Deron Harrell-fall camp surprise

Deron Harrell speaks to members of the media as the University of Wisconsin unveils its 2017 class of football recruits at the McClain Center on the campus in Madison, Wis. Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL

Throughout Deron Harrell’s childhood, he always wanted to play wide receiver. Being the son of one of arena football’s greatest ever pass catchers can understandably have that effect.

But even Damian Harrell, who played for Florida State before winning the AFL’s Offensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons, didn’t see quite the same future for his son.

For years, he’s pitched Deron on the cornerback position instead.

“My dad’s been telling me that for the longest time, since I was a sophomore in high school,” Deron Harrell said. “He felt like I had a good frame for it, the speed, good hips, I could get in and out of breaks. That’s just something he’s seen in me for a long time."

His father may have been on to something.

Deron Harrell, a 6-foot-2, 182-pound redshirt freshman for the University of Wisconsin, switched from wide receiver to cornerback this offseason and emerged over the past two weeks as one of the Badgers’ biggest fall camp surprises.

He’s often rotated in with the first-team defense and could see the field this year as UW looks to replace its top two players at the position from last season.

“He’s going to put himself in a position to compete,” UW defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard said. "There’s no question about it. Coverage-wise, very fluid, very talented there, and growing. Took huge strides the first week in camp from spring ball. In spring ball, you could tell everything was a little bit fast, and now you just look out there and he looks like he’s comfortable, knowing what he’s supposed to do."

Harrell possesses more height and length than the Badgers’ other cornerbacks, although he said he still needs to improve his press coverage and eye discipline.

Harrell did play cornerback during his senior year at East High in Denver, so the position isn’t totally unfamiliar. He struggled this spring to adapt, however, and failed to earn many meaningful reps, making his camp performance all the more surprising.

Cornerback currently stands as one of the Badgers’ most wide-open races. Harrell’s clearly one of the team’s top five at the position now, along with Dontye Carriere-Williams, Caesar Williams, Faion Hicks and Madison Cone. With just more than two weeks remaining until UW opens the season against Western Kentucky on Aug. 31 at Camp Randall Stadium, Harrell still has time to make a final case for significant snaps this fall.

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“It was a hard transition at first, having to go back to corner where now you’re not running forward, you’re really running backwards,” Harrell said. "But from spring ball to fall camp, that time period right there, I worked hard, went and watched film with Coach Ashton (Youboty) and Coach Leonhard, and I think that really helped me out.

"I wanted to follow (my father’s) footsteps and play receiver, but you know, sometimes you just have to take your own path, and I feel like my path is playing corner."

Offensive line banged up

In the three days since UW’s last open practice, offensive linemen Jon Dietzen (right leg), Beau Benzschawel (right arm) and David Moorman (right leg) were all added to the Badgers’ injury report. Left tackle David Edwards also exited Tuesday’s session early with a right arm injury.

The initial first-team line after Edwards’ departure included Cole Van Lanen at left tackle, Josh Seltzner at right guard and Tyler Beach at right tackle. Center Tyler Biadasz participated in team drills Tuesday after not doing so for a few practices last week. Biadasz said he “wasn’t feeling the best and was a little banged up” last week but feels completely healthy now.

Left guard Michael Deiter indicated after Tuesday’s practice that Dietzen and Benzschawel were only being held out for precautionary measures and said UW’s simply being smart in limiting their participation with the season approaching.

Wide receiver A.J. Taylor suffered a left leg injury late in practice during 7-on-7 drills, although he did get up and walk off the field on his own.

Inside linebacker T.J. Edwards (right leg), cornerback Madison Cone (left leg) and offensive lineman Jason Erdmann (right leg) were upgraded to limited Tuesday. Offensive lineman Logan Bruss (right leg), kicker Rafael Gaglianone (right leg), defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk (left leg) and tight end Zander Neuville (right leg) remained out, while fullback Alec Ingold (right leg) was still limited.

Extra points

Redshirt freshman Collin Larsh took all field goal reps during special teams drills Tuesday. He made all four attempts, the last a 45-yarder with plenty of room to spare. ... Jonathan Taylor recorded two bad drops during team drills — the first on a wheel route deep down field and the other when he was wide open in the flat. ... Nearly a dozen professional scouts attended Tuesday’s practice. NFL teams represented included Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Washington, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Rams. Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst was also in attendance.


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