Wisconsin defense must come together quickly

MADISON, Wis. — The bar is set high for the Wisconsin defense.

The roster might turn over, but the fourth-ranked Badgers’ D rarely crumbles. Since 2013, Wisconsin is second nationally in both scoring defense (16.1 points) and total defense (282.6 yards).

But to return to that level this year, Wisconsin might need some young or inexperienced players to grow up quickly. So far, coach Paul Chryst likes what he has seen in the preseason.

The first test for the team’s unusual defensive blend of top-flight talent up the middle and untested replacements on the edges comes Friday night against Western Kentucky in the season opener.

“I like what the guys have done. There’s a group that’s played a lot of football on defense that we have an idea of what to expect,” Chryst said after practice on Sunday. “And then we’ll have a number of players where this will be their first snaps.

“I feel like they’re confident and ready for that next challenge, but it is a challenge,” he added.

Wisconsin will rely on a playmaking core up the middle for veteran stability, starting with preseason All-American inside linebacker T.J. Edwards. A key cog since his freshman year, Edwards has more starts (39) than anyone else on defense.

Returning to top-10 status on defense might take a little time as guys get used to each other in game action, but Edwards said he is excited by the possibilities.

“We definitely set our goals high and we want to be around (being a top-flight defense). But I think it comes with chemistry,” he said. “With having a lot of new pieces, it’s something that we’re going to have to build during the games and kind of figure out how everyone plays.”

Nebraska names QB

LINCOLN, Neb. — True freshman Adrian Martinez has been named Nebraska’s starting quarterback for the opener against Akron on Saturday.

Martinez was No. 1 on the Cornhuskers’ depth chart released Sunday.

Martinez beat out redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia in a close competition. He will be the first true freshman in program history to start an opener at quarterback.

Martinez was the prize of Scott Frost’s first recruiting class at Nebraska, signing with the Cornhuskers after de-committing from Tennessee.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder from Fresno, California, didn’t play his senior season in high school because of a shoulder injury.

Michigan WR hurt

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan wide receiver Tarik Black is out indefinitely with an injured right foot.

Football program spokesman Dave Ablauf says Black was hurt during practice Saturday and is still being evaluated. A timeframe for his return has not been determined.

The 14th-ranked Wolverines open the season Saturday night at No. 12 Notre Dame.


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