Anybody with eyes could see that Wisconsin did not match up well with SEC teams Alabama, LSU and Auburn, and yet they are 2-2 against those teams in recent match ups. If not for a miracle come back loss to LSU, the Badgers would be up 3-1.
Alabama, LSU and Auburn have way more physical talent than Wisconsin ever dreamed of having. If you were to switch rosters with any of the three heavies from the SEC with Wisconsin, it would be a blood bath. There’s more talent in some neighborhoods in the South than there is in the entire state of Wisconsin and you might even throw in another Northern state like Minnesota, or Iowa. The only position that the state of Wisconsin will compare, possibly, is the Offensive Line.
There are some huge Offensive Linemen on the farms, or in the backwoods, of any of the Northern states.
Barry Alvarez came along in 1990 and built the program and left a diagram for those that came behind to follow. A solid run game behind huge Offensive Linemen and a rock solid defense. Last year’s team won 11 games following the formula left behind by Alvarez. Alvarez
Last year’s Defensive Coordinator, Justin Wilcox, left to take the head coaching job at Cal Berkeley.
He’d just been at Wisconsin a season after replacing Dave Aranda. Former Badger and NFL Defensive Back Jim Leonhard replaces Wilcox and it’s doubtful there will be any drop off at all. It might even be a better defense and the players really love and respect Leonhard because of what he has done.
Wisconsin lost TJ Watt and Ryan Ramczyk to the NFL with both going in the first round. Linebacker Vince Beigel went in the 4th round.
Watt and Biegel were Linebackers and big losses for the program. Will that slow down the Badgers? Probably not one bit, this team is loaded at Linebacker.
Due to injuries in 2016, the Badgers have basically 4 starters returning at the 2 inside Linebacker positions.
TJ Edwards led the team in tackles, but that was because team leader Jack Cichy went down with a knee injury in game 7 when he was leading.
The very lowest rated recruit in Wisconsin’s 2014 class, Edwards was a Quarterback in high school. Two star recruits aren’t very valuable on recruiting lists and he was a 6-1, 195 Dual Threat Quarterback from Lake Villa, Illinois. Not that many schools recruited him and he once committed to PJ Flecker at Western Michigan until Wisconsin offered. Changing from a Quarterback to a vicious head hunting Inside Linebacker on one of the nation’s best defenses is a story that deserves it’s own post. Now, TJ Edwards is 6-1, 245 and a hitting machine.
Cichy might have an even better story. Nobody wanted him at all coming out of Somerset, Wisconsin. That’s somewhat surprising since he registered 107 tackles as a senior and he is the son of former Notre Dame Defensive Back Steve Cichy. If you are old enough, you remember the Chicken Soup game between Notre Dame and Houston in the Cotton Bowl. Joe Montana gets the credit for leading the Fighting Irish from behind in that game. But, it was Steve Cichy’s return of a blocked punt for a Touchdown that got that come back off and rolling. Chicken Soup game
Cichy came to Wisconsin as a walk-on and earned a scholarship with his play in the summer before the 2015 season. Cichy started 4 games in 2015, and moved into the full time starter in 2016. The now 6-2, 235 Cichy is everywhere on the football field making tackles and being a leader. Cichy
Terry Orr scored the winning Touchdown for the Texas Longhorns versus the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 1982 Cotton Bowl. He is also the father of Zachery Orr who just announced his retirement from the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens because of spinal problems. A son of Terry, Nick, plays Safety at TCU. But, still another son of Terry is Wisconsin Inside Linebacker Chris Orr.
Orr was a starter in 2015 and during the very first play of the very first game of the 2016 season,
Chris injured his knee and was lost for the season. He will be back in 2017 and hungrily looking for playing time.
Chris Orr played high school football at talent rich DeSoto, Texas, but he was only a 3 star and only the 99th best Outside Linebacker prospect in the nation by ESPN. Earning 6 starts as a true freshman pretty much showed everyone that they were wrong about Chris Orr. The kid can play.
Former walk-on Ryan Connelly is yet another success story for the Badgers. Connelly played Quarterback in high school for a powerhouse program in Minnesota, Eden Prairie. Connelly did not throw the ball much, but he was a winner and now is a 6-3, 235 Inside Linebacker for Wisconsin. Like Cichy, Connelly was awarded a scholarship prior to the 2015 season.
Losing Chris Orr and Jack Cichy gave Connelly the playing time and experience as a starter and he finished the 2016 season as 6th on the team in total tackles.
Mason Stokke 6-2, 225: Only a 2 star recruit, Stokke was a true freshman this past season and redshirted. We know what Wisconsin can do with 2 star recruits and walk-ons at Linebacker. Stokke was a 2 way player in high school and ran for over 1,700 yards while making over 180 tackles at Linebacker. 2 star, eh? Right.
Leon Jacobs 6-2, 240: I love this guy. He has not played that much in his time at Wisconsin, but he has switched back and forth between Linebacker and Fullback. He is big, strong and really fast and supposedly, he really wants to play this year and has put in the work. He is rock solid and intimidating in appearance and a really bright young man.
Nick Thomas 6-2, 220: Originally from Kansas, Thomas moved to Bradenton, Florida to play at IMG Academy like so many are doing these days. He was a 3 star recruit and redshirted in 2015 and did not play at all in 2016.
Mike Maskalunas 6-3, 230: Another walk-on to keep an eye on.
Tyler Johnson 6-3, 245: High school Quarterback that led his team to a state championship at Menasha, Wisconsin. I wouldn’t rule any of these guys out.
Losing TJ Watt and Vince Biegel is kind of big, but the talent is there to come up with some solid starters. There is the possibility of moving one of the Inside Linebackers to the Outside such as Jack
Cichy who is very athletic.
Garret Dooley was a rare 4 star recruit for the Badgers and is back for his last season. Because of injury, he started a couple of games in 2016. He played enough last season to finish 8th on the team in tackles with 40. Dooley is 6-3, 250 from Rochester, Illinois and didn’t start because of the presence of stars Watt and Biegel. But, he is a talent in his own right.
Zach Baun came to Wisconsin as a 3 star Dual Threat Quarterback from Brown Deer, Wisconsin. He’s now a 6-3, 230 Outside Linebacker that showed a lot of talent in a limited role last year. Baun was a super talented high school player that threw for a lot of yardage in high school. Plus he was a track star. This guy is a talented athlete and will likely demonstrate that this season.
But, he will possibly have to beat out exciting Alabama transfer Christian Bell who was a former 4 star recruit for the Tide. Speaking of winners, Bell played high school football, basketball and indoor and outdoor track at Hoover High School which is just outside of Birmingham. He was on a total of 9 state championship teams in high school. That’s beyond incredible. Bell is about 6-4, 250 and is obviously an outstanding athlete.
Andrew Van Ginkel 6-4, 230: Transfer in the 2017 class from Iowa Western College. He started off at South Dakota and was outstanding and he decided to try and move up. Van Ginkel is good and probably doesn’t stand on the sideline.
Max Praschak 6-2, 205: Walk-on. Saw a little playing time after redshirting as a freshman.
Hegeman Tiedt 6-4, 237: Another walk-on, but he has the physical size to possibly contribute.
Griffin Grady 6-3, 220: Fantastic Linebacker prospect out of Dublin, Ohio. These are the kind of guys that Ohio State used to take. Grady played in almost every game as a true freshman and will continue pushing for playing time.
Izayah Green-May 6-6, 215: 3 star incoming recruit from Bolingbrook, Illinois. Green-May will need to bulk up, but look for great things out of him.
Noah Burks 6-2, 240: Another 3 star recruit and this one from Carmel, Indiana. He was a super productive high school football player. This is the kind of player that Wisconsin develops into a top player.
Kendrick Preston 6-4, 255: Preston was also a 3 star recruit, but he was listed as a Defensive End. He’s huge for an Outside Linebacker and he can run. He is the future at Outside Linebacker for Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Badgers have built a very competitive program and they have done it with very little talent according to the recruiting services. Linebackers are what they are mostly known for. If you like a team that throws the ball around and beats teams 50 to 48, Wisconsin may not be the team you want to watch.
But, if you want to watch a team that runs the ball with a few throws mixed in, plus some great hard hitting defense, then watch Wisconsin