Isaac Townsend, a transfer from Oregon, quickly integrated himself with the Badgers in summer workouts. He’s one of the fastest players in the front seven, but being limited by injury early in camp may have delayed his chances to start the season in the rotation.
Some of the young talent at the position is still raw, but James Thompson Jr. (above left) — coming off a season-ending Achilles injury — had a strong camp and could find his way into the second unit.
Leonhard and Kolodziej, who’s in his first year in the role, ideally will be able to rotate players across the line to keep them fresh, something Leonhard has emphasized at almost every level of the defense.
Ready to make a leap
Thompson showed coaches enough last year in practice to earn reps late in the blowout win against Michigan, but he injured his right Achilles in that game. His long arms help him separate from blockers and he has good stop-and-start quickness. He was able to participate in the Badgers’ summer workouts after missing the spring, and he’s shown good burst off the line in fall camp.
With an older group, UW will need to stock up some recruits in the next two cycles to be ready for the current players’ departures. Mike Jarvis was the only defensive end prospect brought into the 2021 class. UW has a verbal commitment from Curtis Neal, likely the nose tackle of the future, in the 2022 class as well.