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Chris Orr-lost weight

Wisconsin inside linebacker Chris Orr, left, has a chance to reestablish himself as one of the top players at his position as a senior.

Chris Orr freely admits to adding cheat days into his diet.

The University of Wisconsin inside linebacker spent the better part of a year increasing his vegetable intake, lowering his dairy consumption and skimping on red meat.

At the end of a difficult practice, however, sometimes all bets are off.

"After a Saturday scrimmage, I'll get a big burger or something like that," Orr said. "Without a doubt. It's not that strict. You're not a physique model or something like that."

It didn't take all that much for weight to start falling off Orr's body. The fifth-year senior now enters his final year more than 15 pounds lighter than he did last fall as he prepares to take over as the top player and unquestioned leader of his position group.

Orr played more special teams last season, and all the extra running certainly didn't hurt his attempts to lose weight, either. After beginning last season at 232 pounds, he's now listed at 214 on UW's spring roster. Orr said Tuesday that he currently weighs around 217.

Besides the obvious intention to become faster, he said his better eating habits also help him stay healthier during a long season.

Prior to 2018, when he played all 13 games and recorded a season-high eight tackles in the Pinstripe Bowl, Orr had missed multiple November games during every year of his Badgers career.

"I want to stay as healthy as possible, last through a season," Orr said. "I feel way faster, not as tired anymore. My body doesn't really get beat up too much anymore. I can recover faster."

Orr had plenty of extra pounds to lose before last season. He's actually gained strength since he began losing weight and said he doesn't believe a lower number on the scale will correlate to being pushed around on the field.

"I think that every player goes through kind of finding their sweet spot," UW coach Paul Chryst said. "I trust where he's at because he feels good with it. His weight room numbers are good, so it's not like it's taking away from something. I think each guy's got to find that. As you get older and you figure it out, I think it helps."

Orr's experienced somewhat of an up-and-down path to the top of the Badgers' depth chart.

He took over a starting role early in the 2015 season as a true freshman before tearing his ACL in the season opener against LSU the following year. With T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly starring in the middle of UW's defense the past two years, Orr's been the odd man out of the starting lineup.

Edwards and Connelly are now preparing for the NFL, leaving Orr - who's already played in 36 games and started 16 - to re-take his role as the first choice at inside linebacker.

His duties off the field won't necessarily be much different. Orr's someone who delivered a motivational talk in front of his entire team as far back as August of 2016, when he was only a 19-year-old sophomore.

"Chris is a natural leader for us," Chryst said. "What I'm impressed with, it's not just leading the defense. I think he's doing a good job being a team leader. Chris has to be himself because those things are natural. He can kind of set the tone in a lot of ways, and yet I think that's right up his alley."

UW may need that side of Orr more than ever this year after the departure of defensive leaders such as Edwards, Connelly, safety D'Cota Dixon and nose tackle Olive Sagapolu.

Orr will likely see a true sophomore, Jack Sanborn, start beside him, with even less experienced players — Mike Maskalunas, Seth Currens and true freshman Leo Chenal — battling for rotation spots behind him.

Orr appears ready for the challenge, both physically and mentally.

"I'm eager to have guys look to me when things may not be going well or whenever they need some energy when they're feeling down," Orr said. "I'm eager to have guys look to me and get a spark from me — either talking to me or looking at the work I'm putting in. That's definitely exciting for me."

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