The cornerback depth chart was among the University of Wisconsin’s biggest questions entering this offseason, needing to replace starters Nick Nelson and Derrick Tindal from the previous year.
Two weeks into fall camp, it may be more unclear than ever.
Dontye Carriere-Williams, thought to be a safe bet to take over as the Badgers’ top cornerback this season, has spent this week mostly running with the second team. The sophomore served as UW’s No. 3 corner last season and entered 2018 as the only player at the position with any meaningful game experience.
“Right now, in having conversations with him as well, it’s just consistency,” Leonhard said of Carriere-Williams. "The highs are high, and they’ve been high. It’s just consistency and effort in practice, and just continuing to push that. I like some of the things he’s done, but I just want to see more. ... He knows what it’s like on Saturdays, and that doesn’t give him a pass to compete on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and in training camp.
"I like the fact that when he competes, he looks like we want him to compete. We just want it more often."
Sophomore Caesar Williams and redshirt freshman Faion Hicks took first-team reps at cornerback Thursday. When UW went to a nickel package, redshirt freshman Deron Harrell joined them and Hicks slid into the slot.
Harrell’s also taken some first-team reps in base packages throughout camp, and sophomore Madison Cone’s competing to be the Badgers’ first option in the slot. Leonhard also noted true freshman Donte Burton made huge strides between the spring and fall. However, he appears to still be behind the other five.
“There are guys that are starting to separate because of their consistency,” Leonhard said. "We have guys that are extremely hungry. Deron Harrell hasn’t played a football game in two years. Caesar Williams has played very little in two years. Faion Hicks, same thing, sat last year out and sees it as an opportunity to get on the field. This group is extremely hungry, and you saw that coming out of last season and really the entire offseason, the entire summer and now into fall camp. There’s guys that want to play — a lot.
"That room is extremely deep. They are all having to earn their reps because guys are making plays and they’re competing and pushing each other, and that’s the fun part of coaching is when you have that type of room."
Rudolph provides clarity on OL depth
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UW offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph indicated he has a top eight on the offensive line two weeks before the Badgers open their season against Western Kentucky at Camp Randall Stadium.
At tackle, Jon Dietzen and Cole Van Lanen will continue to battle at left tackle, while David Edwards returns as the starter at right tackle. On the interior, he expects Jason Erdmann and Micah Kapoi to back up starters Michael Deiter (LG), Tyler Biadasz (C) and Beau Benzschawel (RG).
Recent injuries handed first-team opportunities to others this week. The first group Thursday included Josh Seltzner at right guard and Logan Bruss at right tackle. Rudolph said he expects to have every offensive lineman available against the Hilltoppers.
UW announces captains
Deiter, quarterback Alex Hornibrook, inside linebacker T.J. Edwards and safety D’Cota Dixon will be the Badgers’ permanent captains in 2018, UW announced Thursday. Players voted on captains Tuesday.
Deiter and Edwards enter their fourth years as starters after both opted to return for their senior seasons rather than entering the NFL Draft early. Deiter has started every game for the Badgers since the start of the 2015 season.
Hornibrook, a junior, and Dixon, a senior, enter their third year as starters. Hornibrook completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 2,644 yards with 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last season and owns a 20-3 record as UW’s starter. Dixon recorded 55 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks and one interception in 2017.
From the infirmary
T.J. Edwards (right leg) was out Thursday after two straight days of practicing in a limited fashion. Per a UW official, it’s simply a day off for Edwards and he did not suffer a setback.
Inside linebacker Jack Sanborn (right leg), cornerback Travian Blaylock (right leg), kicker Rafael Gaglianone (right leg), defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk (left leg), offensive lineman David Moorman (right leg), tight end Zander Neuville (right leg) and wide receiver A.J. Taylor (right leg) were all listed as out. Benzschawel (right arm), Bruss (right leg), David Edwards (left arm) and Erdmann (right leg) remained limited.