Wisconsin Secondary vs. Michigan Wide Receivers
The Wisconsin secondary will be a unit to watch in just about every game this season for a variety of reasons. First of all, they are very young at the cornerback position. There are many true and redshirt freshmen playing significant snaps for Jim Leonhard’s defense. At safety, there is not a lot of depth after the departure of Patrick Johnson. And now after the last couple of games, injuries are starting to stack up at both cornerback and safety.
It is safe to say that the Badger secondary was nowhere near spectacular against Nebraska. They provided some good coverage early on but it quickly faded away as the game went on. Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez picked the secondary apart, finishing with 384 passing yards and throwing two touchdowns. Some of Martinez’s success can be contributed to his ability to extend plays outside of the pocket, but 384 passing yards is unacceptable under.
Miscommunication was a common theme for the secondary. On many of Nebraska’s completions, there were often no Badger defenders in the area. And when they were, there was too much space between the receiver and the corner. With so much youth in the secondary, these mistakes are understandable, but Wisconsin is now going into the sixth game of the season. There is no more time for “miscommunication” excuses.
Injuries did this unit no favors on Saturday. Caesar Williams did not even suit up after suffering an apparent leg injury in practice. Early on in the game, starting corner Deron Harrell suffered an injury himself and had to be taken to the locker room. This forced true freshmen Rachad Wildgoose and Donte Burton to play for a good amount of the game. But the injuries did not stop there. D’Cota Dixon tweaked his knee late in the game and had to come off the field. A secondary with so much inexperience along with this many injuries could be deadly to the Wisconsin defense.
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Starting safety Scott Nelson was ejected in the third quarter for targeting and will miss the first half against Michigan. It was a nightmare scenario for the Wisconsin secondary on Saturday.
To make things worse for the secondary, Michigan features a couple of explosive players at the wide receiver position. Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones are home-run threats that can take the top off an opposing defense. Collins is averaging 18.9 yards per catch and Peoples-Jones is averaging 12.1 a reception. These guys are great after the catch. They have the ability to make multiple guys miss and turn a short completion into a 50-yard touchdown. The Michigan offense likes to establish the run and then catch the opposing secondary sleeping. Sound familiar? They bring the secondary up and then look to hit the big play over the top. Shea Patterson has the arm strength to make all types of throws, including the long ball.
There is no question that the Wisconsin secondary will have to play better against Michigan than they did against Nebraska in order for the Badgers to get the victory. Michigan has the weapons on the outside to get separation from corners and Shea Patterson has shown the ability to find them when they do. The young Wisconsin corners and safeties will need to show the confidence and ability that caught Jim Leonhard’s eye when he recruited them. Eric Burrell will have to hold down the fort while Scott Nelson serves his first-half suspension. It will be up to them to go out there and prove it. If they do not, the Wisconsin defense could be in for a long day.