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Badgers film room: How Zack Baun has become 'Sack Baun'
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Badgers film room: How Zack Baun has become 'Sack Baun'


Zack Baun doesn’t seem to put a lot of stock into what people call him.

He even shook it off when the University of Wisconsin football team mistakenly wrote his last name as “Brown” on a recruiting letter while he was at Brown Deer High School.

But the senior outside linebacker is earning the nicknames he’s acquired this season — “Sack Zack,” as Fox Sports broadcaster Gus Johnson called him, or simply “Sack Baun.”

Whatever you call him, the impact he’s had on No. 8 UW’s pass rush has been undeniable this season. Baun has six of the Badgers’ 21 sacks, which in five games is more sacks than they had all of last season.

How is Baun getting to the quarterback so effectively? Let’s step inside the film room and find out.

Situation: Second-and-3 from Kent State’s 33, KSU’s third drive of game

Play: Zack Baun sacks Dustin Crum for loss of 7 yards

Breakdown: This is an example of the speed and power with which Baun plays.

He uses his speed for a great get-off on the snap, immediately putting the tackle Adam Gregoire (75) in a tough position to block him. When he engages with Gregoire, his feet never stop running to turn the edge, and he extends his right arm to press Gregoire away and get separation. He holds Gregoire off with one arm despite being outweighed by 80 pounds, and then initiates the sack of Crum with the other arm.

Until he gets all the way around Gregoire, Baun is still engaged with the block, but not fully, a great display of technique to get after Crum.

Situation: First-and-10 from Kent State’s 39, KSU’s fifth drive of game

Play: Zack Baun sacks Dustin Crum for loss of 7 yards

Breakdown: Here, Baun uses a great move to exploit a tackle’s mistake.

His get-off on the snap isn’t as good in other plays you’ll see in this breakdown, but he makes up for it with the move. Watch as tackle Sam Allan (69) commits a cardinal sin of pass protection — he turns his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage before initial contact. This gives Baun an option to make a move to the inside or outside and eliminates Allan’s plant foot with which he can maintain leverage.

Baun goes to the outside, posting his right arm on Allan’s left shoulder quickly before ripping through with his left arm. Allan’s off-balance and stumbles as Baun puts a lick on Crum. Technique errors from Allan made this play easier, but the way Baun dominates the edge forces tackles to quicken their movements and can create those mistakes.

Situation: First-and-10 from Kent State’s 39 on its second drive.

Play: Zack Baun sacks Dustin Crum for a loss of 1 yard

Breakdown: Some plays, like this one, are just about effort.

Kent State sends two blockers toward Baun — something it inexplicably didn’t do more often — to start the play, and he maintains his rush lane to the outside of the tackle. Baun turns the edge and forces Crum out of the pocket to his right.

After sophomore inside linebacker Jack Sanborn (57) fails to make the sack, Baun continues his pursuit with a good angle back toward the line of scrimmage. He lays out and trips Crum before he can get back to the line, covering about 25 yards on the play.

UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard has said multiples times this season that he never questions the effort his defense gives, and this play is a good example of it.

Situation: Second-and-10 from Michigan’s 25, Michigan’s sixth drive, late first half

Play: Shea Patterson pass incomplete, QB hurry by Zack Baun

Breakdown: Baun’s affecting more plays than just the ones on which he records a sack.

Michigan was already down 28-0 and trying to get something going offensively before halftime. Baun doesn’t have his best get-off here, but makes up for it with a quick spin move to get inside the tackle and make a B-line for Patterson.

The key here is as Baun plants his right foot to spin, he brings his right arm down and chops away at tackle Jalen Mayfield’s hands. Getting Mayfield’s hands down before the spin allows Baun to get around him without Mayfield pushing him off course.

Baun levels Patterson and helps cause an incomplete pass. Patterson went to the sideline after the play.

Situation: Second-and-10 from UW’s 19, Michigan’s penultimate drive of the second half

Play: Zack Baun sacks Shea Patterson for loss of 7 yards, fumble by Patterson, recovered by Chris Orr

Breakdown: Baun’s ability to read what a tackle is doing and make a move off of it is part of why he’s elevated his game this season.

Michigan’s Jon Runyan (75) does what he’s supposed to — he stays square to the line of scrimmage, he stays compact to deliver a punch and has his feet in good position under him. However, he makes a critical mistake just before initial contact.

Baun had used power rush moves so often against Runyan that Runyan tried to load up and deliver a heavier blow, dipping his head while expecting contact. Baun's right hand pulls on Runyan’s left shoulder, then swims over top with his left arm, and immediately gets to Patterson.

Baun’s feet rarely, if ever, stop on contact with linemen, and it’s what enables him to bend around the edge so often and apply pressure.

Here’s that play from another angle.



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