Wisconsin Badgers' Positional Previews: Linebackers
We are about two months away from the first home game of the season against Utah State, on a Friday at Camp Randall Stadium. In a defense now run by former defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard, who hopefully will be a longer term solution than former coordinators Dave Aranda and Justin Wilcox, is now in charge of the 3-4. Today, I'll be discussing the linebackers, who still have some great talent despite the losses of TJ Watt and Vince Biegel.
OLB: Garrett Dooley (RS SR), Zack Baun (RS SO)
ILB: TJ Edwards (RS JR), Ryan Connelly (RS JR)
ILB: Chris Orr (JR), Leon Jacobs (RS SR)
OLB: Jack Cichy (RS SR), Andrew Van Ginkel (JR, Transfer from South Dakota)
So there are still quite a few familiar names here, and one of the biggest question marks of the entire off-season has been how are we going to fill in the shoes of Watt and Biegel? Dooley and Baun have both seen action before, and going to be the two main guys outside. Also, with Jack Cichy returning from injury this season, he's also a candidate to play outside as well. For one, Cichy has played on the outside before (most notably the three sacks against USC in the bowl game two years ago). Also, the ILB depth is much better than the OLB depth.
The inside linebackers also get two returning players, ILB Chris Orr who was impressive as a freshman before going down for the year in the first game of last season, and Leon Jacobs, who was a starter a few years ago. Jacobs went from starting, to the bench, to fullback, and now is back at the linebacker position. Jacobs and Connelly, along with Cichy, are probably the best backup ILB's in the Big Ten, and maybe the country. And don't forget about the leader of this group, junior ILB TJ Edwards, who has been a steady force in the middle.
The last member of this group is junior transfer Andrew Van Ginkel from South Dakota. Van Ginkel was a heavily recruited star in South Dakota, and Iowa was the most notable team we beat out for him. Look at him to find his way onto the turf this season. As far as true freshmen are concerned, keep an eye out for Izayah Green-May out of Bolingbrook, Illinois.