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Wisconsin Football: Defensive Selections Show All-Conference Awards Are a Joke

The Big Ten Conference announced their all-defensive teams and the Wisconsin football team had just two defensive players make the cut.

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Wisconsin badgers football safety Hunter Wohler
Nov 11, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers safety Hunter Wohler (24) celebrates following a play during the third quarter against the Northwestern Wildcats at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the Big Ten Conference released the All-Big Ten Defensive Teams. I know the Wisconsin football team wasn’t a juggernaut on defense like we’ve seen in the past, but they definitely weren’t the worst unit in the conference.

The Wisconsin defense had no first-team all-defensive players. Now, I’m not trying to convince you that the players who were on the first team didn’t deserve some recognition. But at some point, you look at the players who made the list ahead of some of the Wisconsin football players and you start to think about name recognition and who they play for.

There are two sets of All-Big Ten Teams. One is voted on by the coaches while the other is the media. Both sets include a First Team, Second Team, Third Team, and Honorable Mention.

On the team voted on by the coaches, Hunter Wohler made the Third Team while Ricardo Hallman made Honorable Mention. Both made the team as a defensive back.

The media All-Big Ten team was a little kinder to the Badgers, putting Wohler on the Second Team and Hallman on the Third Team.

Making the Case for Wisconsin Football Safety Hunter Wohler

I’m going to start with the most glaring issue first. I’m not sure there is a player in the Big Ten who put up solid outings as consistently as Hunter Wohler. In your typical defense, it’s pretty common to have linebackers lead teams and conferences in tackles.

Hunter Wohler led the Wisconsin football team and finished second in the Big Ten in total tackles with 113 (73 solo and 40 assisted).

As a safety.

Iowa linebacker Jay Higgins led the conference in total tackles with 141 total (60 solo and 81 assisted) tackles.

The next closest defensive back to Wohler was Purdue safety, Dillon Thieneman, who had 106 total (78 solo and 32 assisted) tackles. Thieneman was also tied for the lead in the conference in interceptions with six. He and Wohler essentially swapped places as he earned Second Team and Third Team honors with the coaches and media teams, respectively.

Meanwhile, Minnesota safety, Tyler Nubin, earned First Team honors on both lists with 53 total tackles and five interceptions this year.

Making the Case for Badgers Cornerback Ricardo Hallman

Similarly, Wisconsin football cornerback Ricardo Hallman was a big-time player in the Big Ten this season. He tied Purdue’s Thieneman for the most interceptions in the conference with six picks.

He finished the season with a PFF grade of 83.4 (good), which was the highest among all FBS players with at least 450 coverage snaps. The next player behind him was Ethan Johnson from App State, who had a grade of 77.9. That’s a 5.5-point difference between him and the number two player. That is the same as the difference between no. 2 (Johnson) and the no. 11 player. That’s a huge difference.

There wasn’t even a Big Ten player on the list.

Also, he had a PFF score of 83.8 against Ohio State, who has arguably the best receiver group in the entire country. Marvin Harrison Jr. was kept in check when Hallman was covering him.

And finally, Hallman allowed just one touchdown all year on 58 targets.

The fact that Hallman only made Third Team and Honorable Mention is very questionable.

I know stats aren’t the end-all-be-all. And there are other factors at play. But stats do tell a good chunk of the story. Wohler being able to rack up the tackles did made a huge impact for the Wisconsin football team. Same with Hallman and his interceptions.

These postseason awards are inching closer and closer to being about name recognition and being popularity contests like the NFL Pro Bowl, rather than recognition to players who put our great performances this year.


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Christian Borman was born and raised in Wisconsin and covers the Badgers football and basketball programs, plus some recruiting for BadgersNotes.com. He previously covered the Wisconsin Badgers for years as the site expert for Badger of Honor of the Fansided Network.

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