Internal coaching options for the Wisconsin Badgers at inside linebacker explored

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With the recent resignation of veteran inside linebackers coach Bill Sheridan on Friday, the Wisconsin Badgers are now back in the market for a new defensive staff member.

Sheridan was only on the staff for a few months after being hired in February, but the timing of his resignation is less than ideal for Paul Chryst, as most college staffs are already in place for the fall.

While there is a good chance that Chryst looks externally for another established option to coach the inside linebackers, there are several possibilities already on the staff that could make sense as well.

With external candidates much harder to project, let’s explore three internal candidates that could help fill the role in 2022.

Bobby April

Before Sheridan’s hiring back in February, there was plenty of discussion about the possibility of outside linebackers coach Bobby April taking over the entire linebacker room.

April is one of Wisconsin’s top staff members both in terms of developing talent and on the recruiting trail, and he is currently the defensive run game coordinator.

Adding inside linebackers to his plate would present an opportunity to increase his overall compensation and could also help the Badgers fend off other teams who are starting to take notice of the former NFL assistant. For example, he reportedly met with Jim Harbaugh this winter about the Michigan defensive coordinator role.

Moving April to cover the entire linebacker group would also free up an additional coaching position on the staff. That move could allow for someone like special teams analyst Taylor Mehlhaff to take over as a full-time special teams coordinator or provide Chryst with greater flexibility to hire a staff member to coach a different position group altogether.

Michael Caputo

Paul Chryst and Jim Leonhard could also look to former Wisconsin safety Michael Caputo.

A three-year starter for the Badgers, Caputo was a team captain in 2015 under Paul Chryst and was a very cerebral player who understood the entire picture of Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense.

Michael Caputo was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2014 and 2015 during his time with the Badgers. 

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After a brief stint with the Rams in the NFL, Caputo has since turned to coaching.

The Pennsylvania native followed former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to LSU, where he served as a defensive graduate assistant for two years, primarily working with the outside linebackers.

Caputo then spent a season at Utah State as the safeties coach with Gary Andersen before rejoining Aranda at Baylor as a defensive quality control assistant for two years. 

This spring, Caputo returned to Wisconsin, and he is currently serving as a defensive analyst for the team.

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Given Caputo’s knowledge of the 3-4 system as a player and coach, he is an intriguing option for the staff. Chryst has shown a willingness to hire former players in the past, and Caputo is well respected name in Wisconsin circles.

With how important the inside linebacker position is in Jim Leonhard’s defense, it might be a bit of a leap for Caputo at this stage of his career, but then again, Chryst followed a similar path when he added Leonhard to the staff shortly after his playing days.

Jack Cichy

One other potential option on staff is Jack Cichy.

Another former Wisconsin player, Cichy, recently stepped away from his playing career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and like Caputo, he is an analyst now with the team.

Jack Cichy posing with the Axe after the Badgers took down Minnesota in 2017. 

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

A former walk-on, Cichy also played for Chryst as an inside linebacker with the Badgers. Interestingly because of injuries in the latter part of his career, he essentially became an extra coach in the position group before his time in NFL.

Cichy was around the program last season, and this spring, he officially joined the staff as an analyst.

Given his experience as a player, and his knowledge of the defense, he is another possibility. He has even less experience as a coach than Caputo, but once again, if Chryst and Leonhard feel he is up for the task, Cichy could be a good match. He would likely stick around for a while and develop into the role.

Other possibilities

  • Chris Orr is another name that many fans will rightly include too, given his interest in working inside the athletic department, but he is playing with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL right now. He was previously named Director of Player Personnel for the Badgers, and I would assume that is a role that Chryst will have waiting for him after his playing career officially ends. 
  • Tight ends coach Chris Haering also has experience coaching linebackers, but I would have imagined that Chryst would have already made that move back in February. At this point, Haering has already gone through spring ball with the tight end group, and I don’t think it makes a ton of sense to switch him over to the defense unless Chryst has someone else lined up to coach tight ends or is looking to have more shuffling on the offensive staff. 

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