams – who’s coming back from missing half of last year with a knee injury – on the nose.
– Last year’s secondary was promising, but young. It had problems in a few key moments – like with the game on the line against Illinois – and it didn’t come up with enough interceptions in the second half of the season, but it was mostly effective.
There might not be the 51 sacks overall as a D for the defensive backs to help the cause, but all the starters are back with safeties Eric Burrell and Reggie Pearson back after combining for 115 tackles, and the corner combination of Rachad Wildgoose and Faion Hicks among the best in the Big Ten.