There will be three new faces on the defensive line when Wisconsin takes the field Aug. 30 for the season opener against LSU.
Just one year removed from transitioning to a 3-4 defense, the Badgers must not only replace the three primary starters from the trenches—Beau Allen, Ethan Hemer and Pat Muldoon—but also their top backup, Tyler Dippel.
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda did an admirable job last season in his first year with Wisconsin. Taking a roster full of players recruited to fit into former head coach Bret Bielema’s 4-3 scheme, Aranda’s defense allowed the seventh-fewest yards in the nation. Excelling at such a challenge means Aranda is more than capable of handling the roster turnover.
Redshirt senior nose guard Warren Herring will lead the new corps of defensive linemen. He appeared in all 13 games last season and recorded some impressive statistics despite mostly playing in a reserve role.
Herring finished with four sacks, tied for second-most on the team with standout linebacker Chris Borland, and six tackles for loss, the third-best among Badgers.
Redshirt senior Konrad Zagzebski will likely play alongside Herring at end. He made three starts last year and recorded 19 total tackles, including two for loss. Zagzebski played inside linebacker in high school, bringing some versatility to the edge.
A trio of redshirt freshmen could earn the final starting spot on the opposite side of the line. Alec James, Chikwe Obasih and Garret Dooley. All three were decorated recruits coming out of high school, each earning a four-star rating from at least one major publication.
Obasih has particularly drawn attention from the coaching staff. During spring practice, he quickly bypassed more experienced defensive ends and started the spring game. Whether he holds that starting nod through training camp remains to be seen.
Whoever gets the final spot among the three redshirt freshmen will offer a smaller complement to Zagzebski on the other side. Zagzebski is currently listed at 273 pounds while Obasih is the heaviest of the trio with a listed weight of 245—though the Wisconsin State Journal reports that Obasih is now at 260 pounds.
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