Badgers positional preview: Safeties

Redshirt junior Michael Caputo (pictured) should start for Wisconsin at safety in 2014, but, aside from him, the Badgers should have plenty of competition in the back end of their secondary.

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This is the ninth in a series of 11 previews leading up to the Wisconsin football team’s Aug. 4 start of practice. You can find the entire series here.  

Today’s position: safeties

Rating (1-to-10 scale): 6

Projected starters: Michael Caputo (redshirt junior), Peniel Jean (redshirt senior)

Key backups: Leo Musso (redshirt sophomore), Nate Hammon (redshirt sophomore), Austin Hudson (freshman)

The breakdown: Caputo is the only lock to be a starter at safety as fall camp approaches, but he’s a good one to base your secondary around. Caputo is the team’s leading returning tackler with 63 tackles, and he’s capable of making plays at multiple positions. The coaching staff initially moved him to outside linebacker at the start of spring practices but soon moved him back because of a lack of quality depth in the secondary.

Badgers 2014 positional preview series

Peniel Jean has never started a game at Wisconsin, but he has nearly three seasons worth of playing experience. In his career, he has appeared in 31 games with 38 tackles. Those numbers won’t guarantee him a starting spot because there is plenty of competition to be found.

Leo Musso appeared in all 13 games last season and even made one start. He recorded 15 tackles with an interception and did well for being a redshirt freshman. Nate Hammon is another scrapper who forced his way onto the field last season, playing in 12 games with two starts. Hammon tallied 24 tackles and a sack. Throw in incoming freshman Austin Hudson, and the Badgers have some options at safety.

Best position battle: The battle to watch will be for the starting safety spot opposite Caputo. Jean, Hammon and Musso all have had their moments, but only one man will open the game on the field. As far as the entire starting secondary goes, it appears to be the only spot that is up for grabs as fall camp approaches.

Best of the Big Ten: 1. Northwestern; 2. Michigan State; 3. Maryland

Northwestern’s back end will be formidable, and safeties Ibraheim Campbell and Traveon Henry are a big reason. Campbell tallied 73 tackles and tied for the team lead with four interceptions. Henry was fourth on the team with 77 tackles.

Michigan State returns free safety Kurtis Drummond, who was second on the team in total tackles (91) and tied for the Spartans’ lead with four interceptions. RJ Williamson should fill the other safety spot after recording 44 tackles.

Maryland safety Sean Davis was the team’s leading tackler last season with 102 and recorded two interceptions. He’ll be paired with Anthony Nixon, who finished with 60 tackles.

Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda on the secondary: "There will be a lot of competition at those spots. Then we have our nickel spot, which is open. Last year was the only year in my coaching career that nickel was played by a safety. Generally, that’s a corner’s job to play man to man on the slot and that type of thing. We just didn’t have the guys, so Dez (Southward) was the best available. Dez did a great job. We’re trying to build it to where we can have the three corners on the field and be flexible enough to if we need to play a safety. But I’m looking forward to getting guys that we’re bringing them in."

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