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Player to Watch: Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy

You heard a lot about Joe Schobert during last year’s Iowa-Wisconsin game, and you’ll likely hear a lot about Jack Cichy this year.

LSU v Wisconsin Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Remember how great of a game former Wisconsin linebacker Joe Schobert had against Iowa last season? He had roughly one million quarterback hits, every tackle, 25 sacks, and Steve Levy — who’s on the call again this week — 400 mentions that he began his career as a walk on.

Well, if Jack Cichy has as good of a game as he did last week against Ohio State (15 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, and a forced fumble), you’ll likely hear Levy and company give him the same praise because, you guessed, it, Cichy started his career as a walk on. More importantly, he’s our Player to Watch when the Hawkeyes take on No. 10 Wisconsin at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Take a look at a few plays below that make the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week so dangerous.

(36:07 if the embed doesn’t work like it’s supposed to)

For starters, Iowa doesn’t run any option, but that doesn’t mean Cichy’s skills playing the option won’t translate into his success against the Hawkeyes. Along with linebacker T.J. Watt (did you guys know JJ went to Wisconsin?!), they play JT Barrett and running back Curtis Samuel about as well as one can.

You see discipline from Watt keeping Barrett from taking off upfield, and Cichy fly in to clean things up after the pitch. He’s not the world’s biggest linebacker at 6-2, 223, but man, can he shed a block and move. Given Greg Davis’ affinity for stretch plays, it’ll be key to stay on the junior through the point of attack to give LeShun Daniels Jr. and especially Akrum Wadley a chance to get outside and do their thing.

(1:02:50 if the embed isn’t working properly)

The takeaway from this play is very similar to the one we just went through. Granted, he goes basically untouched so it may not be as impressive, but the execution on this play is flawless. He’s able to spot the jet sweep right away (Jonathan Parker, is this the week?) and puts a perfect tackle on the ball carrier.

It’s really a thing of beauty, and telling of how important it’ll be for the Hawkeye offensive line — recently named the nation’s best by Pro Football Focus, for some reason — to keep Cichy and company out of the backfield.

(1:49:21 if something’s screwy)

Cichy doesn’t need to keep things outside to be successful, he can mix it up in the middle as well. Not much else to say here, just winning at the line of scrimmage.

The last thing to show in this post is how strong of a pass rusher he is. Take a look at these three-consecutive plays in last year’s Holiday Bowl, in which the Badgers beat USC.

Pretty, pretty good. The tape all but explains itself, and the pessimist in me is having nightmares thinking about this happening to C.J. Beathard if something breaks down in his protection. For all the things he does well, Beathard’s struggled at times feeling pressure this season.

Granted, it’s near impossible not to feel a guy coming right in your face, but should Cichy or another linebacker come from the blindside (which seems to happen once per game as of late — I shriek every time), and get Beathard the wrong way, this team could be at a huge disadvantage moving forward.

The lesson in this tape? Get a body on Cichy every play, because the guy has been an absolute monster the last couple of weeks. If not, those hopes of a return trip to Indianapolis will be a whole lot slimmer.