Wisconsin Secondary vs. Nebraska Wide Receivers
The Wisconsin secondary had some highs and too many lows against Iowa. They did make plays when the Badgers desperately needed them to do so but were beat on multiple occasions. I do not need to keep mentioning that this unit is playing a lot of young guys, but the breakdowns in coverage appear to be exactly what happens when freshmen are playing together. Iowa’s tight ends were open way too many times and they made the Wisconsin defense pay. Nate Stanley connected on many big plays down the field and seemed to be picking apart the Wisconsin secondary.
Despite giving up some big plays to Iowa, I thought the Wisconsin secondary started to settle in as the game went on. Safety Scott Nelson seemed to be in the right position, D’Cota Dixon was making plays and cornerback Deron Harrell started to look more confident. Harrell earned his first start against Iowa and did not appear to be overwhelmed. He got flagged for pass interference early on but in the second half, I do not recall a play where he was significantly beat. If Harrell can solidify himself as a a reliable outside corner, Jim Leonhard can start to dial up plays for Dixon in the run game and getting to the quarterback.
Faion Hicks struggled against Iowa but I still believe he has the physical tools to be an effective corner. It is always a tall task to ask a freshman corner to play in Kinnick Stadium at night. Hicks has been up and down so far this season, but he has shown flashes of why Leonhard has confidence in him. It appears he is dealing with an injury given his presence on the early injury report. Hopefully, he is healthy and can prove to everyone why he earned the starting corner position.
Stanley Morgan Jr. and J.D. Spielman are two great receivers who can make plays all over the field. Morgan has seen the field for the entirety of his career and has been very productive. He had 986 receiving yards and ten touchdowns last year despite an underwhelming Nebraska offense. Spielman had a monster game last week against Purdue by catching ten passes, two for touchdowns, and 135 yards. These two receivers are quick and can make explosive plays down the field. When opposing secondaries are caught paying too much attention to the run, Morgan and Spielman can take the top off the defense.
Wisconsin’s secondary cannot overlook Nebraska’s passing attack. Nebraska is the best passing team the Badgers have faced so far and will be tested. If the mistakes that the secondary made against Iowa continue, it will be a long game for the Wisconsin defense. A quality pass rush can offset the weaknesses in the secondary, but the corners need to step up.
This is a great matchup that will show how quickly the Badgers’ secondary has developed, and if they are equipped to handle a dynamic passing game. How the secondary fares on Saturday could set the tone for how they play the rest of the season.