The Bret Bielema era is done, but the players he recruited and coached to a Big Ten Championship last year still remain. Six of those guys are returning senior starters up front for Wisconsin’s defense.
The coaching staff may have new faces, but the defensive front will be nearly the same this season for the Badgers. Wisconsin does lose linebacker Mike Taylor, who started almost 50 games for the Badgers in his career. Taylor’s departure will hurt, but with a plethora of seniors still around, there will be plenty of leadership in the Badgers’ locker room.
With Taylor gone, I see middle linebacker Chris Borland as the new senior leader of this team. Borland was second to Taylor in tackles last season with 104 despite missing two games with a hamstring injury.
In addition to Borland and fellow linebacker Ethan Armstrong, the Badgers return a group of defensive lineman which recorded 15 sacks in 2012. Wisconsin’s five senior linemen can all stop the run, especially DT Beau Allen. Allen anchors the run defense with his monstrous 6-foot-3, 333 pound frame, and can rush the passer too–he recorded 2.5 sacks last year for the Badgers.
With issues in the secondary, the Badgers’ run defense will have more pressure on them this season. The front seven were good enough to rank 24th in the nation against the run last year and need to be even stronger in 2013 to cover up the secondary’s potential pitfalls.
Will they be the best in the conference? That’s hard to say at this point with other strong defenses in the Big Ten such as Michigan State and Ohio State, but the Badgers will give any team a run for their money this season.
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