Jim Leonhard to leave Wisconsin, providing defensive coordinator candidate for Packers

Matt LaFleur’s top option for defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers from two years ago will be available for hire come the end of the 2022 season.

Wisconsin interim head coach/defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard announced Tuesday that he is leaving the program following the team’s bowl game in December.

After firing Mike Pettine at the conclusion of the 2020 season, LaFleur zeroed in on Leonhard and Joe Barry for the vacant defensive coordinator job. LaFleur’s top pick, Leonhard turned down the Packers to stay in Madison, leaving LaFleur to hire Barry to take over the defense.

Despite talent additions and upgrades, Barry’s defenses have been mostly disappointing over the last two seasons, and a change could be on the horizon by the end of the 2022 season.

If the job is once again available, would Leonhard be the top option for LaFleur?

The Badgers annually fielded one of college football’s best defenses despite lacking elite talent. Making the short move up to Green Bay could be just what Leonhard wants or needs after a tough season in Madison.

Instead of removing Leonhard’s interim tag after he went 4-3 to finish the season, Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell away from Cincinnati. While there were reports of Leonhard wanting to stay at Wisconsin under Fickell, he ultimately decided to move on.

Given he wants a change, the door is now re-opened for LaFleur to make his pitch to Leonhard on staying in state and coaching the Packers defense. The former Badger star will have his fair share of opportunities available to him over the next few months, both at the college and pro ranks. If Barry is out in Green Bay in the coming months, Leonhard may get another chance to be the defensive coordinator for the Packers.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire