Coming from Mater Dei High School in California, Sagapolu was able to receive college-level coaching in high school, which proved to benefit him in his transition to the rigors of college football. Appearing in all 13 games last year, including making four starts, the experience gained by Sagapolu sets the table for him to have a tremendously efficient career at Wisconsin.
Stats: Seven tackles and one tackle for loss in 2015.
Strengths: Sagapolu fits the nose tackle position well because he has the right type of frame to help create the necessary holes for the linebackers to make plays. Sagapolu demonstrated last year that he was capable of taking on multiple blockers and being able to push them into the backfield. As he continues to add more strength to his frame, Sagapolu should be able to get the better push up front, win more of his battles inside the trenches and play with increased leverage to limit running lanes up the middle.
Weaknesses: In order for Sagapolu to take the next step in his development, he will need to work on his pass rush skills. Sagapolu only registered one tackle for loss last season, which came in the Holiday Bowl, and there were 10 games last season where he didn’t register a tackle. Sagapolu’s role was limited to begin the season and started to see increased reps once he gained confidence. But if Sagapolu is going to be the starting nose tackle, he will need to find a way to produce more than that in order to help Wisconsin get off the field.
Why he’s #19: Sagapolu showed enough during his freshman season to prove he deserves a hefty role in the rotation, giving defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield the ability to switch junior Conor Sheehy from nose to defensive end. The depth at nose tackle behind Sagapolu is a little suspect. If Sheehy it taken out of the equation, Jeremy Patterson has only appeared in two career games and incoming freshman Garrett Rand is an unknown commodity. With the unproven depth behind Sagapolu it will be important that he stays healthy throughout the season to avoid a gap in UW’s interior rotation. Working with the starting defensive line throughout spring should only help Sagapolu’s development.
Overall: Breckterfield is expecting Sagapolu to take the next step in his progression, especially after showing he can swallow up double teams against older Big Ten offensive linemen. One of the main reasons why Sagapolu got on the field as a freshman was due to his study habits, learning the defense and being able to retain information that was being taught and apply it on the football field. Combine that with the experience he gained last season should allow Sagapolu to build on his successful freshman season and help him potentially make more plays for Wisconsin’s defense.