Badgers: DC Jim Leonhard ‘loves’ UW, no rush to make move elsewhere despite speculation

When you are very good at your job, you are sure to be in high demand when a job that many think would be a step up comes open. Such is the case for Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard whenever a head coaching position becomes available at an attractive school. So when Scott Frost became the first coaching casualty of the season at Nebraska, it was not a surprise to see the 39-year-old Leonhard’s name floated as a possibility. The only problem? Leonhard doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to leave Madison.

“I’ve talked it a lot, man. I’m comfortable here,” Leonhard told reporters Tuesday. “I’m not saying that this is the place I’ll be the rest of my life, but I love this place. I love what we’re doing. I like the guys and who I’m coaching with. So I’m not in a rush to make decisions that I think some people think I am.”

Oddsmakers have Leonhard among the top-10 favorites to be the next Huskers head coach, though most expect athletic director Trev Alberts to lean on an experienced leader after the disaster that was Frost’s tenure after just two years as a head coach before coming home to Lincoln.

But even if Nebraska does pursue Leonhard, it’s no sure thing he would even entertain the opportunity. Since joining Wisconsin’s staff in 2016 as the secondary coach, and then taking over as defensive coordinator in 2017, Leonhard has been sought after by major programs. Florida State and Alabama came calling to lead their defenses after his first year, while the Green Bay Packers offered him the defensive coordinator job prior to last season. In turning that job down, Leonhard said he had unfinished business with the Badgers. He was also reportedly in the mix for the Illinois job before Bret Bielema got it.

Outside of his football ties to the state — having grown up playing high school and college ball in Wisconsin — Leonhard built a house with his young family in the Madison area following his 10-year NFL career. After playing in six different cities during his time in the pros, there is something to be said for the stability of staying in one place for more than a few years, especially when the area itself fits his low-key, under-the-radar personality.

The timing of the Nebraska opening comes at an interesting point for Wisconsin. After missing out on a Big Ten West title in three of the last four seasons, and then falling as a 17-point favorite to Washington State last weekend, social media and sports talk radio is filled with posters and callers wanting the Badgers to move on from coach Paul Chryst and promote Leonhard before he leaves for another job. The short-term scenarios where that happens are non-existent. It’s also difficult to see Leonhard not returning to Wisconsin when the head coaching job opened up if he did in fact leave for another position at some point. Right now, though, it’s all about this Saturday’s game against New Mexico State.

“I’m excited to right the ship coming off a loss,” Leonhard said. “I don’t like where we’re at. That’s my focus right now. I’m not worried about anything else.”