For the second straight year, a Wisconsin defensive coordinator decided to part with the school, as Justin Wilcox took the head coaching position at Cal after a successful year with the Badgers. Now, the team is on the hunt for a new DC, and the position is open to a number of possible candidates.
On Tuesday, the position was officially posted, according to Jason Galloway:
So who might the Badgers consider for defensive coordinator?
Leonhard, the current defensive backs coach for the Badgers, is a 34-year-old alumni of the university. As a walk-on, he contributed three first-team All-American seasons. After a nine-year NFL career with the Bills, Ravens, Jets, Broncos, Saints, and Browns, Leonhard joined the Wisconsin coaching staff less than a year ago as the DB coach. Under his command came some of the best moments of the season, from the Leo Musso fumble recovery touchdown to D’Cota Dixon’s game-sealing pick against LSU. He was part of a defensive coaching unit that was home to a top-five NCAA defense. The Wisconsin secondary recorded 21 interceptions this season, good for 2nd in the country. Leonhard is one of many in-house candidates considered, and an impressive first season with Dixon, Musso, Shelton, Jamerson, Tindal and more could secure him the promotion.
Tibesar is in his second year as the outside linebacker coaching job for the Badgers. In his first year (2015), under the command of Dave Aranda, Wisconsin posted nation-best marks on defense, and they continued to thrive in his 2016 campaign. Tibesar was instrumental in the development of former Badger Joe Schobert (now in the NFL), graduating Badger Vince Biegel (29 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks, forced fumble in 12 games) and up-and-coming Badger Jack Cichy, who spent most of the 2016 season injured, but was still able to record a whopping 45 tackles in his first seven games. Tibesar may be looked favorably upon because of his experience in coaching – prior to Wisconsin, he has spent time with the Chicago Bears, Northwestern, Purdue, North Dakota, and the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. Tibesar also represents another popular in-house candidate for Wisconsin.
The former head coach at Florida Atlantic, Partridge is a familiar face around Madison. His time as a head coach didn’t pan out, as he led FAU to a 9-27 record in his three years in charge there. However, in 2011 and 2012, he served as the associate head coach, co-defensive coordinator, and defensive line coach for the Badgers, after serving as the defensive line and specialists coach since 2008. The promotion he earned prior to 2011 is largely thanks to a guy named J.J. Watt, who, under the direction of Partridge, won the Lott Impact Trophy and went on to become a three-time NFL Defensive MVP and four-time Pro Bowler. Other players under the direction of Partridge at Wisconsin included O’Brien Schofield and Matt Shaughnessy. Prior to his career at Wisconsin, Partridge worked with the defensive line and special teams at Pitt, Iowa State, Eastern Illinois, and Drake, his alma mater. Partridge may be perhaps the most enticing outsider candidate because of his familiarity with the program in Madison and the name he created for himself while at the school.
The current defensive line coach for the Badgers, Breckterfield has been part of the Wisconsin coaching staff since 2015 and was, along with Tibesar and under the direction of Aranda, partially responsible for the nation’s best defense in 2015. Prior to Wisconsin, he spent time at Pitt (sensing a theme here?), and was known for building up Aaron Donald, the current Los Angeles Ram who in his senior season was a unanimous All-American as well as the winner of the Lombardi Award, the Outland Trophy, the Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award. Players like Chikwe Obasih, Olive Sagapolu and Connor Sheehy have all flourished under the direction of Breckterfield, who represents a third qualified in-house candidate. Prior to Wisconsin and Pitt, Breckterfield coached with UCLA and Montana and played at Oregon State and in the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.