Badgers great Leonhard named new Wisconsin defensive coordinator

Former defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard is the Badgers' new defensive coordinator.
David Stluka

Two years ago Jim Leonhard had retired from the NFL and was wondering what his next move would be.

Thursday, the Badgers great was named Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator, replacing Justin Wilcox, who left after one season to be head coach at Cal.

Leonhard spent the 2016 season as Wisconsin’s secondary coach — his first year of coaching at any level.

Under Leonhard the Badgers had 22 interceptions — 16 by defensive backs — which ranked second in the FBS and marked UW’s highest output since 2002, when Leonhard himself recorded a school-record 11 of UW’s 22 picks.

Under Wilcox, the Badgers ranked No. 4 nationally in scoring defense (15.6 points per game), No. 7 in total defense (301.4 yards per game), No. 3 in rushing defense (98.8 yards per game) and No. 10 in passing efficiency defense (106.9).

Leonhard has said he will continue to coach the secondary in his role as defensive coordinator. Wilcox also coached inside linebackers and the Badgers might still look to fill that role. Tim Tibesar, who was a candidate for defensive coordinator the last two years, coaches outside linebackers.

Dave Aranda left to be LSU’s defensive coordinator in January 2016 prompting the hiring of Wilcox.

Wisconsin is no doubt hopeful an alum like Leonhard will be sticking around for a much longer time.