Film Evaluation: The Wisconsin Defense

GoBlueWolverine's Josh Turel breaks down the Wisconsin defense by analyzing the Badger personnel, schemes, and tendencies.

Statistical Leaders:

Joe Stellmacher: 25 tackles, one interception
Mark Zalewski: 25 tackles, 2.5 for loss, two sacks
Jonathan Casillas: 23 tackles, 4.5 for loss

Defensive Strategy:

The Badgers play mostly from a 4-3 stack front, but will mix in some 3-3-5 looks in passing situations. This is a mildly aggressive unit and they like to blitz with middle linebacker Mark Zalewski.  They also like to bring pressure off the edge with the outside linebackers or strong safety Joe Stellmacher. Sometimes that edge pressure will come in the form of a zone blitz, in which case they'd drop an end in coverage.

Like Central Michigan, you won’t see much substitution in nickel and dime situations. Wisconsin moves weakside linebacker Jonathan Casillas over the slot receiver in nickel situations and kicks out SAM linebacker DeAndre Levy against four wide sets. This philosophy likely comes from the athleticism at linebacker and the lack of depth/experience at cornerback. #25 Shane Carter and #23 Paul Joran will be the occasional subs in these situations and when the team uses the 3-3-5 look.   

Defensive Line

Left Defensive End
#95 Joe Monty  6-2, 260, Sr.
OR #34 Kurt Ware 6-4, 283, Jr.
OR #5 Jamal Cooper  6-4, 206, Jr.

Right Defensive End
#92 Matthew Shaughnessy  6-6, 234, So.
#5 Jamal Cooper  6-4, 206, Jr.
#56 Brandon Kelly  6-4, 251, Jr.
Left Defensive Tackle
#91 Jason Chapman  6-4, 282, So.
#54 Mike Newkirk  6-3, 261, So.
#93 Mark Gorman  6-4, 277, Sr.
Right Defensive Tackle
#96 Nick Hayden  6-5, 311, Jr.
#54 Mike Newkirk  6-3, 261, So.

This is a deep and talented unit up front for the Badgers. It all starts in the middle with tackles Nick Hayden and Jason Chapman. Hayden plays the anchor role well, but can also get up field and make plays. He plays a similar style to that of Ohio State defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock. Chapman got a trial under fire last year when the defensive line was under-manned because of injury.  Despite his inexperience, he played well. He doesn’t have the anchoring skills that Hayden does, but he is much more athletic. Also expect Mike Newkirk to get some reps in the middle. He is undersized but he offers quickness inside when the Badgers slant the line.

The defensive end position lacks star power but has great depth. Sophomore Matthew Shaughnessy was impressive as a true freshman before going down to injury later in the year. He has the frame, arm length and quickness to really develop into a pass rushing threat but needs to start exerting himself. The Badgers run line movements to his side in an effort to take advantage of his quickness. The other end spot will be a steady rotation of Joe Monty, Kurt Ware and Jamal Cooper. Each of them brings their own style to the position.

Monty is more a run stopper that lacks ideal athletic ability.

At 6’4, 206 pounds, Jamal Cooper is extremely undersized but can bring the heat as a pass rusher.

Kurt Ware is jumbo sized athlete that, despite his size, can still rush the passer.


WILL Linebacker
# 2 Jonathan Casillas  6-2, 214, So.
# 47 Jaevery McFadden 6-3, 226 Fr.
SAM Linebacker
# 11 DeAndre Levy  6-3, 220, So.
# 23 Paul Joran  6-3, 230, Sr.
MIKE Linebacker
# 41 Mark Zalewski  6-2, 232, Sr.
# 52 Elijah Hodge  6-1, 217, Fr.

The Badgers return the Big Ten’s best middle linebacker in Mark Zalewski. Zalewski isn’t the most athletic guy around, but he's one of those pure football players. He takes good angles to the play, tackles well, and is the team's best blitzer. His main weakness is pass coverage awareness, but he is the team’s best defensive player.

The Badgers had to replace Dontez Sanders and LaMarr Watkins at outside linebacker, and DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas have stepped in well so far. Both are very athletic and do their best work pursuing plays east and west. Their main area for improvement would be in block shedding, where they have shown below average technique and strength.

The availability of middle linebacker Elijah Hodge is unknown because of a recent arrest. Hodge was arrested on a tentative felony charge of operating a motor vehicle without the owner's consent.


Left Cornerback
# 17 Allen Langford  5-11, 191, So.
# 32 Kim Royston  5-11, 185, Fr.

Right Cornerback
# 6 Jack Ikegwuonu  6-1, 203, So.
# 32 Kim Royston  5-11, 185, Fr.
Strong Safety
# 16 Joe Stellmacher  6-1, 218, Sr.
# 4 Johnny White  6-2, 215, Sr.

Free Safety
# 22 Roderick Rogers  6-2, 187, Sr.
# 26 Zach Hampton  5-10, 175, Sr.

With the exception of Brett Bell and Levonne Rowan, the two deep is pretty much the same as last season. Cornerbacks Allen Langford and Jack Ikegwuonu played well as spot starters last year, and have looked just as good so far this season. Ikeqwuonu has the skill set to be a very fine cornerback one day. His size, athleticism, and playmaking instincts make him a very solid cornerback. Langford is developing into a fine player as well.  If he can improve his instincts and physicality, he should be one of the Big Ten’s best at the position.

The problem for this unit is there is essentially no depth.  That forces the Badgers to often stay in their base defense against spread packages. The safeties are a solid tandem with Joe Stellmacher and Roderick Rogers. Stellmacher is outstanding at defending the run, but lacks the necessary range to be equally good against the pass. Rogers, on the other hand, has ample range.  However, doesn't play the run as well as Stellmacher. This group has more depth than is available at cornerback.

If you see any rotation in the secondary, it will be at safety.

Special Teams:

#94 Ken DeBauche  6-2, 220, Jr.

#10 Taylor Mehlhaff  5-11, 184, Jr.

Kick Return
#88 Jarvis Minton  6-1, 208, Jr.
#10 Isaac Anderson 5-11, 170, Fr.

Punt Return
#26 Zach Hampton  5-10, 175, Sr.

Punter Ken DeBauche is one of the nation's top punters and has been exceptional thus far. DeBauche has averaged 41.8 yards per punt this season. His strength is getting great hang time, thus allowing his coverage team ample time to get down and limit the return. The Badgers are tied for 16th nationally in net punting.

Kicker Taylor Mehlhaff has a strong leg. He missed a 50+ yarder last week, but has made his other two field goals so far. He has been strong on kickoffs, having booted nine touchbacks this year. Over his career, Mehlhaff has been outstanding kicking inside from inside the 40, hitting 16 of his 23 attempts during his career.

The kick return game hasn’t been very explosive this season, but Zach Hampton has shown some flare returning punts. Hampton is averaging 9.6 yards a return for the year.

The coverage units have been outstanding so far but will face their first big test against Michigan

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