Jacobs-Nebraska mailbag

Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Leon Jacobs (32) sacks Florida Atlantic Owls quarterback Daniel Parr (13) during the fourth quarter of a game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. M.P. KING, STATE JOURNAL


To submit a question for next week’s mailbag, tweet @Jason_Galloway or email jgalloway@madison.com.

We’ve got quite a few questions to get to this week, so let’s get right to it:

Q: You have to complete an Oklahoma drill against either Leon Jacobs or Olive Sagapolu. Who do you choose as the man opposite you?

— Louis Johnson (@REAlouisjames)

What a way to start off the mailbag. It doesn’t get any more lose-lose for me than this, but anyone who’s ever stood next to Leon Jacobs would probably choose Sagapolu. Olive would flatten me, undeniably give me a concussion and probably hospitalize me, but a full-speed hit from Leon might just kill me instantly.

Q: Defense will keep us in games. Our weakness appears (to be) Hornibrook’s inability to handle pressure. Which teams other than Mich do we worry about?

— Trader 8 Ball (@trader8ball)

I think on the whole Hornibrook’s having a good season, but most of the issues he’s had have come when under pressure. He saw what might have been the best protection of his career against BYU and shredded the Cougars. His bad interception against Florida Atlantic came when he was put under immediate duress and at least one of his two picks last week happened when he wasn’t able to set his feet in the pocket. It’s not as if Hornibrook’s never succeeded in those situations (some throws against Michigan State and Ohio State last year come to mind), but if he can become more consistent in that area it could really elevate this offense. Michigan and Iowa would be the two games I’d worry about the most. The important thing for the Badgers in games such as those is making sure they can get the running game going early to make things easier on Hornibrook.

Q: With the news that Dietzen now suffered a (toe injury) what does his timetable for return look like?

— Shaun Langweiler (@Lanzarus21)

The toe injury was something he suffered prior to the BYU game, and he was able to rotate with Micah Kapoi last week against Northwestern. It appears he’ll be closer to 100 percent this week (he’s no longer on the injury report), but it’ll be interesting to see if Kapoi still gets some reps. The bigger concern might be Michael Deiter’s ankle. He’ll play Saturday, but it’s something that bothered him at the end of the Northwestern game and Cole Van Lanen had to take a series from him in the fourth quarter. The Badgers can afford to play Kapoi instead of Dietzen. If something happens to Deiter, that’s a whole other story.

Q: Do you know when (Chikwe) Obasih could be back?

— Jonathon Zenk (@jzenk42)

Let’s go ahead and get through the injury questions. Still no word on when Obasih might return, but if UW can get through Saturday unscathed then Purdue, Maryland and Illinois probably won’t be a problem. The emergence of redshirt freshman Isaiahh Loudermilk makes Obasih’s absence much more manageable than when the defensive line suffered a couple injuries late last season, although Loudermilk was added to the injury report Thursday and is listed as questionable for the Nebraska game. Paul Chryst sounded optimistic about the status of Loudermilk and tight end Troy Fumagalli on Thursday, though we likely won’t know for sure on those two until Saturday evening.

Q: What kickoff times are you expecting for the big Iowa and Michigan home games?

— Tyler Bouressa (@TylerBouressa)

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We touched on possibility of November night games in last week’s mailbag. With the Big Ten’s new TV deal, night games during the last three weeks of the season are now possible IF both teams agree to it. I doubt Michigan or Iowa would want to visit Camp Randall Stadium when the lights are on, so I’d bet against either of those games being played at night. Both will likely be massive late-season matchups, though, so 2:30 p.m. kickoffs seem like a high possibility. Unfortunately, we really won’t know for sure until at least 12 days before the games are played.

Q: Can we say what (Bob Bostad’s) imprint has been at ILB? … What are the odds he’s at OL next yr. (not suggesting anything negative in either)."

— Shiny, and Chrome (@Hanzo_Steel)

The veteran inside linebackers raved in the offseason about how much Bostad helped them see the game from a different perspective. He was able to more thoroughly explain how offensive linemen will attack them based on their specific strengths and give them certain tips some inside linebacker coaches may not be privy to. It’s difficult to measure the exact impact he’s had since we expected this position group to play well regardless of who was coaching them, but I think he’s certainly added value in that role. I don’t expect him to switch to the offensive line next year unless Joe Rudolph leaves for greener pastures. FBS programs will be able to add a 10th assistant coach beginning in January. It’ll be interesting to see how the Badgers want to use that extra spot, but the most likely possibilities seem to be promoting Jon Budmayr to quarterbacks coach or hiring someone who focuses mainly on recruiting.

Q: Given your excellent film study work, how does Bucky adjust the blitz packages vs the Huskers from what Leonhard showed vs NW…if at all?

— Hank (@moki33)

Q: Do you expect even more exotic pressures and blitzes given the more traditional, pro-style offense run by NEB? Playbook opened up vs NW."

— Chris Birke (@chris_birke)

As we outlined in this week’s film room story (glad you guys are reading it!), Leonhard did get much more creative with the pressures he dialed up against Northwestern after staying vanilla through UW’s first three games. It worked masterfully, as the Badgers sacked Clayton Thorson eight times and came close to many more. I think we’ll see a lot of the same concepts against Nebraska, but probably with a few tweaks in order to avoid predictability and adapt to a different matchup. Leonhard blitzed a defensive back eight times last week, and I would guess that’s going to be a bigger part of what the Badgers do defensively this season than in past years. It’s easier to do so out of a nickel package, and the Badgers had three cornerbacks on the field for the large majority of snaps against Northwestern. We may see less defensive backs involved in the pass rush against pro-style offenses, but Leonhard will still do plenty to get his front-seven players one-on-one matchups. If UW can maintain a consistent pass rush on the level of what it showed last week, this could be a really special season for the Badgers.