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Wisconsin Football Coach Predicts Huge Year for Upperclassman Linebacker



Wisconsin Football; Badgers outside linebacker C.J. Goetz
Wisconsin linebacker C.J. Goetz goes through a drill during practice on Wednesday Aug. 9, 2023 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.

Just about everything has changed for the Wisconsin football program since this past November. The head coach, all of the assistants, and there are even quite a few new faces from the transfer portal. 

One of the more notable additions folks will have their eyes on will be Mike Tressel, the Badgers’ new defensive coordinator, who has some mighty big shoes to fill stepping in for Jim Leonhard

But he’s no slouch, either. 

In two years as the defensive coordinator under Luke Fickell at Cincinnati, the Bearcats finished No. 5 and No. 20 in scoring defense. They just did it in a different way than Wisconsin did under Leonhard. 

The Tressel-led defenses finished ranked as the country’s No. 2 and No. 11 pass defenses — where Leonhard’s typically did it by stopping the run at an elite clip. 

What I’m getting at is Tressel knows ball, and there’s one upperclassman on defense that he went out of his way to pat on the back in front of the Big Ten Network crew. 

Wisconsin Football DC Mike Tressel is High on C.J. Goetz in 2023 

During the Big Ten Network training camp tour, Mike Tressel spoke with the crew about some under-the-radar names on defense he felt would be significant contributors.

His answer should help ease Wisconsin football fans’ concerns about the Badgers pass rush, who must replace Nick Herbig and Keeanu Benton this fall.

“On the edge is C.J. Goetz was a starter, but I think he’s going to step up and have an absolutely huge year,” Tressel said.

Goetz is back for a sixth and final season in Madison. His veteran presence and on-field experience (883 career snaps) are invaluable for a young & unproven group of outside linebackers.

Last season, Goetz finished with 62 tackles, 16 pressures, two sacks, and two pass deflections playing opposite Herbig. His 16 pressures were good for fifth on the Wisconsin football team.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound OLB has the second-highest PFF grade on the Badgers defense among returning players (74.5).

Once again, Goetz should be one of the Badgers top-run defenders in the front seven. But a step forward in the pass-rushing department could take him from a steady option to an asset that requires more attention and frees up others to make plays as well.

Considering how well Goetz played down the stretch last season, I think he may have himself a Noah Burks-type campaign (24 pressures in 2021).

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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author and the Owner of, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.