Revamped Pass Rush
Wisconsin will have to replace three of their top four pass rushers including both defensive ends this spring. Andrew Van Ginkel, who had 6.5 sacks last season returns at outside linebacker and will again be a big component of the pass rush. But he’ll need help from a number of newcomers.
Fortunately, the 3-4 system works to Wisconsin’s advantage given their personnel and lack of dominant returning pass rushers. By dispersing pass rush responsibilities across two defensive ends and two outside linebackers it puts less pressure on one or two individuals and also gives the advantage of disguising a four-man rush and different blitzes and coverages.
At defensive end, sophomore Isaiahh Loudermilk and junior Garrett Rand, who moved from NT to end, are expected to start. Redshirt freshman Aaron Vopal is also competing for playing time and will have an opportunity to earn more in the spring game.
Former walk-on Tyler Johnson has been getting most of the first-team reps opposite Van Ginkel at outside linebacker. Junior Arrington Farrar, who is one of the Badgers’ best athletes on defense is making the move from inside linebacker to outside this spring as well. His comfort level and development in the new role will be another element to watch for on defense Friday.
Newcomers Taking Advantage of Opportunities on Offense
According to Land of 10’s Jesse Temple, redshirt freshman tight end Jake Ferguson has been “catching everything thrown his way” and has shown that he’s “someone who needs to be on the field next season”. With projected starter, Zander Neuville sidelined by a leg injury this spring, Ferguson has gotten more looks in practice and taken full advantage.
Two of the team’s top three returning wide receivers, Danny Davis and Quintez Cephus are also out for the duration of the spring. Their absence has allowed the pair of early enrollee receivers, Taj Mustapha and Cruickshank to see more reps at wide receiver. Both have impressed — Mustapha with his size at 6’2″ and hands, Cruickshank with his speed.