football Edit

Early Signing Period: Jim Leonhard on Wisconsin's defensive signees

MADISON -- Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard met with reporters on Wednesday morning to discuss some of his newest players as part of the 2020 class.

A lot of early discussion surrounded the recent decision of four-star outside linebacker Kaden Johnson to sign with Wisconsin, but there was plenty of in-depth talk about the other additions to the program as well. Check out the video along with the highlighted topics as well.

Please note, as fellow four-star outside linebacker Nick Herbig had not sent in his National Letter of Intent (NLI), Leonhard was not able to speak about the Hawaii native specifically, which he notes in one of the below answers.

ON KADEN JOHNSON

*On what stood out when evaluating him and why would he be a great fit in this defense:

“We love Kaden and his athleticism. He does a lot of things on the football field for his team. He’s our type of guy. Great attitude. Very versatile. Basketball player as well, so we love what he brings to the table from a physicality standpoint and an athleticism standpoint. We think he can be a great leader in this locker room.”

*Do you play up the program’s success at outside linebacker on the recruiting trail?

“Yeah, you use what you got, right? It’d be like telling a running back, ‘You know, we’re OK running the ball.’

“We’ve had a lot of success defensively and obviously very dynamic playmakers at the outside linebacker position, so it is something where we feel like we can go in and compete with any school just because of what we provide that group and how dynamic they are in our defense. We love the way we can approach a lot of positions on our defense but, obviously, that outside linebacker position.”

*Did that play out with [Nick] Herbig and Johnson?

“We got 'em, so I guess so. They’re great kids, man. We really, really like this class as a whole. Defensively, obviously we got some really talented players that we’re fired up about. It’s always exciting when you get to this day. This is a huge decision for these guys. Coaches, we go through this every year. They get one opportunity to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives so you’re always excited when the class comes together. It’s impressive in today’s day and age just to see how quickly this group gets really close. By the time they step on campus, they create a great bond with coaches and players, current players, so it’s a lot of fun to get to this day.”

*On how long did it take to realize that the fit was there to make it a good relationship?

“We were obviously fortunate to have him on campus a number of times so you really get to spend time and find out who he is. Love the family. We love the team aspect and what he does athletically, like I said, on the basketball court and things like that so it doesn’t take very long. You felt really good after meeting him the first time, you’re like ‘Wow, he’d be a great fit,’ and he really matches what we do and personality-wise, he would have a great opportunity here to flourish.”

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

*On the other linebackers, notably Malik Reed and Jordan Turner when asked by a reporter:

“Malik and Jordan, two different type of players. Malik is extremely powerful. From a physical standpoint, he’s not going to have a huge adjustment coming to Wisconsin. Extremely strong, understands football, locked in. Get an opportunity to watch his tape, he is locked in every play.

“Jordan Turner is a dynamic player. Love what he can do physically and a great leader on his team. Makes plays all over the field, and I don’t know if we can talk about [Nick] Herbig yet. I don’t think that one’s come through.

“We just love the versatility. Aaron Witt is a guy that can do so many things. He’s just scratching the surface and love what he’s going to be able to do and provide some flexibility for us as a staff. What’s his best fit? We really like that linebacker group and how it shaped up and how they complement each other."

*On Max Lofy being the only cornerback and if only having one secondary signee is because of youth in defensive backfield?

"Yeah, for sure. He complements that group really well. Love what he does. He's a great kid and physically, he can run. He's got great length, and he's a great leader. A champion. He's a champion at the high school, and you can never get enough of those kids in your program so I'm excited for Max.

"We do have a young group. Still a young group, even two years ago when I said they were a young group. We're still young, but I like the way that that group's going to develop, and he's going to jump right into the mix."

*On Cade McDonald’s performance during one of the summer camps and how James Thompson has grown and shown up on UW’s radar:

“Cade was extremely impressive coming to camp. Great size, great physicality, just continues to get better. It was a lot of fun to watch him play throughout the course of the season, and just in every area, just continuing to develop. We’re excited to get him in the program.

“Same with James Thompson. Great leader for that program. Led his high school team back to the playoffs for the first time in a while so great leader, great personality. Really had a great visit and when you sat down with him, you realized what he’s going to be able to provide from an energy standpoint to that d-line room. Like I said, he’s just scratching the surface, and he’ll continue to get better.”