UW Athletics announced Thursday afternoon that former defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard will be taking over as the team’s defensive coordinator.
Leonhard was one of many potential in-house candidates that were discussed for the DC position, along with Tim Tibesar and Inoke Breckterfield. There had been rumors that Tibesar would be promoted to the position, but Leonhard is clearly qualified for the job after an extremely successful year.
In February 2016, Leonhard joined the Wisconsin staff as the defensive backs coach, after getting elected to the UW Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015. He was part of the staff that led the Badgers to a top-five defensive finish this year, and was responsible for names like Sojourn Shelton, Leo Musso, D’Cota Dixon, and Derrick Tindal.
Prior to coaching at Wisconsin, Leonhard had a successful 10-year NFL career that included stints with the Bills, Ravens, Jets, Broncos, Saints and Browns that included 14 interceptions in 142 games (73 starts). As a walk-on at UW-Madison, he started every game of his four-year career and is regarded as one of Wisconsin’s best all-time defenders.
Leonhard is the third defensive coordinator in as many years following the departure of Dave Aranda after the 2015 season and Justin Wilcox after the 2016 season.