Whether or not the weather will cooperate, the Wisconsin Badgers have rung Spring in with a few practices to date. Along with that we continue to dive in to every position and give you the need-to-know information for the 2018 version of the Badgers.
Up today is a look at perhaps the most loaded position on the UW roster – inside linebacker.
Inside Linebacker Preview:
Returning Starter(s): T.J. Edwards (Sr.); Ryan Connelly (Sr.)
Other Scholarship Players: Griffin Grady (So.); Mike Maskalunas (So.); Chris Orr (Jr.); Mason Stokke (So.)
Reason to Watch This Position: Connelly vs. Orr
There are very few one-on-one position battles for the Badgers this Spring, but the starting job opposite of returning senior All-American T.J. Edwards is one such battle. We’ve got returning starter Ryan Connelly and fellow returning starter Chris Orr vying for the starting gig again this year.
Connelly went from an afterthought to starter over the last two years thanks to solid play when called upon in a pinch, while Orr has battle to stay healthy enough to regain his starting position. Both bring a hard-nosed attitude to the position and both are very experienced. Who wins? It may come down to who shows the coaching staff they are improving any areas of weakness they have..and they don’t have many of those.
Amazingly, Connelly led the team with 88 tackles last season while Orr 36 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception and 2 sacks in just 12 games last season. Is it conceivable that the leading tackler from a season ago loses his starting gig? It could be given the fact that Orr has started when completely healthy in the past.
No matter who wins, the Badgers have themselves two quality linebackers that are virtually interchangeable. Let’s just say it’s a really good problem to have.
Player to Watch: Griffin Grady
If you don’t think Spring football will matter much at this position, then you didn’t pay attention last year. A great Spring catapulted one Mike Maskalunas from unknown to important piece of the puzzle. This year could have the same effect for sophomore Griffin Grady.
The depth chart was really deep last season, but with Nick Thomas’ departure and Arrington Farrar moving to outside linebacker, there is room for Grady to make a bigger impact. It doesn’t hurt that he’s been doing all the right things behind the scenes either. Grady sat out last season as a redshirt after seeing action in 12 games as a true freshman and making 4 tackles in the process.
I fully expect that Grady will break out of the pack as a potential starter in 2019 and put himself in the conversation for a lot of snaps in 2018 as well. He’s got the make up of a classic UW inside linebacker and let’s see if that year off pays dividends. Early indications from camp suggest he is standing out when on the field.
Projected Depth Chart:
ILB: T.J. Edwards, Griffin Grady
ILB: Ryan Connelly; Chris Orr