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Clinic Talk: Wisconsin Badgers Defense Preview

What can Mark Richt’s offense expect from the Badgers?

Big Ten Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes offense has been in a drought. They struggled against the Pitt Panthers only putting up 14 points before a measly 3 points against the Clemson Tigers. The Badgers have the top ranked defense per the S&P+ rankings from Bill C. The Tigers have the the 2nd ranked defense but Pitt is only ranked 72nd. The Badgers will be a formidable test for the Miami offense. The ‘Canes will have to use a tight end to slow down the Badger pass rush.

Remember, the Wisconsin defensive coordinator is former NFL defensive back Jim Leonhard. Leonhard retired from the NFL in 2014 and he came onto the Badgers staff as a defensive backs coach under then defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox (now the Cal head coach). Leonhard learned fast between his meetings with Dave Aranda and then his year under Wilcox and was thrust into taking over the Badgers top flight defense.

Against 11 personnel

With Miami struggling to get the run game going it might help if they can spread the Badgers out and run inside and split zone against a 3 man front. The Badgers had no issue with widening their defense out to stop the OSU RPO threat. J.T. Barrett threw 2 touchdowns and for 200 passing yards. OSU ran for 238 yards and a touchdown as well.

This 11 personnel set is defended by the Badgers with 4 “lineman” counting that up end outside the H-Back. The two inside linebackers stayed tight inside, and the other up end stayed split to the slot to cut down on the RPO. That’s a 6 man box and that’s usually a run read for the QB if it’s an RPO. If it’s not it should still be an easier box to run against.

11 Personnel... later...

Wisconsin was still looking to cut off the RPO by having a flat defender in the slot receiver’s face. The Badgers needed to stop the run so they used a 5 man line counting the two up linebackers. This helps take away the threat of a run by J.T. Barrett. The two inside linebackers are back in “20 techniques” or playing inside and over the guards. The Badgers switched to 1 high safety over the 2 receiver side.

This is a 7 man box which is obviously harder to run against than that 6 man box from above. This could create a nice one-on-one for the receiver at the bottom of the screen which is how Ahmmon Richards took advantage of West Virginia a year ago.

Versus an Empty Set

I hate it but Miami does like to use an empty set at times. The Badgers kept a 4 man line against the OSU empty set and widened the inside linebackers out. This would be a good look to run the bubble/draw pass-run option. With 2 high safeties and only four in the box it’s an easy run read for Malik Rosier.

Hopefully Thomas Brown and Mark Richt can come up with a game plan that takes advantage of Miami’s speed like Ohio State took advantage of their speed against a slower Wisconsin team. Miami will need more variety than they’ve shown in the past two seasons. Mark Richt was able to really game plan and make adjustments against the Mountaineers, hopefully he can do the same against the Badgers.