The Wisconsin Badgers are successful because of their inside linebacker play. Even during the weird 2020 season, their inside linebacker position was still amazing. Wisconsin consistently churns NFL-ready linebackers. Returning for next season are starters Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal. Both provided high-level play last season.
The Big Returners
Sanborn followed up his strong 2019 season with another great performance. Coming into the season, Sanborn had additional responsibilities once Chris Orr departed. Sanborn thrived and would earn all-conference third-team honors.
After being a rotational player in 2019, Leo Chenal was expected to take over one of the vacated linebacker spots. Chenal thrived as a starter in just his second year and went on to lead the Badgers in sacks.
The Wisconsin Badgers have gotten impact play from walk-on Mike Maskalunas. He appeared in five games last year and was solid in stopping runs and making quality contributions on special teams.
I’m expecting Sanborn to be the leader of this group again. Chenal should continue to grow. Sanborn and Chenal are going to be big parts of the Badger defense. Their tackling workload might get heavier with less experience along the defensive front. Despite the challenge, both players are built for adversity.
The depth behind Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal is questionable. Mike Maskalunas returns, but the players behind him are unproven. Maema Njongmeta, Malik Reed, Jordan Turner, and Preston Zachman hardly played. Walk-on Tatum Grass contributed mostly to special teams.
The Badgers landed the four-star recruit Braelon Allen but he might be switching over to safety. They also landed three-star recruits in Bryan Sanborn and Jake Chaney. Bryan is also the younger brother of Jack.
This is the strongest position on the Badgers defense. With Sanborn and Maskalunas departing after this season, I am curious to see which young linebacker group takes over in 2022.