Wisconsin Football: PFF names two Badgers as top returning defenders

Badgers inside linebacker Jack Sanborn celebrates a tackle during the first half against Michigan.Mjs Uwgrid Uwgrid22 01869
Badgers inside linebacker Jack Sanborn celebrates a tackle during the first half against Michigan.Mjs Uwgrid Uwgrid22 01869 /

The Wisconsin football team has multiple players on both sides of the ball coming back for the 2021 season. ProFootball Focus has come out with lists of top 10 players at each position returning for the 2021 football season. We’ve already seen that Jake Ferguson made their list for returning tight ends. He was the lone offensive player making a list for the Badgers.

There are two Wisconsin football players on the defensive side of the ball who made the lists at their respective positions.

Jack Sanborn

Linebacker Jack Sanborn could have entered the NFL Draft after a strong junior season, but opted to return to the Wisconsin football team. He came in at #7 on their list. Here’s what Anthony Treash from PFF had to say about Sanborn:

"Sanborn shined in the passing game in his first year as a major piece within Wisconsin’s defense in 2019, but he had some major kinks to work out in run defense and tackling. He posted an 83.8 coverage grade, six combined pass breakups and interceptions and 23 pressures on 83 pass-rush snaps en route to a 77.3 pass-rush grade. On the flip side, he produced a 24% missed tackle rate and a 56.5 coverage grade.After a rough debut against Illinois in 2020, Sanborn worked out those kinks. He finished the year with a run-defense grade that was nearly 30 grade points higher (84.3), and his missed tackle rate dropped by 10 percentage points."

Look for Sanborn to have a big year in 2021.

Keannu Benton

Defensive lineman Keannu Benton will be entering his junior (and probably final) season with the Badgers. Benton has been a stud interior lineman for Jim Leonhard and the Wisconsin football defense.

PFF doesn’t technically have him in the top 10 of their list, but they did mention him as one more name to watch this season. Here’s what Treash had to say about Benton:

"Benton didn’t quite hit elite status in 2020, but it would not be a surprise to see him do so this fall. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound nose tackle was an incredibly productive pass-rusher as a true freshman in 2019, recording a 77.5 grade in that facet across 129 snaps. He played nearly half of his reps at 0-technique and it was his first year on campus at a Power Five program, making it even more impressive. That mark fell nearly 10 grading points in 2020, though, and Benton played just 173 total snaps on the year. His ceiling is sky high, and it’s only a matter of time before he reaches it."

Both Sanborn and Benton play a big role in the Badgers’ defense in 2021. If they can both play up to their potential, I think the Badgers will again be one of the top defenses in the NCAA and we will almost certainly get to enjoy watching them play on Sundays in 2022.