Despite the Badgers cornerbacks not catching an interception, they held opposing offenses 169.8 yards per game and only 15.7 points per game, both good enough for sixth in the country. Considering how good the Badgers are at the inside linebacker and defensive line positions, interceptions are sometimes hard to get. Rachad Wildgoose was considered to be Wisconsin’s top cornerback heading into the 2020 season. After suffering an injury, Wildgoose opted out after just two games. Despite this setback, Wisconsin had great depth; both Faion Hicks and Caesar Williams formed a nice tandem.
Donte Burton and Deron Harrell were reliable backups and played in the slot. Alexander Smith seems to be developing well and should be in the rotation this season. Semar Melvin is a promising talent, but he has proven to be injury-prone in his first two seasons in Madison.
Wildgoose declared for the draft, but Hicks and Williams return. Fortunately for the Badgers, Williams decided to use his “free year” of eligibility the NCAA gave out due to COVID-19. These two proved to be a solid tandem and I see them lining up against Penn State in Week One. While the outside corner positions are set, the slot position is up for grabs.
Rachad Wildgoose is a key departure heading into 2021 and will be missed. I believe Burton, Melvin, and Smith are likely the candidates to play nickelback. All three have the talent to play in the slot, but only one will be in the game plan. A couple of wild card challengers that could find themselves battling for the position are Dean Engram and Max Lofty. Neither appeared in a game in 2020, but if they have a strong spring; they could be in the mix.
With Hicks being a junior and Williams in his final year, cornerback was a need during the 2021 recruiting cycle. The Badgers netted three-star corners in Ricardo Hallman and Al Ashford III. I don’t foresee them in the Badgers 2021 plans as they’ll likely redshirt.
Regardless of how the slot cornerback position pans out, Jim Leonhard has lots of options to work with to build another great pass defense. Hopefully, we see them get a pick.