It’s no secret that the Badgers’ safety depth was very thin at the end of spring practice. This is due in part to injuries to Preston Zachman and Travian Blaylock and only two other safeties having playing experience. Despite having versatile cornerbacks, the Badgers dipped into the transfer portal again. They picked up former University of Utah safety Kamo’i Latu. This is not only a great pickup for the present season but also for future years as well.

Injuries and Very Thin Depth at Safety

During the week, defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard had strongly hinted that the Badgers would be back in the transfer portal. Prior to picking up Kamo’i Latu, the Badgers’ safety depth was depleted. Preston Zachman was seen on crutches and didn’t participate at all in spring practice with an undisclosed injury. Travian Blaylock sustained a right leg injury and has since been seen with a cast on ever since. The timetable for both of their returns remains unknown. This left the Badgers with just walk-ons Bryce Carey and Owen Arnett behind John Torchio and Hunter Wohler. Both those players still need to learn the defense and are nowhere near ready to play.

The Badgers could have easily taken advantage of the versatility in their cornerbacks room. Fifth-year senior Alexander Smith took snaps at safety during the spring as did freshman Avyonne Jones. Had they not picked up Latu, Smith would have been the player most likely to crack the two-deep. However, Wisconsin decided to pick up Latu rather than experiment.

Latu Brings Playing Experience

Latu is the third player from the PAC-12 to join the Badgers this year. He’ll be joining Keontez Lewis and Jay Shaw. Latu has appeared in 19 games in his career while making one start for the Utes. Last season, he appeared in all 14 games for the PAC-12 champs. In his career, he’s registered 19 tackles and broke up three passes. Last year against USC, he led the team in tackles with ten and earned PAC-12 Freshman of the Week honors.

Nick Herbig Was His High School Teammate

Prior to committing to Wisconsin, Latu had offers from Nebraska, Oregon State, USC, and others. Perhaps the difference-maker was Nick Herbig. Latu and Herbig both were high school teammates in Hawaii. Coming on to a new team already knowing someone doesn’t hurt. This should make his transition much easier.

He Can Be a Short and Long Term Solution

The great thing about this commitment is that Kamo’i Latu still has three years of eligibility remaining. Not only is he able to be a quick solution but a long-term answer as well. If John Torchio and Travian Blaylock opt to not use their COVID eligibility, Latu could potentially be a starter immediately.

Wisconsin had very thin depth at the safety position. Kamo’i Latu now bolsters that depth in a major way. The fact he can be an immediate and long-term solution is a boon for the Badgers’ defense. If Travian Blaylock and Preston Zachman can come back, Wisconsin will finally have some good problems to have at the safety position.

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Eric Katz

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