Monday, May 19, 2014
Spring breakout player: Wisconsin
By Adam Rittenberg
With spring practice officially behind us, we're taking a look at each Big Ten team and identifying a player who announced himself as a potential key performer this fall.
These are guys who haven't played big roles yet but showed enough during the 15 spring practices -- not just some fluky, spring-game performance against backups -- to factor heavily into their team's plans this fall.
We finish the list with the Wisconsin Badgers, who revamped their defense this spring and received a spark from a young lineman.
Spring breakout player: DE Chikwe Obasih
The Badgers lost all three starting linemen from the 2013 team and return only a handful of players who entered the Capital One Bowl in the two-deep at either line or linebacker. The personnel turnover left the door open for younger players to emerge, and Obasih capitalized during spring practice.
After redshirting as a freshman last season and getting knocked around on the scout team, Obasih made significant strides throughout the spring and ended the session penciled into a starting role. He played in a 4-3 scheme in high school and came to Wisconsin undersized for a 3-4 end, but he has added the necessary weight through offseason training.
"If you put on Day 1 of spring ball and Day 13 of spring ball, it's an unbelievable difference in his pad level, the use of his hands, his understanding and knowledge of the defense, the basic concepts of football," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. "And that's where you'd expect him to be.
"Chikwe is starting right now."
Obasih must continue to build on the spring to retain his position, as fellow redshirt freshman Alec James and others are pushing for playing time. But after impressing coaches and teammates with his toughness in a thankless role as a freshman, it's unlikely Obasih steps off of the gas.
He showed tremendous playmaking ability in high school with 49 tackles for loss, 17 sacks and nine forced fumbles.
"I set high standards for myself," Obasih told foxsports.com. "The coaches set high standards for myself. I know where I can be. But I'm not there yet. Not near enough. I'll be working for that over the summer."
More spring breakout players