A letdown. That's what many people were expecting from the Badgers' defense this season. So when Erasmus James, Jim Leonhard and so many other seniors graduated, it's no surprise fans and critics were anticipating a new Badger defense that would surely be more vulnerable.
But, the defense has shown no letdown thus far. Sure, the defense has shown its inexperience at times, but the Badgers' defense has kept the team in the game in all four contests this year.
Not the least of which is the defensive stand made against Michigan last weekend, allowing the offense to come back from a 13-3 halftime deficit. John Stocco led the Badgers' offense to a 20-7 run in the second half en route to a 23-20 upset win over the Wolverines. Without the defense holding fast against a powerful Wolverine offense, a second-half comeback seems far less probable.
One of the keys to the defense's continued success is the emergence of young players who have filled in admirably for their teammates. One of the many young players contributing to the new-look defense is freshman linebacker DeAndre Levy.
Having played against Temple, the University of North Carolina and Michigan, Levy has already realized his dream of playing for Wisconsin.
Growing up in Milwaukee and routinely watching Badger football games on TV, it's no surprise that Wisconsin was the only place Levy wanted to play.
"Wisconsin was it, really. I didn't really want to play anywhere else. I wanted to stay in state [also]," Levy said.
As a phenomenal student athlete in high school, Levy compiled an impressive list of credentials. Levy was a two-time all-conference choice at Milwaukee Vincent as well as an all-state selection as a senior. The Milwaukee native was also listed as one of the top-100 football players in the Midwest by Superprep, in addition to being the Vikings' team captain for three years and team MVP twice.
During his senior campaign, Levy was the backbone of Vincent's defense, compiling 84 tackles, including 21 tackles for loss, five sacks and four forced fumbles.
Levy is obviously familiar with having to work hard to achieve success. However, playing football for a Big Ten football team as a freshman is still a huge adjustment. When asked to comment on the difference between his high school experience and his college experience thus far, Levy couldn't find many similarities.
"You really can't compare the two," Levy said. "In high school, you go out and practice for a couple hours. Here, you have to practice and then spend hours watching video. And then with class and everything, it's completely different [from high school]."
"I love it here," says Levy about being able to play for the same team he grew up watching. "We've got great players, we've got great coaches. It's great."
With a young corps, including Levy, signaling a changing of the guard on defense, there certainly hasn't been any letdown that so many people anticipated. And with the young guys growing older and wiser, the defense is becoming a formidable squad.
But for now, Levy's primary concern is preparing for the upcoming game against the Big Ten rival Indiana Hoosiers. The Hoosiers are 3-0 behind an impressive passing offense. Hoosiers' quarterback Blake Powers has thrown 11 touchdowns to just three interceptions, while tailbacks Chris Taylor and Yamar Washington have received nearly equal amounts of carries with impressive yards per carry, but have only one touchdown apiece.
Despite the numbers put up by the Hoosier offense, Levy isn't worried.
"I don't really worry about it. I just study the video and treat it like any other game," he said.