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Opportunity knocks in wake of Cichy’s injury

With Jack Cichy out for the season, opportunity knocks for a few players who were likely buried on the Badgers depth chart.

This hasn’t been the Wisconsin Badgers’ week. First they announced the cancellation of Saturday’s practice in Milwaukee due to weather concerns. Now, news broke this morning that star inside linebacker Jack Cichy is out for the year with a torn ACL.

While the injury stinks, there is plenty of talent at the position and sophomore Chris Orr was considered as a 1b option at both starting linebacker positions heading in to fall camp.

Ironically, Orr went in to 2016 as a starter, but blew his ACL on the first play of the game against LSU. In stepped Cichy and little-known Ryan Connelly and the rest was history.

But, there’s no doubt losing Cichy means a re-shuffling of the linebacker rotation just as things were looking to get settled. Orr stepping in was obvious, but what happens behind Orr and T.J. Edwards then?

Sadly, Cichy isn’t the only inside linebacker to miss time during fall camp. One of the expected risers out of spring, Griffin Grady, hasn’t seen the field yet this fall camp due to an undisclosed illness.

With both of those two individuals out, head coach Paul Chryst now sees plenty of opportunity at a loaded position group.

In fact, it may help to speed of up the development of guys like Arrington Farrar and walk-on Mike Maskalunas. Those were two names Chryst singled out when talking about what is next at the position.

“Those are those windows of opportunities for those guys,” Chryst said, via Badger247. “Arrington Farrar has a chance to get reps. Like the way Mike Maskalunas has come in and worked. It will be good to get Griffin (Griffin Grady) back. That’s good work them, they have to take advantage of that.”

Farrar may be the most interesting of the bunch. A converted safety, Farrar moved to inside linebacker simply because he couldn’t stop putting on weight and outgrew the position he was recruited to play at UW.

He apparently has been a quick understudy though, because by the end of spring Farrar was seeing some second team reps and those numbers only increased as fall camp goes on.

What appeared to be a season-in-waiting and likely a redshirt year, could be Farrar seeing the field in a meaningful way in 2017.

Maskalunas was perhaps the most talked about defensive name not named Nick Nelson this spring. He wreaked havoc on both Karé Lyles and Jack Coan in spring drills, often coming up on the stat sheet with interceptions and pass break ups.

So, lest you think depth is at all a concern, the Badgers will be just fine. By my count, they have at least four linebackers they would feel comfortable with and a fifth that has shined in limited snaps to date.

If losing players to the NFL or injury on this defense has taught UW anything over the past few years…it would be that the next man up is usually more than ready to take the opportunity and shine.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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