Wisconsin Football: What You Need to Know About Badgers' 2012 Defense

Nick HartCorrespondent IMay 27, 2012

Wisconsin Football: What You Need to Know About Badgers' 2012 Defense

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    The Wisconsin Badgers defense is going to be very good in 2012.

    Beau Allen leads a deep group of defensive linemen, and Mike Taylor and Chris Borland head up the best linebacking corps in the Big Ten conference. The secondary is athletic and experienced, and returning starter Shelton Johnson provides leadership.

    A talented group, the Badgers defense is going to surprise in 2012.

The Defensive Line Is Experienced

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    Even after losing Patrick Butrym and Louis Nzegwu during the offseason, the Badgers defensive line still returns plenty of talent. Beau Allen, Ethan Hemer, Brendan Kelly and Pat Muldoon are all talented players and should serve as the starters across the defensive line.

    The defensive line turned in an impressive performance during the Badger's spring game and will carry that momentum into the season. Allen, second on the team in sacks from 2011, had three tackles for loss along with a sack, and Muldoon and Hemer also had tackles for loss. 

    All of the projected starters received ample playing time in 2011, with Allen, Hemer and Kelly playing in all 14 games. 

    Along with the four starters, the Badgers have plenty of quality depth as well. Tyler Dippel, Konrad Zagzebski and Jordan Kohut all have experience and will serve as a talented second unit. 

The Linebackers Will Lead the Defense

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    All-Big Ten linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor return to lead the Badgers defense.  Each had over 140 tackles during the 2011 campaign and are poised to continue their dominance. 

    Taylor and Borland are complete football players and excel in all facets of the game. Smart and tough, Taylor and Borland set the tone for the defense. 

    A.J. Fenton is coming off an impressive spring game as well and has improved his overall game. Fenton lost 10 pounds in the offseason and displayed a extra burst during the spring game. The last starting linebacker spot is his to lose.

    Jake Keefer dominated the Badgers spring game and is establishing himself as a top reserve.  Keefer had six tackles in the spring game, including one tackle for loss, and really impressed the coaches.

    The Badgers linebackers are the best in the Big Ten and will serve as the heart and soul of the defense in 2012.

The Secondary Needs to Step Up in 2012

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    The Badgers' secondary will make or break the defense in 2012. The Badgers lost cornerback Antonio Fenelus and safety Aaron Henry, both All-Big Ten performers in 2011. Shelton Johnson and Marcus Cromartie return to their starting spots and must step up to replace the leadership lost from the graduation of Fenelus and Henry.

    Peniel Jean and Devin Smith will compete for the open cornerback position. However, Smith is coming off multiple injuries and will hopefully be ready for fall camp. If Smith does get healthy, the Badgers will have a promising group at cornerback with Cromartie, Smith and Jean.

    Shelton Johnson is entrenched at the strong safety position and is in no danger of losing his job. A solid overall player, Johnson will serve as the anchor for the secondary. Dezman Southward must improve his play in order to win the starting free safety spot. A talented player, Southward makes too many mental mistakes and must shore up his concentration to solidify the secondary.

    The Badgers' secondary has plenty of talent and experience. If the starters can step up in 2012 and play solid football, the defense is going to be very good.

Conclusion

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    The Wisconsin Badgers have talent on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line is deep and experienced, the linebackers are the best in the country and the secondary is athletic. 

    As long as all groups play solid football in 2012, the Badgers defense is going to be very good.