Wisconsin Football: T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly Continue To Shine

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 01: T.J. Edwards (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 01: T.J. Edwards (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Despite having a season that has not lived up to preseason hype, Wisconsin Football has been led all year long by T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly.

This season has not lived up to the hype many Wisconsin fans and pundits placed on them at the beginning of the season.

The offense, which was supposed to be one of the deepest and most explosive units badger fans had ever seen, has struggled to put a full 60 minutes together. The defense was the real unknown and had the most question marks heading into the season. Injuries have decimated the secondary since the Nebraska game and it has been hard to get a consistent lineup out of that group.

Despite all of the negative takeaways through the first nine weeks of the season, T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly have been two of the real bright spots for the Badgers thus far.

Connelly leads the team in tackles with a total of 65 including seven for losses, has notched two sacks and has also forced a fumble. He has been reliable all year long and has helped lead a very young and relatively inexperienced defense. This play, in particular, jumps out as one of his very best so far this year.

Connelly also recorded 14 tackles in that Northwestern game. Last week against Rutgers he accounted for another eight tackles with one tackle for loss. On October 30, he was announced as one of 10 Butkus Award semi-finalists which honors the nation’s best linebacker.

T.J. Edwards is also having himself another outstanding season. He is barely trailing Connelly with 62 tackles of his own. He has 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He has accumulated 26 tackles over the past three games alone. To put that into perspective, if we exclude Ryan Connelly, Edwards’ 26 tackles over the last three weeks would rank fifth in total tackles for this team even if he didn’t play in the first six weeks

. How he got left off the Butkus Award semi-finalist list with VERY similar stats as Connelly remains a mystery. Edwards is one of the very best linebackers in the country and no list can convince me otherwise.

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Sometimes it can be fun to play the ‘What If’ game.

What if Wisconsin didn’t get called for a ridiculous roughing the snapper penalty against Michigan?

What if Jonathan Taylor didn’t fumble twice versus Northwestern?

What if Wisconsin had consistent quarterback play?  – or even better – What if Wisconsin had Tua Tagovailoa under center?

But sometimes it can be downright scary to play the ‘What If’ game.

What if T.J. Edwards skipped his senior season and entered the 2018 NFL draft?

It is hard to imagine where this defense and season would be without the two seniors. They have done absolutely everything they have been asked to do – and more –  for this program since they stepped on campus. They will have to play another outstanding game on Saturday if the Badgers have any shot of beating Penn State.

I know this is not a career summary but it is worth noting that Edwards and Connelly have each played in 49 games during their careers. Edwards has 48 starts and Connelly has 26 starts with at least four more games on the schedule this year. As they come down the stretch of their college career fans should admire what they have done this year and realize just how special they have been.

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*Stats courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics Department