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Wisconsin LB Cichy tears ACL, out for season

Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Jack Cichy (48) during training camp at Camp Randall Stadium. (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK)

Anthony Gimino

The Sports Xchange

Wisconsin suffered a significant loss this 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 missed the final seven games of last season after tearing a pectoral muscle, although he was so effective in the first seven games that he was still selected honorable mention All-Big Ten.

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.

“There are windows of opportunity for those guys,” Chryst said. “Those are three young guys that kind of come off the top of your head that that’s good work for them, so they have to take advantage of that.”

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.