After pushing ahead of the University of Wisconsin’s other cornerbacks throughout the last two weeks of fall camp, sophomore Caesar Williams and redshirt freshman Faion Hicks are set to start Friday’s season-opener against Western Kentucky at Camp Randall Stadium.
UW released its first depth chart Sunday, which listed Williams and Hicks ahead of second-team players Dontye Carriere-Willaims and Madison Cone.
"We like a lot of that group and where they’re at,” Chryst said. "If you don’t have a huge natural separation, I think one thing that can separate is consistency, and I think that’s what you saw in (Williams) and Faion, is the consistent approach to it."
The final results of this position battle aren’t what many expected when the month began. Carriere-Williams spent last year as the Badgers’ No. 3 cornerback and enters the season as the only player at the position with much meaningful game experience.
Carriere-Williams began fall camp projected as the No. 1 cornerback before being relegated to second-team work about two weeks ago. Defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard said he needed to see more consistent effort from Carriere-Williams in practice in order for him to earn back a first-team spot.
Redshirt freshman Deron Harrell, who switched from wide receiver to cornerback this offseason, also took a chunk of first-team reps during camp but did not appear on the two-deep Sunday.
With five players in competition for two first-team spots throughout camp, this position group may be one to keep an eye on throughout the first few weeks of the season.
"They’re young, and they need to keep growing,” Chryst said of Williams and Hicks. "That whole group needs to continue to keep growing, but they want to, and they’re really coachable. I think what becomes kind of a separator, though, is the consistency of it."
UW to play both Dietzen, Van Lanen
Jon Dietzen and Cole Van Lanen competed at left tackle throughout fall camp, and while Dietzen took the majority of first-team reps when healthy this month, the two were listed as co-starters on Sunday’s depth chart.
“We do expect them both to play,” Chryst said. “And heck, maybe even on the first play we’ll start them both. I don’t know yet."
While that comment from Chryst appeared to be said in jest, Van Lanen did see snaps as a blocking tight end during the final two games of last season — after tight end Zander Neuville tore his ACL against Minnesota.
Neuville will miss Friday’s game with a right leg injury, potentially opening the door for Van Lanen to see time in that role again.
When asked if that’s a possibility against Western Kentucky, Chryst said, “We’ll see, but we’re going to try to play our best players."
Stokke moves to fullback
The biggest surprise of Sunday’s depth chart came at the fullback position, where inside linebacker Mason Stokke was listed as the backup to Alec Ingold.
Stokke moved to fullback last week, and Chryst said he’s only spent one practice at the position so far.
“Looking at the combination of what he can do and the depth at our inside linebacker spot, and the depth at fullback, and also where he’s been with his contributions on special teams, I thought it would be a good fit for him,” Chryst said. "First day, he certainly took to it. There’s a lot to learn, but he’s a quick learner, and I feel good about that switch, actually."
Gaglianone healthy for opener
After missing most of fall camp with a right leg injury and reported back issues, kicker Rafael Gaglianone was not listed on UW’s injury report Sunday.
Gaglianone, who missed most of the 2016 season with a back injury, has converted 26 of his last 29 field goals dating back to the 2015 Holiday Bowl. He needs just six more made field goals to break Todd Gregoire’s school record of 65.
Chryst said Sunday that the Badgers were optimistic about getting Gaglianone back for the start of the season.
"Part of it was having gone through similar things with (Gaglianone),” Chryst said. "And then also knowing the timetable on it where he could get back in and get some work before. I thought when he came back, he was good."
Along with Neuville, defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk (left leg), safety Patrick Johnson (head), running back Bradrick Shaw (left leg) and defensive end Kraig Howe (right leg) will miss Friday’s game against the Hilltoppers. True freshman outside linebacker Mason Platter (right leg) was ruled out for the season Sunday.
With Quintez Cephus and Danny Davis currently suspended, local walk-ons Adam Krumholz (Stoughton) and Jack Dunn (Edgewood) were listed as second-team wide receivers behind Kendric Pryor and A.J. Taylor. ... Dunn was also listed as the first-team punt returner, ahead of Pryor. Pryor is the first-team kickoff returner, ahead of Aron Cruickshank. ... Taiwan Deal, Garrett Groshek and Chris James were listed as co-second-team players behind starter Jonathan Taylor at running back.