S D’Cota Dixon
Dixon makes his second appearance on the injury report this year. The ankle injury he suffered against Nebraska still seems to be lingering. Everyone knows that Dixon would do anything to be on the field, the guy is the ultimate warrior who gives everything he has on each and every snap. That makes me believe that this injury could be significant. It is Dixon’s senior year and there are only a handful of games left on the schedule. Dixon defines Wisconsin football. He plays with so much passion and inspires his teammates to play at the best of their abilities.
If Dixon and the other injured safeties are unable to play I expect Evan Bondoc to once again fill in at strong safety. Bondoc had a career day in his first start last week against Illinois. He had an interception and forced a fumble, making plays all over the field. He showed great instincts and appeared to hold up in pass coverage. Dixon is obviously the better player, but there has to be a sigh of relief knowing that Bondoc can get the job done when his number is called. It is a testament to Bondoc that being a senior and receiving little to no playing time in his career, he can still go out there and contribute. Players like Bondoc are what makes the Wisconsin football program special.
NT Olive Sagapolu
If you were to make a list on who was the most valuable player on the Wisconsin football team, Olive Sagapolu would have to be near the top of the list. He is so valuable not only because he is one of the best players on the team, but also because of the lack of depth that is behind him. The small amount of players at defensive end has been well documented over the year, but the number of able bodies at nose tackle is even smaller. For the entire season, Olive has been relied upon to be the guy in the middle taking on multiple offensive linemen and freeing up the inside linebackers. Not only does he do that job very well, but he has shown the ability to corral running backs in the backfield as well as rushing the passer.
In the devastating scenario in which Sagapolu cannot contribute on Saturday, true freshman Bryson Williams will be tasked with holding down the interior of the defensive line. Williams has gotten a good amount of snaps this season, but has only seen time as a reserve defensive lineman to give Sagapolu the occasional breather.
When he has played, he has been a bit shaky. Mistakes are understandable given how young he is, but he may need to correct those mistakes quickly given the injury to Sagapolu. If Sagapolu is unable to play, I expect Leonhard to be creative with his formations.
Northwestern is a spread team, against spread teams Leonhard likes to only have two down lineman in order to combat the speed the opposing offense tries to utilize. In that case, Leonhard would most likely turn to Henningsen and Lyles more often, allowing Williams to play in the reserve role he is comfortable with.