Most Important Badgers No. 22: Lee Musso
MAY 22, 2014 2:30p ET
Wisconsin Badgers beat writer Jesse Temple will be analyzing the 25 most important players to the Badgers' success in the 2014 season. Check back each weekday to see the latest player on the list. You can find every report here.
Note: This is not a list of the team's 25 best players or a series about past success, but rather which of them means the most to how Wisconsin will fare this year. Criteria such as depth at that player's position, general expectations and overall importance of that player having a good season are all highly considered. The list does not include incoming freshmen because their potential impact is unknown at this time.
No. 22 -- Leo Musso, safety
Why he's No. 22
Tanner McEvoy is out of the mix at safety, which opens up one of the starting positions in 2014. Enter Leo Musso, who showed in his first season at the position a year ago just how tough and talented he is.
Musso emerged during fall camp and wound up playing in all 13 games with 15 tackles and an interception. He's only 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, but he's the type of player you want in your foxhole.
This is really the only remaining open starting spot in the secondary as fall camp approaches. Musso and senior Peniel Jean likely will compete for the final starting safety spot. Michael Caputo already has locked up the other safety position after moving back from outside linebacker in the spring.
One cannot deny the ability of Musso, who was listed as an "athlete" when he came to Wisconsin, which is a code word for someone who does not have a defined position. Musso rushed for 5,531 yards and 87 touchdowns while at Waunakee and was named first-team all-state by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association and the Associated Press. He also won the Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch Running Back of the Year Award as a senior after rushing for 2,398 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Expectations for 2014
Musso figures to see significant playing time this season, even if it means splitting reps with Peniel Jean. Musso, a redshirt sophomore, had never played in a college game before last season, and if he can make the type of jump he had last year, it seems hard to think coaches will keep him off the field.
The biggest difference between Musso and McEvoy at the safety spot is size and physicality. McEvoy stands 6-6 and weighs 223 pounds, which makes him more physically intimidating than Musso, who stands eight inches shorter. McEvoy recorded 27 tackles with an interception. Still, expect Musso to be a key contributor at safety.
What would they do without him?
Jean would likely get the nod at safety without Musso, but Musso's presence adds another experienced player to the mix. And it isn't simply the fact Musso shows up on gamedays. He is one of the team's most dogged workers.
For example, Musso spent last summer watching film every day -- sometimes twice a day -- in an effort to better understand the intricacies of playing safety. Musso possesses speed and quickness, but he also has the smarts to adjust to playing a new position. He is not the prototypical safety who stands 6-1 or 6-2, but his toughness is infectious.
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