It was quite the season for Jack Cichy. A former walk-on linebacker from Somerset, WI, Cichy earned his scholarship last summer, and his play last season showed why he was deserving of one - finishing the season fifth on the team in tackles and ranked third in both sacks and tackles for loss. Cichy started the season at outside linebacker but made his first career start at inside linebacker when Chris Orr had to miss time with a leg injury. Over his last five games, Cichy registered 41 tackles during that stretch, giving him a permanent home.
Stats: 60 tackles (32 solo), eight tackles for loss for 52 yards, five sacks, four pass breakups, and two quarterback hurries in 2015.
Strengths: Cichy plays the linebacker position with a passion and it’s evident the game is important to him. With that style, Cichy finds himself in a lot of positions to make a play in the opposing team’s backfield. Cichy started to make noise on the field when his playing time began to increase. In Wisconsin’s last five games, Cichy had seven tackles for loss and five sacks. Prior to the last five games of the season Cichy only had one tackle for loss to his credit.
Weaknesses: When you play as hard as Cichy it is difficult to find faults in his game. He’s constantly making plays with his motor, but at times that can get the best of a person. As Cichy goes forward, he will have to be careful of how he comes up and hits someone, as he was ejected once last year due to targeting. Needing to polish up some technique and run fits at the inside linebacker position, Cichy will be a valuable piece that Wisconsin’s defense will need to keep on the field.
Why he’s #20: Cichy will be battling Orr and T.J. Edwards to claim one of the two starting spots at the inside linebacker position. Even if Cichy doesn’t start, he is still capable of playing outside linebacker in certain packages, something new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has hinted at. Cichy’s football IQ and his ability to get past blockers due to his pass rush moves are two of the reasons why Cichy can finish plays in the backfield. Wherever Cichy is lined up, Wilcox knows he has a junior who will do his job and be in the right place to help prevent a long run or pass from happening.
Overall: Cichy’s tackles over the last five games were a team high for Wisconsin, besting senior outside linebacker Vince Biegel by 11 tackles. What Cichy does under Wilcox will be interesting because he won’t be an unknown commodity for Wisconsin any more, as his sacks on three consecutive plays against USC in the Holiday Bowl served notice of his skills and abilities. The good news for Cichy is there are plenty of other players for Wisconsin who have shown or are capable of getting into the backfield, opening up alleys for Cichy to make plays. Judging by the way he finished 2015, odds are he’ll take advantage of it.