The defensive line was marred by injuries even before the season started. It was unclear what the production would be with Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand starting at defensive end, but we never got to find out because Rand missed the year with an injury and Loudermilk was in and out of the lineup with injuries as well. Both return in 2019, but senior Olive Sagapolu will graduate.
Rand is the question mark. First, how will he return from his Achilles injury? That injury has become one of the most devastating in sports lately and Rand’s road back may never be fully complete. If he is able to play with full comfort and confidence in his game, the next question is just how good he can be. Wisconsin will need production out of the defensive end position in 2019. There wasn’t much to be found in 2018 and the defense hurt for it.
Loudermilk is who I’m most confident in going into 2019. He’ll be one of the best players on defense for the Badgers and could have an All-Big Ten season to prove it. When he wasn’t out with an injury, he was making impact plays at a position Wisconsin desperately needed help in. Expect to hear a lot from Badger of Honor and others during the offseason hyping up Loudermilk’s potential breakout campaign in 2019.
More from Badger of Honor
- Wisconsin Football flips 3-star defensive tackle from Northwestern
- Former Wisconsin Football stars to be featured on the next Wheaties box
- Believe it or not, Wisconsin Football has never played these FBS teams
- Four-star running back Darrion Dupree commits to Wisconsin Football
- Wisconsin Football wide receiver enters the transfer portal
Lyles was a highly regarded offensive line recruit that moved to defense to help make up for the injuries. The move wasn’t said to be permanent, but if he’s going to move back to the offense I think it will have been a mistake. The smart move is to keep him on defense where he can focus on developing as a football player. He spent all year trying to become the best defensive lineman he could be and the coaching staff can’t waste those efforts. He was originally going to be a nose tackle and still could be now that Sagapolu is out. At the very least he’ll be a rotational piece on the defensive line and have a year of experience under his belt.
Williams was forced into action as a true freshman and the only reserve at nose tackle behind Sagapolu. Sagapolu was steady until his season-ending injury and Williams has stepped in and done a fine job. Experience for this young player, as we’ll see is a trend on the defensive side of the ball, is where the value is. He may have lost the chance to redshirt but the experience he gained will help him in the long run.
Henningsen was another young player thrust into action in 2018. Like Williams, he’ll be better having the experience. His presence on the roster provides depth to the position the coaching staff should be able to rely on. Henningsen may also compete for a starting job at end.
At 6-4 283 pounds, Mullens is a monster that some thought could see the field this year. He maintained his year of eligibility and will be somebody I’ll watch to make impacts here and there in 2019 and beyond.