Badgers Bye Week Report Card - Wisconsin Defensive Line

Badgers Bye Week Report Card - Wisconsin Defensive Line

Football

Badgers Bye Week Report Card - Wisconsin Defensive Line

The Positives

Going into the season, Wisconsin was going to be known for being young on the defensive side of the ball, especially on the line. Senior nose tackle Olive Sagapolu is the only senior in the trenches. Though it isn’t easy being a playmaker in the middle of the line, dealing with double teams and wham blocks, Sagapolu is a play creator, helping his secondary be unblocked and making the plays near the line of scrimmage. But the big fella is still eating at the line, hauling down a couple tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack early on in the season.

However, Sagapolu can’t be a one-man show. He has to rely this season on the young guys playing with him on the field. Freshmen Kayden Lyles, Matt Henningsen and Bryson Williams have all given a helping hand on the field, maintaining their gap responsibility and doing their job. It’s a lot to ask of young guys to play right away; being thrown into the fire. Some players may crumble to the challenges placed in front of them, but these young men have been handling themselves well.

Injuries before the season hurt the Badgers’ defensive line, with sophomore defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk slowed with a knee injury and junior defensive end Garrett Rand out with Achilles injury. Luckily there was some light at the end of the tunnel since Loudermilk only missed one game and has worked his way back into the swing of things.

The Negatives

The main issue that has been seen by the line is the lack of backfield pressure. Last year’s group averaged over a sack and three tackles for loss. Throughout four games, the group has combined for one sack and four tackles for loss, the majority of that coming from Sagapolu.

As mentioned before, all the weight cannot be put on one man’s shoulders. The young players on the edges need to be more productive with their opportunities. Something that defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield preaches is that there are always opportunities on the field to make a play, but it always depends on how much you want it and how much effort you are willing to give to go get it.

Last year it was a senior-dominated defensive line; Connor Sheehy, Alec James, and Chikwe Obasih. These three, including Sagapolu, had the experience and knowledge needed in order to play Wisconsin Football.  These young players have a lot to learn quickly this season if they want to be successful.

Another issue needed to be fixed is winning the battle up front. There have been times where the defensive line has been knocked back and lost ground when the ball is snapped. It all begins at the moment of the snap; there needs to be an explosion and some knockback. Without explosion with your hips, it becomes more difficult for a defensive lineman to get the advantage. Footwork needs to come into play, too. You can have great explosion and good knockback but you’re doomed if you don’t bring your feet with you. Your feet are what saves. For example on a cut block, in order to defeat it, you need to either explode out and stick the offensive lineman or have quick feet to be able to stay with the block. UW’s ends need to improve in this department.

Overall

Though the Badgers are young up front in the trenches, there is a lot of potential for these players to improve and become a dominating force in the future. This season, the outlook for the defensive line is to keep on improving and learning from each game, giving all-out effort and leaving it all out there. These young players will need to look for leadership and Sagapolu needs to be there at center stage, ready to rally the troops, answer any questions they may have and hold them accountable. Over time they will gradually become better every week, but there needs to be more production up front. It all can’t rely on one man.

Grade: C+

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