Badgers’ Leonhard: Experience at inside linebacker ‘provides a lot of comfort’

No. 12 Wisconsin football returns a majority of 2020 starters for the upcoming 202 season, which begins Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium against Penn State.

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard has consistently churned out top-10 ranked defenses since his arrival to his alma mater, and he’s excited about how the 2021 group can take a step forward, especially when it comes to sacking the quarterback.

For Leonhard, the middle of his defense, particularly the inside linebackers Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal, will make Wisconsin’s defense a force to be reckoned with.

“When you have two guys who are running the show of your defense, who have the experience they have–very little that they haven’t seen–so it provides a lot of comfort for the people around them,” Leonhard said. “Usually very clean communication, and we’re able to get to some adjustments, whether in a gameplan or within a game, even, that an inexperienced or younger group probably couldn’t handle.”

The two linebackers combined for 59 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

The Badgers released their official depth chart Monday, and the top running back spot is especially noteworthy. Winning the top running back spot is Clemson transfer Chez Mellusi, with last year’s starter Jalen Berger sitting at the backup spot.

Head coach Paul Chryst, who’s back to calling plays this fall, says the coaching staff will still be figuring out how to split the workload among a promising running back room that includes Isaac Guerendo, Brady Schipper, and freshman Braelon Allen.