On Tuesday, news broke from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that presumed starting defensive ends Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand have sustained injuries in summer workouts already.
Jeff Potrykus’s reporting indicates not only did both sustain injuries, but both could be problematic heading in to the 2018 season. According to the report, Loudermilk’s situation is a knee issue, one that required surgery following spring ball. The good news there is it appears he is on a positive road in his recovery.
“Isaiahh is going through (rehab) and we’ll see where he is at with it,” Chryst said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Isaiahh has been doing more, which is good.”
Rand’s issue could be massive though, as reports indicate he has suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon and could miss the entire 2018 season. That would seem to indicate a potential tear, but nothing official came from Chryst’s answers to questions while in River Falls, Wis. earlier in the week.
“Garrett will be further away. I haven’t gotten the official update.”
It’s a huge blow to a defense undergoing a major transition. Just four starters return period on defense for second-year defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard. That includes both starting defensive ends and the third member of the rotation, as Alec James, Chikwe Obasih and Conor Sheehy all graduated.
That left just two players with any real experience at the end position — Loudermilk and Rand.
Both Rand and Loudermilk were productive members of the 2017 defense, especially in Loudermilk’s case when he was healthy. As a freshman, Loudermilk put up 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and 1 pass break up in a reserve role in 11 games. Rand had 13 tackles and 2 quarterback hurries playing behind three seniors last year.
Should neither be a go to start the season, that would leave redshirt freshman Aaron Vopal as the most known commodity in the Badgers end rotation. He was the third option most of the spring, while names like Keldric Preston, Kraig Howe and David Pfaff need to show they can be reliable options.
That didn’t seem to be the case for large parts of spring ball, and that puts pressure on a very small potential rotation of players at a position that has been key to keeping the Badgers at the top of the defensive rankings nationally over the past few years.
One name that could be intriguing and provide the help needed is incoming freshman Isaiah Mullens, who is listed at 6-5 and 290 pounds coming in to the program.
Defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield raved about his physical ability, and it could be a welcome sight given the lack of known players at the position as we speak.
“Physically he is a specimen,” Breckterfield said to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He benches over 400 pounds and squats the world. He will come in physically ready.
“I’m going to throw a lot of reps at him in the fall to see if he can figure it out. It will be fun.”
If Mullens can step in and handle the reps and mental side of the game, the Badgers may be able to handle any issues that come as a result of the potential loss of both penciled-in starters at defensive end. If not, this position may be under the microscope in a way it hasn’t been since the transition to the 3-4 defense happened prior to the 2012 season.