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Wisconsin Football: Top Defensive Position Battles to Watch in Fall Camp

A look at some key position battles to monitor at Wisconsin’s 2023 fall camp.



Wisconsin Badgers football head coach Luke Fickell
Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell watches defensive end Tommy Brunner go though a drill during the team's first spring practice on Saturday March 25, 2023 at the McClain Center in Madison, Wis. Uw Football Spring Practice 5 March 25 2023

The off-season doldrums are in full swing, but the Wisconsin football program is drawing closer to fall camp. 

Although a significant amount of changes occurred on the offense, UW’s defense is loaded with question marks. Wisconsin will be tasked with supplementing the losses of two of their premier defenders, Nick Herbig and Keeanu Benton. Add on a new defensive scheme with Mike Tressel on board, and the defense will be something to monitor closely as camp kicks off.

Here’s a look at some defensive position battles to watch in Wisconsin’s fall camp.

Defensive line

As mentioned, the Wisconsin football program will look to supplement the loss of Keeanu Benton on the defensive front, making that group one of the most intriguing to watch in fall camp.

UW is returning some contributors from the 2022 season, including James Thompson Jr., Rodas Johnson, and Isaiah Mullens. However, this defensive line grouping is looking to be one of the weaker points of the defense. The returning players have carved out solid careers for themselves, but the lack of huge difference-makers makes the defensive line a bit shaky.

Behind the projected starters, there’s some talent that could be tapped into, but expectations should be slightly low. Guys like Darian Varner, Curtis Neal, and Cade McDonald will have the opportunity to earn snaps, which will be important to understand the future of the position.

With the lack of proven difference-makers and some raw talent behind the starting group, the defensive line will be worth keeping an eye on in fall camp.

Wisconsin Football Cornerback Room 

The cornerback position is something that I will be watching very closely. Wisconsin has plenty of returning talent at the position, including Ricardo Hallman, Alexander Smith, and Max Lofy. On top of that, there’s some exciting young talent that could see some playing time, such as Jonas Duclona, Amare Snowden, and Jace Arnold.

The young talent will be the most important group to watch in the cornerback room. Although Wisconsin is bringing back some contributors from the 2022 season, there’s limited depth, which could clear some space for the younger guys to get some snaps. I’d keep a close eye on Jace Arnold and Amare Snowden in this group.

Another thing to watch is how Boston College transfer Jason Maitre will fare. Maitre has 44 games of experience under his belt, paving the way for him to be one of the likely starters for the 2023 season. Of course, the redshirt senior hasn’t played at the Big Ten’s level of competition, but he had an impressive spring performance that could make him a difference-maker if he builds off it.

The freshmen will be the most important group to watch, but the cornerback position as a whole has some question marks that need to be answered.

Wisconsin Football Outside Linebackers Room 

Nick Herbig is undoubtedly the most significant loss from the 2022 season. It isn’t easy to replace the kind of production Herbig consistently brought to the table. Because of that, watching which OLBs perform well in fall camp will be something to watch. 

Darryl Peterson and CJ Goetz will likely take the bulk of the outside linebacker snaps due to their game experience. Peterson, a redshirt sophomore, is coming off a solid season in terms of production. The Ohio native logged 29 tackles, 11 pressures, and two sacks last season. Although the numbers don’t exactly jump off the stat sheet, Peterson showed some promise in his game and looks to be a player with some serious upside. If he can build off last year’s performance and tap into his potential, he could make a significant jump in his third season.

Other players to keep an eye on include Michigan State transfer Jeff Pietrowski, TJ Bollers, and Kaden Johnson. This grouping will see the field this season, but their fall camp performances will indicate which players will jump ahead of the pack. If I had to place my bets, I’d say Pietrowski and Johnson would have the best odds of seeing more significant playing time.

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Jake Maier is the managing editor and publisher at He has provided coaching and editorial support to numerous writers in his role, contributing significantly to the platform's growth. His expertise extends to Wisconsin Badgers football, basketball, and recruiting coverage. Jake's previous bylines can be found at Fansided and Wisconsin Sports Heroics.