Inside linebacker Leo Chenal was a frequent visitor in opponents’ backfields for the University of Wisconsin football team this season, disrupting run and pass plays.
His performance was rewarded with the Big Ten Conference’s Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year Award along with a first-team All-Big Ten nod from both coaches and media.
Senior inside linebacker Jack Sanborn joined Chenal as a first-team selection, earning his honor from the coaches.
The last UW inside linebacker to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors was T.J. Edwards in 2019, and the last time the Badgers had two linebackers earn first-team all-conference nods was 2012 (Mike Taylor, Chris Borland).
All 11 defensive starters for UW earned a Big Ten honor.
Chenal leads the Badgers and is second in the conference with 106 tackles despite missing the first two games after contracting COVID-19. His seven sacks are a team-high, as are his 17 tackles for loss. He ranks fourth in the league in sacks and second in tackles for loss, but he had the most tackles for loss per game (1.7) in the Big Ten.
Chenal joins Borland (2013) and Joe Schobert (2015) as the program’s linebackers to win the conference’s linebacker of the year award.
Sanborn was a third-team media selection last season and is UW’s second-leading tackler (88). He has a career-high 14½ tackles for loss and he recorded 3½ sacks. His four quarterback hurries are tied for second for UW, and he recovered a fumble in a loss to Notre Dame.
UW nose tackle Keeanu Benton was a unanimous second-team selection on the defensive line. He produced 24 tackles, including five for loss and 2½ sacks, while also recovering two fumbles and breaking up two passes this season. It is his first career all-conference honor.
Badgers senior defensive end Matt Henningsen (31 tackles, 5½ for loss, three sacks) and senior cornerback Caesar Williams (24 tackles, three interceptions, six break-ups) were named third-team picks. Six UW players were honorable mentions: seniors Noah Burks (outside linebacker), Faion Hicks (cornerback), Scott Nelson (safety) and Collin Wilder (safety); junior Isaiah Mullens (defensive end); and sophomore Nick Herbig (outside linebacker).
Michigan State’s Mel Tucker — a former UW defensive back — was named the Hayes-Schembechler and McClain Coach of the Year after guiding the Spartans to a 10-2 season.
The Badgers (8-4) learn Sunday which bowl game they’ll play in and who they’ll face in that game.
Here’s the full All-Big Ten defense and special teams honors.
(Selections are consensus unless otherwise noted)
Defensive line: Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan; Haskell Garret, Ohio State; Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State; George Karlaftis, Purdue
Linebacker: David Ojabo, Michigan; Leo Chenal, Wisconsin; Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin (coaches); Jack Campbell, Iowa (media)
Defensive back: Dane Belton, Iowa; Riley Moss, Iowa; Dax Hill, Michigan (coaches); Jaquan Brisker, Penn State; Kerby Joseph, Illinois (media)
Defensive lineman of the year and defensive player of the year: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
Linebacker of the year: Leo Chenal, ILB, Wisconsin
Defensive back of the year: Riley Moss, CB, Iowa
Kicker of the year: Jake Moody, K, Michigan
Punter of the year: Jordan Stout, P, Penn State
Return specialist of the year: Charlie Jones, Iowa
Coach of the year: Mel Tucker, Michigan State
(Selections are consensus unless otherwise noted)
Defensive line: Zach Vanvalkenburg, Iowa; Jacub Panasiuk, Michigan State; Tyreke Smith, Ohio State; PJ Mustipher, Penn State; Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin; Boye Mafe, Minnesota (media); Zach Harrison, Ohio State (media)
Linebacker: Micah McFadden, Indiana; Jojo Domann, Nebraska; Ellis Brooks, Penn State; Chris Bergin, Northwestern (media); Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin (media)
Defensive back: Kerby Joseph, Illinois (coaches); Matt Hankins, Iowa; Dax Hill, Michigan (media); Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska; Ronnie Hickman, Ohio State (coaches); Brandon Joseph, Northwestern (media)
Defensive line: Matt Henningsen, Wisconsin; Zach Harrison, Ohio State (coaches); Boye Mafe, Minnesota (coaches); Sam Okuayinonu, Maryland (coaches); Jacob Slade, Michigan State (media); Tyreke Smith, Ohio State (media); Jesse Luketa, Penn State (media)
Linebacker: Jojo Domann, Nebraska (media); Olakunle Fatukasi, Rutgers (media); Jack Campbell, Iowa (coaches); Chris Bergin, Northwestern (coaches); Brandon Smith, Penn State (coaches)
Defensive back: Caesar Williams, Wisconsin (coaches); Denzel Burke, Ohio State (coaches); Ji’Ayir Brown, Penn State (coaches); Joey Porter Jr., Penn State (coaches); Vincent Gray, Michigan (media); Brad Hawkins, Iowa (media); Xavier Henderson, Michigan State (media); Ronnie Hickman, Ohio State (media)
Kicker: Jake Moody, Michigan (coaches); Caleb Shudak, Iowa (media)
Punter: Jordan Stout, Penn State; Adam Korsak, Rutgers
Returner: Charlie Jones, Iowa
Badgers fans on Twitter are livid after Wisconsin's Big Ten title chase ends with a loss at Minnesota
Take a hard look in the mirrorUpdated
Expectations every year is that the Badger should win the West. 3 of the last 4 years they have not. They had a chance for a successful season after a 1-3 start, but that fell short with tonight’s loss. Chryst needs to re-evaluate the direction of the program.— Erik Grinde (@egrinde) November 28, 2021
Flaws on full displayUpdated
As for the defense, it remains vulnerable to good quarterback play. The Wisconsin secondary is full of gritty, sound guys who are not elite athletes. Badgers’ pass rush can’t compensate for coverage limitations against good teams.— Joseph Britt (@Zathras3) November 28, 2021
Another one goneUpdated
Starts at the topUpdated
So many bad decisions. Kicking that FG down 7 in 4Q with a kicker who’s long is 43 yards. Has struggled all season with longer kicks. Outdoors, in the cold. He isn’t making a 48 yarder. Then the timeout, punt, false start, go for it on 4th down when trailing by 10 under 5mins 🤷♂️— DRich (@drich318318) November 28, 2021
Not so fastUpdated
His D has been exposed the last two weeks so maybe not— Fred Ehle (@FredEhle) November 28, 2021
Grass is always greener ...Updated
Paul Chryst had gotta go— Greg Emmerich (@NRCoachEmmerich) November 28, 2021
Meh. Would’ve been much worse if we realistically had a chance for the CFP. This just prevented us from probably losing to Michigan next week.— Madtown Alum (@madtownalum) November 28, 2021
Far from the topUpdated
Don’t have to be elite to beat the Gophers though. This performance today was embarrassing putting it nicely— Eric Lowry (@EricL228) November 28, 2021
Falling short yet againUpdated
It's tough bc Chryst has a decent record, but not against ranked teams or big games. Lost twice to MN and can't even win BT West. I think Wisc ADs are fine with average seasons, but don't think Chyrst is the answer to win a Big Ten title. QB Coach/Playcaller that was worst part.— ChazB (@chazb33) November 28, 2021
Running into troubleUpdated
A banged-up, ineffective B. Allen really doomed the offense. Surprised they didn’t sub in Julius Davis for some fresh legs. Receivers dropped passes, got beat. Mertz still work in progress. Weren’t going to beat MI in any event.— Patrick G. (@Patrick34524185) November 28, 2021
This checks outUpdated
Ready for a new roleUpdated
Badgers defense 7, Offense 6. Hand the keys to Jim Leonhard— Mitchell Skurzewski (@MSkurzewski) November 28, 2021
How low can he go?Updated
They played jump around after the game. I hate pj fleck.— Tim (@AshBadg) November 28, 2021
Hearts not in itUpdated
From the players to the coaching, this was never a team playing for the Axe, let alone a Big Ten Championship Game. The most disappointing loss for Wisconsin under the leadership of Paul Chryst.— Jeff Ostach (@jeff_ostach) November 28, 2021
Tough to stomachUpdated
Straight up beaten in every facet of the game…Allen is clearly hurt, but too many players failed to make plays. Coaching was painful— Todd (@pilprin) November 28, 2021
Don't hold your breathUpdated
Barry out of retirement to coach.— Soflex Math (@chrisneumer) November 28, 2021
Looking lost out thereUpdated
10 years ago, Paul was a creative football mind with a Badger offense that was balanced, efficient, and high scoring. The game has passed him by. His offense has gotten stale and predictable. Today it was painful to watch. Time to make Jim Leonhard our HC and hire a modern OC.— Bode (@NickBode41) November 28, 2021
There's one way to look at itUpdated
Getting embarrassed today, does avoid getting embarrassed next week.— Holiday (@holidaystyle300) November 28, 2021
In need of an overhaulUpdated
Coaching is horrible and QB is worse. They better give Hill a real shot next year as going nowhere with Mertz. Also really need to look at that OL. We used to always be good there, but not this year. D had the tipped ball pick 6 but did little else today. Bad play all around— Phil Leith (@phil_leith) November 28, 2021
Slipped through their fingersUpdated
This was a badly played game by the Badgers today. No ground game and no O line and no passing game spells loss big time. Disappointing loss considering our 7 game win streak But No axe, no B1G championship game but……a bowl game to b determined.— Paul Yochum'63 (@PaulYochum63) November 28, 2021
Missing in actionUpdated
What a day for this team not to show up. Poor play on offense and defense.— Vickie Dahl (@ADPointerNation) November 28, 2021
Nothing new hereUpdated
Same old story, played just well enough to have a meaningful game today but laid that same egg on the field… no imagination in this team, don’t have the players? Could be but use what ya got and create a game plan exposes Mn flaws, they have them!— B'ing Bri 🇺🇸🍻🧀 (@b_newmiller) November 28, 2021
Taking 11 steps backUpdated
Felt like first losses of the season...confusing play calling, OL not good enough, etc. Continued concerns with Chryst management and inability to adapt in game.— Jeremy Wojtecki (@jwojPAC) November 28, 2021
Also, attrition finally caught up in the RB room.
If not now, when?Updated
I think it’s time to have a serious discussion about PC. Offense is stale and Mertz hasn’t progressed at all since he’s been here. Very disappointing loss today.— Dan Buhler (@FBuhlersDayOff) November 28, 2021
All quiet ... for nowUpdated
I read all the comments below. Chryst termination will not happen until after next year. Why? Our road schedule in 2022 is difficult. Could end up 6-6 or 7-5 only because we have 3 cupcakes at home.— Steven Smith (@SteveSUWbba) November 28, 2021
One to forgetUpdated
One of the more disappointing, lethargic, uninspired losses of the Chryst era, with a division title up for grabs— Sam Oleson (@sam_olesonFDL) November 28, 2021