With the departure of Derek Landisch and Marcus Trotter, the void at inside linebacker must be filled immediately. After watching junior Leon Jacobs in the spring game, it looks like defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has found a new leader on defense. Jacobs has played in every game the past two seasons, giving his plenty of collegiate experience under his belt going into his third season. Jacobs has the ability to be a playmaker, which he showed when he racked up 12 tackles, two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in a win over Illinois.
Strengths: Jacobs has plenty of strengths working in his favor but his most important one is his instinctiveness. With impressive speed for his position, Jacobs has the ability to overcome minor mistakes or missteps and still track down the ball carrier. If Jacobs can step up and use his athleticism, he will be able to blow up holes in the line and disrupt plays before they can develop.
Weaknesses: Jacobs still is inexperienced when it comes to reps with the first-team defense, which could cause some slip ups with recognition of plays and communication with his teammates on formations. Those should come with time. It looks as though Jacobs has had issues in the past with his run defense and pass defense in regards to guarding those correctly. Again, it will take experience early on in order to put his offseason work to the test.
Why he is #18: Jacobs is a valuable replacement from Landisch and Trotter departing. He will need to step up and take charge of his opportunity this season as a starter and be a leader for redshirt freshman T.J. Edwards, who will likely start next to him at inside linebacker. His athleticism will be key this season as the Badgers defense look to improve their turnovers and negative plays.
Overall: Jacobs will need to be able to use his instincts in order to bust up plays and provide chaos to opposing offenses. He will need to be a constant threat every play and complement the play of the other linebackers. His physicality will also be key in making sure the Badgers improve their numbers from the past few seasons and keep their place as one of the nation's best defenses.