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Wisconsin Preview 2006 - Defense
Wisconsin Badgers
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 1, 2006


Wisconsin Badgers Preview 2006 - Wisconsin Defense

What you need to know ... The potential is there for a fantastic season if everyone stays healthy and all the young players live up to their talent. The defensive line went through major problems last year thanks to injuries and inexperience, but all the pains will pay off with a deep, experienced, and very, very good group returning with several potential all-star talents led by tackle Nick Hayden. The back seven has rock-solid experience in the middle with Mark Zalewski at linebacker and safeties Joe Stellmacher and Roderick Rogers at safety. There's a flashy young talent on the outside needing sophomore corners Jack Okegwuonu and Allen Langford to stay healthy and sophomore outside linebackers DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas to be major disruptive forces.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Joe Stellmacher, 90
Sacks: Joe Monty, 3.5
Interceptions: Roderick Rogers, 3

Star of the defense: Senior LB Mark Zalewski
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore CB Jonathan Casillas
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Jack Ikegwuonu
Best pro prospect: Junior DT Nick Hayden
Top three all-star candidates: 1)
LB Mark Zalewski, 2) SS Joe Stellmacher, 3) Hayden
Strength of the defense: Defensive line, safety
Weakness of the defense:
Overall youth, linebacker size.

Defensive Line
Very, very quietly, this might be one of the Big Ten's best defensive lines by the end of the year. It suffered through major problems last season with youth and injuries preventing any sort of consistency with little to no pass rush throughout the conference season and not nearly enough production against the run. On the positive side, several young players were thrown to the wolves and got their feet wet. The strength is at tackle where Jason Chapman, Nick Hayden, and Justin Ostrowski, if they're healthy, have All-Big Ten potential. Matthew Shaughnessy and Jamal Cooper should be decent pass rushers if they can return healthy from torn ACLs, and Joe Monty is a steady all-around end on the left side.
The key to the unit: Get all the players in the mix. The Badgers have eight good linemen to rotate, so finding the right combination will be a must to generate more pressure and be far more consistent.
Defensive Line Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- DE Joe Monty, Sr. - 30 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 2 quarterback hurries
The brother of all-time leading tackler Pete Monty has become a decent end with good pass rushing skills. More of a bulked up linebacker than a typical Big Ten end, Monty uses his quickness and athleticism to make plays.

- DT Jason Chapman, Soph. - 27 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 6 quarterback hurries
The rising star of the line, the 283-pound sophomore fought his was through injuries to have a strong freshman season. He's quick enough to play end, which he'll do in short yardage situations to add some bulk up front. He has the potential to be a pass rushing force from the inside, but he needs to keep hitting the weights and has to get stronger.

- DT Nick Hayden, Jr. - 56 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 9 TFL, 4 broken up passes, 2 quarterback hurries, 3 recovered fumbles
One of the few UW linemen able to get through last season without a problem, Hayden had a huge year earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. He's the biggest tackle in the mix at 6-5 and 310 pounds with the quickness to be a steady disruptive force in the backfield. He'll once again be the anchor of the line.

- DE Matthew Shaughnessy, Soph. - 39 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 2 broken up passes, 5 quarterback hurries
The sky's the limit for the true sophomore. He's a tall, thin 6-6, 227-pound speedster who's trying to return from a torn ACL suffered late last season. He'll combine Jamal Cooper, who also suffered a knee injury, as the team's top pass rusher. If both are healthy, Shaughnessy will start, but he's two months behind Cooper in rehab.

Top Backups
- DE Jamal Cooper, Jr. - 7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
The 206-pound junior is used for his speed and pass rushing potential on the right end along with Matthew Shaughnessy. He's looking to get back to form on and off the field after suffering a torn ACL early last season and with an upcoming one game suspension for the Bowling Green game because his grades weren't where the coaching staff wanted them to be.
- DE Kurt Ware, Jr. - 25 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL 3 broken up passes, 4 quarterback hurries
The team's most versatile lineman, the 279-pound Ware is big enough to play tackle and with the athleticism to start at end if needed once he returns from a knee injury suffered this spring after looking all but unstoppable. The former tight end is a bigger option on the left side than the 258-pound Joe Monty.
- DT Justin Ostrowski, Jr. - 3 tackles
The star recruit of a few years ago has yet to do much thanks to a slew of injuries. When healthy, the 308-pound junior is more than good enough to start and will push Jason Chapman hard for starting time on the left side.
- DT Mike Newkirk, Soph. - 23 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 TFL
A very small, very active tackle, the 251-pound sophomore proved he could handle himself well when injuries struck the line. While he's build like a defensive end, he's strong enough to handle himself well inside with too much quickness for most guards.

Linebackers
It's a small, quick, and very promising group that needs some young players to quickly shine. The loss of leading tackler Dontez Sanders hurts from a leadership standpoint, but the Badgers should easily make up for his 95 tackles of lost production with the class of 2005 ready to shine. The heralded haul of Jonathan Casillas, DeAndre Levy, Elijah Hodge and O'Brien Schofield should break through and be top producers around senior star Mark Zalewski. While he's not a highlight reel playmaker, Zalewski should be one of the Big Ten's best linebackers.
The key to the unit: The promising young prospects have to live up to the hype, while Mark Zalewski has to be an All-Big Ten caliber producer to bring everything together.
Linebacker Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- DeAndre Levy, Soph. - 18 tackles, 1 sack
Able to play either outside linebacker spot, the 220-pound sophomore moved from the weakside to the strongside where his size, compared to the other Badger linebackers, should help out against the run. Even so, he has to prove he can stay healthy with the physical demands of the position after getting knocked out this spring with a groin injury.

- Mark Zalewski, Sr. - 83 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 12.5 TFL

One of the team's best tacklers over the last two seasons with 138 stops, he's able to play either on the strongside or in the middle. He's the leader of the defense and should hover around the 100-stop mark in his second year in the middle. The biggest linebacker in the mix at 236 pounds, he's expected to grow into an All-Big Ten star.

- Jonathan Casillas, Soph. - 10 tackles
Casillas will move from the strongside to the weakside to make better use of his athleticism. A safety-sized 6-2 and 208 pounds, his speed should make him one of the team's most productive all-around defenders once he figures out what he's doing.

Top Backups
- Paul Joran, Sr. - 2 tackles
The team's most versatile linebacker, he's a strong 228 pounds and can play inside, and he has just enough quickness to not be horrible on the weakside. He's best suited for the strongside where he'll backup DeAndre Levy and will have to push for playing time with so many good young prospects battling for work.
- Elijah Hodge, RFr.
Even though he's only 220 pounds, he hits like a ton of brick and will be used mostly on key running downs. He'll play behind Mark Zalewski and will be among the team's top tacklers when he takes over in 2007.

Defensive Backs
The potential is there for this to be a decent secondary as the season goes on if young cornerbacks Allen Langford and Jack Ikegwuonu can stay healthy. Injuries could be a problem with limited depth on the outside, but the safety situation should be strong with Joe Stellmacher and Roderick Rogers good enough to be in the hunt for All-Big Ten honors. Shane Carter is an emerging playmaker at free safety behind Rogers, and Johnny White is a reliable run defender.
The key to the unit: The mix of veteran safeties and promising young corners have to form a consistent group that improves on the 250 yards per game allowed last year.
Secondary Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- CB Allen Langford, Soph. - 39 tackles, 2 interceptions, 4 broken up passes
While not as big as fellow corner Jack Ikegwuono on the other side, Langford is a physical corner who should be fine at the starting job on the left side. He's not a true shut-down defender, at least not yet, but he has good ball skills and should be better after an inconsistent first season.

- SS Joe Stellmacher, Sr. - 90 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 broken up passes
The Academic All-Big Ten performer should start to make more All-Big Ten noise on the field after earning honorable mention honors. He's a big 222-pound hitter who finished second on the team in tackles and isn't that bad against the pass. At his size, he's bigger than most of the team's linebackers.

- FS Roderick Rogers, Sr. - 56 tackles, 3 interceptions, 11 broken up passes
It took a little while before he figured out what he was doing, and then he became a big-time playmaker at free safety. The 6-2, 186-pound senior has fantastic range and is a big hitter. Consistency will be the key needing to always be in the right position and he must be as strong against the pass as he was over the second half of last season.

- CB Jack Ikegwuonu, Soph. - 26 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 broken up passes
Coming off a strong freshman season when he tied for the team lead in interceptions, the 6-1, 199-pound sophomore should be the team's top corner with a great combination of size and quickness. While not a burner, he has the all-around skills against the run as well as against number one receivers to be in for a strong year if he doesn't have problems with a hamstring injury.

Top Backups
- SS Johnny White, Sr. - 28 tackles, 1 interception
He hits like a linebacker, but he also covers like one. The 223-pound senior has enough experience to step in for Joe Stellmacher if needed and should be a key defender on running plays.
- CB Zach Hampton, Sr. - 23 tackles, 1 interception
A top special teamer so far, he's talented enough to push for one of the starting spots once he's healthy after suffering a heel injury. He's a nice athlete who can play safety if needed.
- FS Shane Carter, Soph.
The no limit on how good he can become. At 6-2 and 200 pounds, he can either be a big corner or a fast safety playing behind Roderick Rogers. While he's still a little raw, he might be too good to keep off the field.

Special Teams
The kicking game will be as good as it gets in the Big Ten with All-America candidate Ken DeBauche sure to be on the Ray Guy short list and PK Taylor Mehlhoff reliable from inside 45 yards. The Badgers led the Big Ten and were tenth in the nation in punt returns thanks to Brandon Williams, but his loss is eased by the talented Marcus Randle El. Jarvis Minton and Zach Hampton will handle the kickoff returns.
The key to the unit: Hope for PK Taylor Mehlhoff and P Ken DeBauche to be as good as last year and for Marcus Randle El to be the real deal returning punts.
Special Teams Rating: 9

Projected Starters
- PK Taylor Mehlhoff, Jr. - 14-20 FGs, 56-58 extra points
Mehlhoff came up with a solid season nailing 14 of 17 field goal attempts inside 40 yards with three of his misses coming from beyond 50. He has the leg for it, and now he has to prove he can be consistent from deep.
- P Ken DeBauche, Jr. - 57 kicks, 2,555 yds, 44.8 yards per kick, 22 inside the 20
One of the nation's best punters, DeBauche is a big 6-2 and 221 pounds with a consistently big leg. He has averaged 43.3 yards per kick over the last two years while putting 39 kicks inside the 20.

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