cotton bowl celebration

BY MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com Senior Writer

WEB UWBADGERS

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy attacks questions like ball-carriers: Head-on, downhill. So besides volunteering that eating waffles was one of the highlights of his Cotton Bowl trip, Cichy was willing to tackle something far meatier. Like T.J. Watt's decision to enter the NFL draft.

The exchange took place some 48 hours before Monday's kickoff between the Badgers and Western Michigan at AT&T Stadium; some 72 hours before Watt, the fourth-year junior from Pewaukee, Wisconsin, revealed Tuesday that he wasn't coming back for his final season of eligibility.

"Obviously, it would be a big loss; he's a playmaker, you know that," Cichy replied to the hypothetical that the Badgers would have to replace their third-leading tackler in Watt, whose 15.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks topped the No. 4 scoring defense (15.6 points) in college football.

"We want the best for him and we're going to respect whatever decision he does make and we're going to have to move forward with our defense as a whole, as a unit. We know that people are going to step up in ways that you really never know (or anticipate) until fall camp or the season."

Cichy pointed out how Ryan Connelly took over for Chris Orr, who was injured on the first defensive snap of the season. Cichy and Orr were the starting inside linebackers against LSU in the opener because T.J. Edwards, the leading tackler in 2015, was still recovering from a foot injury.

Cichy went on to note how seemingly everybody had questions about the Badgers' ability to replace safeties Michael Caputo and Tanner McEvoy, especially since neitherLeo Musso, nor D'Cota Dixon had much playing experience beyond special teams and Musso's three starts in 38 games.

"There's always going to be quote, unquote surprises," Cichy reasoned.

Whether they match this year's surprise developments obviously remains to be seen.

"But we're going to have new ones next year, too," he predicted.

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