The 2014 Wisconsin signing day class has been good to the Badgers football program, as nearly half the 26-member class has either started games or delivered meaningful contributions on the field. One of those players who was able to carve a role and make an impact right away as a true freshman was Conor Sheehy.
Sheehy saw his role grow in his second year from a reserve defensive lineman to starting seven games. In particular, Sheehy has been versatile for the Badgers defensive line in being able to play both defensive end and nose tackle over the last two seasons. With the depth improved on the defensive line since Sheehy arrived, the Milwaukee-native has been slotted primarily at defensive end, which should help him take the next step in his development.
Stats: 31 tackles (eight solo), three tackles for loss, one sack and one pass breakup in 2015.
Strengths: It is hard to ignore that Sheehy has played in 27 career games for Wisconsin, a sign that he is assignment sound and has earned the trust of two coaching staffs. Sheehy can use his strength to his advantage to help engage multiple blockers in order to create a lane for a linebacker to make a play. Additionally, Sheehy does a good job of using his hands to help him win different battles in the trenches. With him expected to start on the other side of redshirt junior Chikwe Obasih, his ability to get off the line should help him improve getting into opposing team’s backfields.
Weaknesses: Although Sheehy is good at engaging blockers he does need to improve on his pass rushing skills. Sheehy finished the season with three tackles for loss and two sacks (both numbers ranked in the top two among UW defensive linemen) but the expectations should be higher for someone who started seven games. Sheehy possesses the athleticism to do so but needs to continue to work on his technique to generate a better pass rush, as he failed to register a quarterback hurry last season.
Why he’s #15: Sheehy is one of the more valuable players for Wisconsin’s defensive line considering his ability to play all three positions in a pinch. Sheehy’s motor is constantly running, as he was active throughout last year to the point where he recorded tackles in 12 of the 13 contests. In particular, Sheehy was able to find success against both Northwestern and Illinois, registering five and four tackles, respectively, in those two games for his high totals of the year. If he can put those types of performances together consistently, it would be a big step forward for himself and the line.
Overall: The experience Sheehy has should give him the ability to take the next step in his development, as he’ll finally have the same position coach for two years in a row. The continuity of having Inoke Breckterfield for another year should help Sheehy build off the teachings and techniques to elevate himself in the 3-4 scheme. There will be cases this coming season where Sheehy will face one-on-one opportunities in the backfield, and he’ll need to be able to take advantage in those situations as he continues to expand his role in the Wisconsin defense.