The Badgers welcomed a number of talented freshmen, but there are only a handful that will see the field, let alone play a significant role on the team.
The spotlight going into the season was on incoming true freshman quarterback Graham Mertz to compete for the starting job. Mertz played well throughout the offseason but lost out to Junior Jack Coan, who started four games in 2018.
Mertz wasn’t the only freshman to garner attention from those looking in from the outside. Three-star recruit linebacker Leo Chenal was also a name to keep an eye on and impressed his coaches and teammates around him.
Leo Chenal, like Mertz, also enrolled early and started to practice with the team in the spring and landed key reps and experience to translate over to the fall and this season.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard raved about Chenal in the spring and emphasized just how important it was to have him come in early. “Him being here this spring is very big for his development,” said Lenoard, “it’s awesome to get him reps and really push him. He’s embraced the work, embraced the meetings, doing extra. He’s a kid that wants more all the time. Really fun to get him in the program early.”
Leonhard also mentioned just how physically dominant he can be and the role it can play in making up for his inexperience.
When the first depth chart was released a week ago, Chenal found himself two-deep as a backup at inside linebacker. Chenal was one of only four freshmen to make it onto the depth chart and one of only two to step on the field in the week one clobbering of South Florida in Tampa.
When leader Chris Orr went out for a second in the first half, Leo Chenal stepped in for the veteran and leader in the middle.
Chenal wasted no time making his presence as he racked up five tackles throughout the game which would be the second-most on the team.
Look for Chenal to continue to make an impact on defense as a reserve. He will be a name to keep an eye on for years to come.