The Wisconsin football team finished the 2021 season with a 9-4 record, falling just one game short of winning the Big Ten West.
This season they’ll be tasked with replacing eight starters off last season’s top-ranked defensive unit, and six preferred starters on the offensive side of the ball – which won’t be an easy task.
Thankfully, Wisconsin football doesn’t often rebuild, they simply reload. There may be some rather large gaps to fill, but UW has no shortage of young, talented players who have patiently waited for their chance to see the field.
With that being said, now seems like the perfect time to take inventory of the young talent ready to take that next step for Paul Chryst and the Badgers.
Here are three players that I expect to have a breakout season for the Wisconsin football team in 2022.
Hunter Wohler – Safety
The former four-star safety was able to contribute on special teams as a true freshman – and appeared in all 12 games. Last season, Wohler registered 16 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and a pass deflection in just 70 defensive snaps.
The Badgers graduated both of their starting safeties from last season, leaving the door wide open for the Wisconsin native to earn considerable playing time in year two.
Jim Leonhard often deploys three safeties, so whether or not Wohler earns the starter designation out of camp is unimportant.
Wohler is a high upside player that’s capable of getting downhill and helping in run support – while also having the versatility to play on the back end due to his impressive speed.
Overall, I view the 6-foot-2, 200-pound safety as a player capable of being the face of the defense going into 2023.
Jack Nelson – Left Tackle
With Bob Bostad returning to coach the offensive line, changes were certainly expected to be made upfront. Among those changes was having red-shirt sophomore Jack Nelson move from right guard, out to left tackle.
The former four-star recruit was ranked as the No. 10 offensive tackle in the country in the 2020 recruiting class according to 247sports.
The Wisconsin native started all 13 games, allowing 13 pressures and two sacks in 769 total snaps as a red-shirt freshman – en route to being named honorable mention All-Big Ten.
Tackle is Nelson’s most natural position and is a change that should have Badger fans excited due to the aggression and tenacity he plays within the trenches. I expect the 6-foot-7, 300-pound lineman to set the tone as a mauler for the Badgers’ new-look offensive line in 2022.
Jordan Turner – Inside Linebacker
Wisconsin will be looking to replace 206 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks worth of production from the inside linebacker spot in 2022.
Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal are both NFL bound, leaving a significant amount of snaps up for grabs at inside backer. So, who steps up and continues the tradition of strong play at linebacker?
One player that stands out is red-shirt sophomore Jordan Turner. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker registered six tackles, one tackle for loss, and two interceptions in just 24 total snaps – finding a way to be highly productive despite having minimal on-field opportunities.
He’s an athletic thumper that has all the tools necessary to make an impact in the heart of Jim Leonhard’s defense. Additionally, he may be able to offer more in coverage than UW has had from the position in recent years.