Breakdown: Wisconsin’s defense

By Eli Gehn

Defensive line

The front four for the Badgers is loaded with upperclassmen. Wisconsin’s defensive ends feature a combination of senior Louis Nzegwu and junior David Gilbert, while in the inside resides senior Patrick Butrym. The other starting defensive tackle is sophomore Ethan Herner. Wisconsin has a lot of young talent behind its starting four, most of them being sophomores. Out of the six total sacks Wisconsin has this season, five of them have come from the defensive front with Nzegwu and Gilbert leading the way with two a piece. The Huskies offensive line has a little bit of an edge in size, so look for the battle in the trenches to be a good one. “Our offensive line did a great job protecting [last week against Kansas],” said NIU head coach Dave Doeren. “We need to continue to execute at the level we are and move the chains… Whether we can do that to Wisconsin or not, we’ll find out.”

Grade: B+


The linebacking corps has some up-and-coming studs in sophomores Ethan Armstrong, Chris Borland and junior Mike Taylor. These three players will look to keep NIU’s run game in check, as well as NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish, which is no easy task. “If our offense plays like they have been, they could cause problems for a lot of people because they’re versatile. Chandler’s throwing and running well. Our tailbacks are playing well,” Doeren said. Even though the linebackers are talented, it could lead to some experience issues that the Huskies can take advantage of. Behind Armstrong, Borland and Taylor, the Badgers are complemented by a flurry of youngsters that include two sophomores and three freshmen. Borland and Taylor lead the team with 16 and 15 tackles, respectively. The second level of Wisconsin’s defense might be its weakest point due to youth, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make some game-changing plays.

Grade: B+


Wisconsin’s secondary took a big hit when it lost fourth-year cornerback Devin Smith to a season-ending injury. Junior corners Marcus Cromartie and Peniel Jean will have their hands full with a deeply talented group of playmakers for the Huskies. “We’ve got a lot of receivers that can rotate and keep it fresh.” Doeren said. Starting at the safety positions will be junior Shelton Johnson and senior Aaron Henry. The Badgers have yet to record an interception so far this season and NIU hopes to keep it that way. With a couple of nagging injuries in the secondary, the Huskies could look to pass the ball more often than not against Wisconsin.

Grade: B

Special Teams

The Badgers will be without senior kicker Philip Welch due to a quad injury. Freshman Kyle French has been taking all of the field goal tries in place of Welch, making his only field goal attempt against University of Nevada, Las Vegas from 29 yards out. Punter Alec Lerner has a boot, punting the ball an average of 62.7 yards on 14 attempts. Running back James White will be in charge of taking the kickoff returns while sophomore Jared Abbrederis will handle punts. Besides Abbrederis, the Huskies should hope to see these players often, meaning they’ll be keeping Wisconsin out of the end zone and forcing them to either have a freshman kicker attempt field goals or force them to punt it away.

Grade: B