Most Important Badgers No. 21: Chikwe Obasih
MAY 23, 2014 11:00a ET
FOX Sports Wisconsin's Jesse Temple analyzes the 25 most important players to the Badgers' success in the 2014 season. Check back each weekday to see the latest player on the list. You can find every report here.
Note: This is not a list of the team's 25 best players or a series about past success, but rather which of them means the most to how Wisconsin will fare this year. Criteria such as depth at that player's position, general expectations and overall importance of that player having a good season are all highly considered. The list does not include incoming freshmen because their potential impact is unknown at this time.
No. 21 -- Chikwe Obasih, defensive end
Why he's No. 21
Obasih emerged during spring camp perhaps more than any other player on the roster. Badgers players and coaches knew of Obasih's talents from his season spent on the scout team last year, but he put the pieces together well enough to leap all the way to the top of the team's depth chart this spring.
He was a first-team all-state pick and one of the top recruits in Wisconsin out of Brookfield Central High. So his ascension did not come from out of nowhere. Still, Obasih has taken to defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's 3-4 defense well, especially considering he played a 4-3 in high school.
Obasih said he thought coaches noticed him because of his knowledge of the playbook and ability to grasp what spots he needed to be at on the field. But he isn't willing to reflect on his rise into the starting rotation.
"It's something, but I set high standards for myself," Obasih said in the spring. "The coaches set high standards for myself. I know where I can be. But I'm not there yet. Not near enough. I'll be working for that over the summer."
Obasih still has plenty of areas to improve, and he noted footwork and technique were two areas in particular. Head coach Gary Andersen, meanwhile, has been impressed with everything about Obasih thus far.
"He's developed pad level," Andersen said in the spring. "He's developed the ability to play with his hands. He controls his feet very well. And now his mind has cleared. The waters have calmed. So his ability to react to what's coming his way after spring break just kind of really developed and gave him the opportunity to get in position to make plays.
"And then he was the toughest guy last year on the scout team day in and day out as far as just coming out and knocking around. As light as he was then, he just kept on fighting and battling. So he has a toughness that we learned he had a year ago, and that's just continued to grow."
Expectations for 2014
Wisconsin's defensive front will look much different than it did in 2013, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Aranda wants more explosive playmakers, and Obasih seems to fit that mold. The three starters at the front of Wisconsin's 3-4 against South Carolina in the team's Jan. 1 bowl game -- defensive end Pat Muldoon, nose guard Beau Allen and defensive end Ethan Hemer -- all have used up their eligibility. The presumed starters in 2014 will be Obasih and Konrad Zagzebski at ends and Warren Herring at nose guard.
Muldoon was a solid contributor last season and finished with 29 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and one interception. Obasih has the athletic ability to create more havoc than Muldoon, and his numbers could be much better. With Herring, a 6-foot-3, 294-pounder, occupying double teams, it could give Obasih all the space he needs to make an immediate impact.
What would they do without him?
There are plenty of defensive ends from which Wisconsin's coaches could choose, but none seem to possess the upside and immediate impact ability of Obasih. Jake Keefer and James Adeyanju are redshirt juniors that have been in the program over a coaching change, but in terms of power and athleticism, Obasih is the player that best fits the scheme. Expect a big year from him.
Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter