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Wisconsin Football: Predicting the 2023 Defensive Depth Chart



Wisconsin football safety Kamo'i Latu

Wisconsin football has made a litany of moves through the offseason. The defensive unit will be under new direction in 2023 with the new defensive coordinator Mike Tressel.

With players entering the draft, such as Keeanu Benton and Nick Herbig, the Badgers’ defense will have some new starters in the fold.

Here’s a way-too-early prediction of Wisconsin’s 2023 defensive depth chart.

Defensive line

First unit

DE: Isaiah Mullens
NT: Gio Paez
DE: Rodas Johnson

Second unit

DE: James Thompson Jr.
NT: Darian Varner
DE: Cade McDonald

Gio Paez will fill the hole Keeanu Benton left after he entered the NFL Draft. Paez has been serviceable as a backup option and will get his chance to shine as a starter. Mullens announced his return to the Wisconsin football program for a sixth season just a few months ago, which is a big boost for the defensive line.

Newcomer Darian Varner, who transferred from Temple, will fill the role as a backup nose tackle behind Gio Paez. One wildcard in the group is James Thompson, who started the last seven games of the 2022 season. He’ll look to build off a big year where he posted 22 tackles with 6.5 TFL.


First unit

ROLB: C.J. Goetz
RILB: Jordan Turner
LILB: Maema Njongmeta
LOLB: Darryl Peterson

Second unit

ROLB: Kaden Johnson
RILB: Tatum Grass
LILB: Jake Chaney
LOLB: Jeff Pietrowski

With the departure of Nick Herbig, the outside linebackers will have a shakeup. Darryl Peterson, who started in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in place of Herbig, will be considered one of the front runners for the starting job. However, there could be some competition for the starting job with Michigan State transfer Jeff Pietrowski joining the team.

The inside linebackers will stay the same from last season, with Jordan Turner and Maema Njongmeta returning. Tatum Grass and Jake Chaney will still be excellent options in the second unit for the Wisconsin football defense.


First unit

CB: Alexander Smith
NB: Jason Maitre
CB: Ricardo Hallman

Second unit

CB: Al Ashford/Amare Snowden
NB: Max Lofy
CB: Ayvonne Jones

The first unit will have sixth-year senior Alexander Smith returning, who started six games after he missed the beginning of the season. Jason Maitre, a Boston College transfer, could be in line to get the starting nod at the nickel back due to the youth in that position.

Four-star corner Amare Snowden could be in the running to take the backup spot over Al Ashford, making their competition one to watch. Wisconsin football has a wealth of youth in their secondary, and they could all make significant contributions.


FS1: Hunter Wohler
FS2: Preston Zachman
FS3: Austin Brown

SS1: Kamo’i Latu
SS2: Travian Blaylock
SS3: Braedyn Moore

The safeties will have starting safety Kamo’i Latu returning, with Hunter Wohler filling in John Torchio’s spot at free safety. Latu had a very productive season in 2022, posting a whopping 55 tackles. With Wohler and Latu as the starters, the safeties will be a group to watch.

Travian Blaylock will return in 2023 after missing all last season due to injury, and he should get plenty of reps with his talents. Meanwhile, four-star ATH Braedyn Moore will fill in the third spot as he looks to develop behind two excellent defenders.

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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.