T.J. Edwards had big shoes to fill last year with being tasked to fill in one of the spots vacated by Derek Landisch and Marcus Trotter at inside linebacker. It is safe to say that Edwards surpassed any expectations that was placed on him. Starting all 13 games, Edwards led the team in tackles and was a key cog in the middle of Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense. Named a freshmen All-American by Scout.com, Edwards has the potential to be one of the best linebackers in the history of Wisconsin.
Stats: 84 tackles (41 solo), 6.5 tackles for loss for 11 yards, four pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and one forced fumble in 2015.
Strengths: Edwards is an intelligent football player who can rely on his instincts, evident with the amount of plays he made last year. With Edwards rarely being out of place, he was either able to stuff a running back near the line of scrimmage or shoot through a gap to prevent the quarterback from getting off an accurate pass. Helping prevent long runs over the middle, Edwards finished fourth on the team in tackles for loss and fifth in quarterback hurries. With the talent at the linebacker position that surrounds Edwards, it would not be surprising to see him improve upon those numbers.
Weaknesses: Even though he made plays in the backfield, Edwards potentially could have made more, as there were times last season he couldn’t finish plays. Despite leading the team in tackles, there were six games Edwards registered four or fewer stops. An extra year of adding strength to his frame and getting comfortable reading offensive schemes will allow him to have the game slow down, giving him the ability to better read and react.
Why he’s #7: Although he’s not guaranteed a starting spot this season, especially with the high-level play of Jack Cichy and Chris Orr, Edwards appears to be a favorite to start at one of the two inside linebacker roles. Working with the starters throughout spring, Edwards’ consistent play and play-making ability (he combined for 25 tackles in back-to-back weeks against Nebraska and Purdue) could mean a big season for the sophomore and a nightmare for opposing running game looking to establish plays between the tackles.
Overall: Edwards had a redshirt freshman season that few could match. He registered 58 tackles (7.25 tackles a game) during Big Ten play, which was 10 more than Big Ten linebacker of the year Joe Schobert had during conference play. Edwards was steady throughout spring but will need to continue to get stronger and improve his technique to become an even bigger stalwart presence in the middle of the defense. Competition brings out the best in people, and Edwards entering his third year in the program should be able to make another positive impact for the defense.