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Wisconsin Badgers 2018 Spring Football Preview: Defensive Line

Wisconsin looks to replace two-thirds of its starting defensive line in 2018, what does Spring camp hold for a vital but not-attention grabbing position?

Finally, Spring has sorta sprung on least in terms of the football side of things. UW started Spring football earlier this week and we are continuing to bring you a look inside each position as things get going.

With this being the 4th season of the Paul Chryst era, Spring football seems to be a well-oiled machine for the Cardinal and White. What’s in store for the two-time reigning Big Ten West division and New Year’s Six bowl game champs? Let’s just say even in a year of transition the expectations are nothing short of a shot at the Big Ten championship once again.

Previous Previews: Quarterback | Cornerback | Offensive Line |

As Spring Football gets going inside the Dave McClain Center, it’s a good time to look at what to expect from each position this Spring. Up today is a look at the most underrated part of Jim Leonhard’s defense — the line.

Defensive Line Preview:

Returning Starter(s): NG Olive Sagapolu (Sr.)

Other Scholarship Players: Kraig Howe, DE (Jr.); Isaiahh Loudermilk, DE (So.); David Pfaff, DE (Jr.); Keldric Preston, DE (So.); Garrett Rand, DE (Jr.); Aaron Vopal, DE (RS-Fr.); Bryson Williams, NG (Fr.)

Reason to Watch This Position: Who Steps Up on the Outside

Spring football is all about competition and figuring out positions heading in to the fall. After three years of pretty much understanding the players and depth chart before Spring ball even got started, all of that changes in 2018. Wisconsin not only graduated both starting defensive ends, but also the primary backup too.

What is left on the roster is a group that is light on experience, but heavy on potential. Isaiahh Loudermilk was becoming a force for this team before injury slowed him down in his redshirt freshman season, while Aaron Vopal has apparently taken the bull by the horns in the early parts of spring ball. Garrett Rand is also likely to figure in at defensive end as long as other pieces fall in to place in the middle of the defensive line. Meanwhile you’ve got an early enrollee looking for playing time behind the lone veteran presence at nose guard in Bryson Williams and apparently doing well enough that Rand to the outside looks like a sure-thing.

Overall, this group is dripping with potential, and this camp is going to be all about who can tap in to it the fastest.

Player to Watch: Bryson Williams

With the departure of Billy Hirschfeld from the defensive end position, it is likely that Garrett Rand is moving to the outside this season. That leaves a major hole behind the criminally underrated Sagapolu at nose guard. However, one of the most underrated recruits in UW’s 2018 class happens to be at the position and an early enrollee as well. Bryson Williams was stolen right from under Nebraska’s nose and he’ll slot right in behind Sagapolu for reps in spring ball. Luckily for Wisconsin, he comes in as one of the most “college ready” bodies the Badgers have from any early enrollee. If Williams can solidify that he’s really ready for a role in the two-deep it also will help the Badgers be confident in moving Rand to the outside permanently.

Projected Depth Chart:

DE: Isaiahh Loudermilk, Keldric Preston
NG: Olive Sagapolu, Bryson Williams
DE: Garrett Rand, Aaron Vopal

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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