MADISON, Wis. — Over his career at Wisconsin, fifth-year senior Jack Cichy has had two head coaches and three defensive coordinators while also playing multiple positions.
So many different voices have offered direction to Cichy, and yet Bob Bostad may be his most unique position coach yet.
Bostad, a coaching lifer, returned to Wisconsin this year, but to a different side of the ball. He is the new inside linebackers coach after spending the past 27 years coaching offense at various stops.
He brings a different perspective to one of the deepest and strongest position groups on the team.
Bostad has offered tips in recognizing fronts and receiver routes for instance, and encouraged the inside linebackers to be more students of the game, said Cichy, who has also played outside linebacker for the Badgers.
“Just being able to be (at inside linebacker), you can kind of play mind games with the quarterback,” Cichy said, “or you can just read him and be in the right spots.”
In the film room, Cichy said Bostad has helped the linebackers look for signs that might help them blow up a play. Bostad’s lengthy resume includes four years coaching offensive line in the NFL, most recently with Tennessee in 2015. He was the offensive line coach at Wisconsin from 2008-11, while current head coach Paul Chryst was the offensive coordinator.
“He taught O-line and coached O-line,” Cichy said. “Having that experience has … been definitely valuable.”
Bostad did play inside linebacker in college at Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Chryst had a comfort level with Bostad from their previous time coaching together.
Chryst has also toyed with the idea of bringing in someone with defensive experience as an offensive coach. The departure of Justin Wilcox to California as head coach following one season as the Badgers’ defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach left an opening on defense in February.
“Timing is such a big part of it. … I think the timing was right — not the need, but it fit,” Chryst said.
Bostad will be coaching a veteran crew.
Cichy was having a breakout year in 2016 before suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in late October. He’ll start alongside junior T.J. Edwards, who had a team-high 89 tackles last year.
Their backups could be starters on other teams: Junior Ryan Connelly has 59 tackles in 14 games and filled in after Cichy went down, while sophomore Chris Orr would have started last season had he not torn his ACL on the first play of the season opener against LSU.
“The competition is only going to bring out the best,” Edwards said. He and Connelly also have offensive experience, having each played quarterback in high school.
Edwards, of Lake Villa, Illinois, threw for more than 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns in his prep career , while also running for 854 yards and 16 scores.
“If anything, I learned from a young age to move a linebacker’s eyes, to move a safety’s eyes. So I know how the quarterback’s going to be doing that to us,” Edwards said.
Connelly, of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, played quarterback in an offense that primarily ran the ball, which he said helped him develop a feel for the pace of defending against the run. He’ll use any little edge he can get.
“As far as schemes and stuff, that’s something that I don’t have personal experience with helping me,” Connelly said. “But with Bostad, obviously that helps, with him knowing what the O-line wants to do in certain situations. That can definitely translate over and help us.”
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