The defense is going to look very different in 2022. Eight starters will be graduating or leaving and that means someone needs to step up and be a leader. This means that Jim Leonhard is going to have to remake his defense with new starters. Despite losing many key contributors the Badgers will have a few familiar faces returning. The Badgers X-Factor on defense this season is Nick Herbig.
This coming season, Herbig needs to be the leader of this defense. Between the returns of starters Keeanu Benton and Isaiah Mullens, Herbig is the most important contributor coming back. The 3-4 defense relies on quality linebacker play and Herbig gives the Badgers that against the run and the pass. The ability for a linebacker to do be good against both phases of offense is huge. It’s a reason why the Badgers defense was the best in the nation this season. Also, his infectious energy is what is going to make the Badgers thrive in big moments.
Last season, Nick Herbig was a big part of Wisconsin’s “Death Row” defense. He burst onto the scene in a big way recording 64 tackles, nine sacks, two forced fumbles, and recovering one of them. He also had 14.5 tackles for a loss as well. In the Las Vegas Bowl, while Braelon Allen won the MVP award for the game, it can be argued that Herbig could have earned it. In that game, Herbig had seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, and two sacks. If anything, Nick Herbig was the best defensive player on the field that game.
Coming into the 2022 season, Nick Herbig is the best player on the Badgers’ defense. Aside from Keeanu Benton, Herbig has the most starting experience out of everyone in the room. While other players have been productive in backup or situational roles, Herbig has been thriving as a starter. This season, it seemed as though he never left the field on defense. His efforts this season were rewarded with a Big-Ten Honorable Mention. While his early success has been terrific; expectations are only getting higher. Herbig will need to continue to raise his game for the Badgers to be successful on defense.
Nobody should be expecting the Badgers to duplicate or top what they did on defense last season. However, in order to be competitive and successful, Herbig must be the one making it all go. Wisconsin is going to need that infectious energy that he displayed every Saturday last season. The Badgers have a history of being successful defensively when their linebackers are making big plays. In spite of losing many starters, the expectations will not change. Herbig is the best player on this defense and he’ll be the one that determines just how good it will be this season.