CB Travian Blaylock
If I was a betting man I would put money on that we have seen the last of Travian Blaylock for the 2018 season. It is clear at this point that he is slowly recovering from his injury. Being a true freshman, I hope the coaching staff gives Blaylock time to rest and rehab for next season. There are players ahead of him skill-wise like Rachad Wildgoose and Reggie Pearson who have proven to be reliable contributors. Let Blaylock maintain his redshirt and come back a healthy player ready to contribute in 2019.
CB Deron Harrell
Harrell was one of the few experienced corners to play last week against Illinois. He has shown steady improvement with each game he plays in and has the potential to be a solid starter down the road. Harrell has been thrown into the fire given all the injuries and transfers at the cornerback position this year. For a guy who started his Wisconsin career as a wide receiver, Harrell has made great strides in becoming a productive corner on the defense.
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Harrell appeared to be healthy this week but suffered a right leg injury during practice. The injury will force him to sit out the Northwestern game. You have to hope that this is a short-term injury given the depleted secondary and the encouraging progress Harrell has made this year. Each game a young player is unable to play, he misses out on valuable opportunities that pay dividends down the road.
I expect Caesar Williams and Madison Cone to receive expanded roles against Northwestern. The Wildcats love to throw the ball downfield, every corner who is healthy enough to play will be asked to step up.
S Scott Nelson
Another safety, another injury. Scott Nelson is still dealing with a right leg injury that he sustained during the second half of the Michigan game. It was not clear how he hurt it, but given he missed last week’s game and is questionable for Saturday it is most likely a pretty bad injury. Nelson being ruled out is a huge blow to the Wisconsin secondary. Even though he is a redshirt freshman, Nelson is the best free safety on the team and has playmaking ability that most of the other players at the position do not possess You want Nelson to get every rep he can, because with the graduation of Dixon approaching at the end of the year, Nelson could be the leader of the Wisconsin secondary for the next three years.
Eric Burrell will take over Nelson’s duties at free safety who has been solid during the absences of Dixon and Nelson. I thought he played great against Michigan, but had an up and down performance against Illinois. He missed on a couple of tackles that led to long Illinois runs but held up well in coverage. Burrell seems like the player who is gaining confidence with each series he plays in. Just by watching the game, you can tell Burrell is a gamer who is not afraid to talk a little smack to the opposing players. Burrell brings an edge to the defense that I love to watch and that the Wisconsin defense appreciates.