Comeback Player of the Year
Defensive End – Garrett Rand
Last year’s squad was decimated by injuries. So much so that they needed to convert Kayden Lyles to defense and play the walk-on redshirt freshman Matt Henningsen most of the season. The run defense struggled last year in comparison to the year before. A big part of that was the loss of Garrett Rand, who had an Achilles injury during summer workouts last year.
Defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk also missed much of last season after undergoing surgery on his knee to clear up past injuries. With both returning this year, their defensive line depth is back, allowing Lyles to return to the offensive line.
I like both these guys to make an impact this season, but I think Rand will be a difference-maker on that defensive line. As Zach Heilprin wrote for Mad City Sports Zone, coach Inoke Breckterfield sees a lot of similarities between Rand and Aaron Donald.
Now, am I expecting Rand to be the next Aaron Donald? Absolutely not. But the similarities are indeed there. He has a lot of strength and is very quick for a guy his size, which can cause a lot of trouble for opposing offensive lines. I think he is hungry to come back and will be a huge part of this Wisconsin football defense.
The big thing for Rand is to stay healthy. If he can stay healthy the whole season, then I think he can make a huge difference on this defense, one we haven’t seen since the 2017 season, when the defense ranked 3rd in the country, allowing just 98.4 rushing yards per game.
Other candidates: Isaiahh Loudermilk, Bradrick Shaw