Brett Bielema came to Wisconsin as a highly-touted defensive coach from Kansas State. The defense hasn't been anything to brag about since he got to Mad-Town. The end of the '08 season saw the Badgers ranked 37th nationally in total defense, with a 329 yards-per-game average and 43 touchdowns allowed against them.
To put that into perspective, the team that allowed the fewest touchdowns, TCU, gave up only 18.
The defense needs help. Wisconsin was seventh in the conference in fumbles recovered, as well as seventh in passes intercepted.
The defense took away the ball 22 times, to the offense's 30 giveaways.
The Badgers were also weak in the tackle-for-loss department, checking in at ninth in the conference, behind such defensive powerhouses as Northwestern and Indiana.
The sack totals were very low, and with the departure of Matt Shaughnessy, Mike Newkirk, and Jason Chapman from the defensive line, as well as Deandre Levy at linebacker, there are only three guys on the team who recorded a sack in 2008.
The outlook is bleak, right?
Not as much as one might think...
At defensive line, the Badgers return O'Brien Schofield, a senior who will look to up his sack total of five from last season.
Schofield will most likely be joined by a combination of Jeff Stehle, Patrick Butrym, Jeff Moore, and walk-on J.J. Watt.
Watt and Schofield will play ends, rotating with redshirt freshman Brenden Kelly, while Moore and Steel rotate with Butrym at the tackle spots. The coaches seem to think that the line may become very stout over the course of this year.
The two strengths of this defense will be the secondary and the linebackers.
Jay Valai and Chris Maragos have the safety spots covered, while the cornerbacks will be Aaron Henry and Niles Brinkley. Shane Carter will rotate in at safety and try to return to 2007 form, when he logged seven interceptions.
Mario Goins should see some play time, and senior Aubrey Pleasant will rotate in as the fifth defensive back in nickel packages.
The secondary could be extremely good, if those coming off of injury (Henry and Valai) return to their full potential. None of these guys is afraid to tackle or challenge a receiver for the ball.
Look for this secondary to create some turnovers.
With the departure of Levy, and Casillas, Jaevery McFadden will take over the weakside linebacker position. McFadden led the team in tackles last season as their middle linebacker. He is efficient in pass coverage, and he's also a run stopper.
At middle linebacker, Culmer St. Jean will get a chance to show his stuff. St. Jean is uber-athletic, and in spring ball he looked like he will be one of the top tacklers on this team, playing a role comparable to McFadden's last year.
The last linebacker spot will be taken by junior Blake Sorensen. Sorensen is not quite big enough or quick enough to play the middle of the field, but will make an adequate strong side linebacker.
On paper, the defense looks less talented than last year. However, this defense could develop into an explosive unit that is stingy with yards.
Let's hope they develop quickly.
All statistics are courtesy of NCAA.com