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Wisconsin Football Staff Has High Hopes for Defensive Transfer Portal Addition

Wisconsin football coaches spoke glowingly about an offseason transfer portal addition that could play a key role for the Badgers this season.



Wisconsin Badgers football defensive coordinator Mike Tressel
Wisconsin Badgers defensive Coordinator Mike Tressel answers questions during Wisconsin Badgers football media day at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023.

The Wisconsin football program received a facelift during the offseason with the addition of double-digit players via the transfer portal. Among the most intriguing players added on defense was Temple defensive end transfer Darian Varner.

Varner is coming off a breakout sophomore season where he registered 35 tackles, 24 pressures, 7.5 sacks, and a forced fumble en route to First-Team All-AAC honors for the Owls. However, the 6-foot-3, 255-pound DL could not practice during the spring, so the Badgers coaching staff didn’t get an extended look at what he could bring this fall.

“What I saw out of him was a guy who was pretty relentless in his preparation even though he knew, and we knew, he wasn’t going to be able to be out there on the field this spring,” Tressel told reporters. “And that continued all the way through the summer.

“I’ve seen him do it as a competitor on the field, and I’ve seen the way his preparation and mindset didn’t change an iota even when he couldn’t be out there. So the fact that he’ll be out there in the fall, I have high expectations because I’ve seen it.”

Wisconsin Football Transfer Darian Varner Will Be in the Mix on the Badgers Defensive Line.

There are no if and or buts about it — defensive line is a major question mark for Wisconsin football heading into the season opener.

Wisconsin has established players like Rodas Johnson, Isaiah Mullens, and James Thompson Jr. in the mix — but Darian Varner potentially offers more upside as a pass-rusher than they got outside of Keeanu Benton last season.

According to Pro Football Focus, Varner received a 72.7 pass-rushing grade this past season — which would have been second among the Badgers’ defensive linemen last season. He offers a different body type that can line up and be deployed in myriad ways for Coach Tressel.

Personally, Varner is someone I could see being one of the top three defensive linemen in snaps played because he can get after the QB in different ways. Hopefully, one of Vaner, Johnson, or Thompson Jr. can break through and create pressure on opposing QBs for Wisconsin football this fall.

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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.