The Sports Xchange
Wisconsin suffered a significant loss last week when senior linebacker Jack Cichy suffered a torn ACL in practice, but the Badgers are equipped to handle a setback at middle linebacker.
Cichy, who sustained the injury on Tuesday, was named All-Big Ten honorable mention after recording 60 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season. He missed seven games in 2016 after tearing a pectoral muscle.
His absence for the back half of 2016, coupled with the unavailability of inside linebacker Chris Orr for all but the first defensive snap of the season, helped the Badgers develop the kind of depth that will pay off this season.
Junior T.J. Edwards, a third-year starter, leads the way. He has led the team in tackles in each of the past two seasons, compiling 173 stops, including 15 for loss. Orr, who suffered a torn ACL last season, is back after starting six games in 2015 and making 46 tackles as a true freshman. And junior Ryan Connelly stepped up next to Edwards late last season with 59 tackles, including seven for loss.
That’s a strong three-man rotation, and coach Paul Chryst mentioned after Thursday’s practice that junior Arrington Farrar, freshman Mike Maskalunas and sophomore Griffin Grady are depth options.
Even with Cichy’s loss, the Badgers’ 3-4 defense should be stout against the run. Wisconsin — which is No. 10 in the preseason coaches poll — was third nationally in rushing defense last season, allowing 98.8 yards per game.
Cichy, voted a team captain for this season, is a fifth-year senior who doesn’t fit the usual requirements needed to be awarded a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA.
“You hate it for Jack,” Chryst said in a statement Thursday. “You only get so many chances to play this game and you never want to see a guy miss any of those opportunities. He’s one of the leaders of our team and I know he’ll be a big part of what we do moving forward this season.”