Badgers forced to live with ups and downs of young secondary

Coming into the season it was obvious that Wisconsin‘s secondary was one of the team’s question marks.

While senior safety D’Cota Dixon was returning, the group expected to play the other three spots (or four, when the Badgers go to a nickel defense) was quite inexperienced. That inexperience has showed up in 2018, but so has the talent.

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Purdue went after true freshman cornerback Rachad Wildgoose, who has started the last six games, and he was called for two pass interference penalties and made a poor play defensively on a Boilermakers touchdown letting a receiver easily get by him. But he also had four tackles and two passes broken up. Wildgoose is tied for the team lead with five PBU. He also leads the team in penalties with seven (four holding, three pass interference).

A pair of redshirt freshmen have seen a lot of time — and starts — at corner as well. Faion Hicks has played in 10 games and Deron Harrell nine.

Hicks had six tackles against Purdue — his second straight game with that amount — and leads all Wisconsin cornerbacks with 30 tackles, and also has three PBU and interception. He also has committed four penalties, three for pass interference.

Harrell has been somewhat limited due to injuries this season and has nine tackles and two PBU, including one against Purdue. He’s the only cornerback with significant playing time not yet to have been flagged for a penalty.

Sophomore Madison Cone has played in all 11 games and often as a nickel corner. He had 18 tackles, two interceptions and a PBU. He picked up his first penalty against Purdue (for unsportsmanlike conduct).

Travian Blaylock (four games), Donte Burton (three games) and Alexander Smith (three games) have aso seen time at corner.

At safety, redshirt freshman Scott Nelson has been the starter since Day 1 — when healthy, which has hasn’t been often lately. He’s played in seven games but has 30 tackles, five PBU, 1.5 tackles for loss, an interception and forced fumble. He also has a pass interference penalty and personal foul (targeting, for which he was ejected).

Freshman Reggie Pearson has only played in three games — meaning he can play in one more and still redshirt — but has shown himself to be a big hitter.

Overall this season, opposing quarterbacks have a 125.68 passer rating (Wisconsin QBs have a 128.46), but are allowing 207.82 yards per game and have committed nine pass interference penalties (the secondary has also been flagged for five holding penalties).

It’s the good with the bad. It’s all part of what should be expected from a young secondary, but at the same point hopeful that getting experience now will mean a strong unit for years to come.

Here’s the complete rundown of the young Badgers after the first 11 games.

“TRUE” FRESHMEN

Travian Blaylock, CB
Western Kentucky: Played, did not record a statistic
New Mexico: Played, did not record a statistic
BYU: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: FR
Nebraska: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Rutgers: Did not play

 

 

Penn State: Did not play
Purdue: Did not play
Season totals:No tackles, 1 FR

 

Donte Burton, CB
Western Kentucky: 1 tackle (solo)
New Mexico: Did not play
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: 1 tackle (solo)
Illinois: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Rutgers: Did not play
Penn State: Did not play
Purdue: Did not play
Season totals: 2 tackles (2 solo)

 

John Chenal, FB
Western Kentucky: Did not play
New Mexico: Did not play
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: Did not play
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Rutgers: Played, did not record a statistic
Penn State: Played, did not record a statistic
Purdue: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

 

Aron Cruickshank, WR
Western Kentucky: 1 kick return, 30 yards
New Mexico: 1 rush, 11 yards; 2 kick returns, 32 yards
BYU: 4 kick returns, 84 yards
Iowa: 2 kick returns, 22 yards
Nebraska: 1 rush, 1 yard; 3 kick returns, 90 yards
Michigan: 3 kick returns, 47 yards
Illinois: 1 rush, 23 yards, TD; 1 kick return, 14 yards
Northwestern: 3 kick returns, 43 yards
Rutgers: 1 rush, 3 yards; 1 kick return, 17 yards
Penn State: 3 kick returns, 69 yards
Purdue: 1 kick return, 24 yards
Season totals: 4 rushes, 38 yards, TD; 24 kick returns, 492 yards (20.5 avg.)

 

Isaac Guerendo, WR
Western Kentucky: Did not play
New Mexico: Did not play
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Rutgers: Did not play
Penn State: Did not play
Purdue: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

 

Taj Mustapha, WR
Western Kentucky: Played, did not record a statistic
New Mexico: 1 catch, 3 yards, TD
BYU: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Nebraska: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Rutgers: Did not play
Penn State: Did not play
Purdue: Did not play
Season totals:  1 catch, 3 yards, TD

 

Reggie Pearson, S
Western Kentucky: Did not play
New Mexico: Did not play
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: Did not play
Michigan: Started, 5 tackles (2 solo), TFL, FF
Illinois: Did not play
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Rutgers: Did not play
Penn State: Did not play
Purdue: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: 5 tackles (2 solo), TFL, FF

 

Cormac Sampson, TE
Western Kentucky: Did not play
New Mexico: Did not play
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Rutgers: Did not play
Penn State: Did not play
Purdue: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

 

Jack Sanborn, ILB
Western Kentucky: Did not play
New Mexico: Did not play
BYU: 1 tackle (solo)
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Nebraska: 1 tackle (solo)
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: 4 tackles (2 solo), FF
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Rutgers: Played, did not record a statistic
Penn State: Played, did not record a statistic
Purdue: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: 6 tackles (4 solo), FF

 

Brady Schipper, WR
Western Kentucky: Did not play
New Mexico: Did not play
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Rutgers: Played, did not record a statistic
Penn State: Did not play
Purdue: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

 

Alexander Smith, CB
Western Kentucky: Did not play
New Mexico: Did not play
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: 1 tackle (solo), PBU
Northwestern: Did not play
Rutgers: Did not play
Penn State: Did not play
Purdue: Did not play
Season totals: 1 tackle (solo), PBU

 

Bryson Williams, NT
Western Kentucky: Played, did not record a statistic
New Mexico: Played, did not record a statistic
BYU: 1 tackle (solo)
Iowa: 2 tackles (1 solo)
Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: 2 tackles (1 solo)
Northwestern: QBH
Rutgers: Started, did not record a statistic
Penn State: 2 tackles (2 solo)
Purdue: PBU
Season totals: 7 tackles (5 solo), QBH, PBU

 

Rachad Wildgoose, CB
Western Kentucky: Did not play
New Mexico: 2 tackles (2 solo)
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: 2 tackles (2 solo)
Michigan: Started, 5 tackles (2 solo), PBU
Illinois: Started, 2 tackles (1 solo), PBU
Northwestern: Started, 7 tackles (5 solo)
Rutgers: Started, 1 tackle (solo), PBU
Penn State: Started, 2 tackles (2 solo)
Purdue: Started, 4 tackles (4 solo), 2 PBU
Season totals: 18 tackles (14 solo), 5 PBU

 

Have not played
A.J. Abbott, WR; Nate Carter, QB; Boyd Dietzen, DE; Jack Eschenbach, TE; Jaylan Franklin, OLB; Michael Furtney, OL; C.J. Goetz, DE; Mike Gregoire, WR; Jacob Heyroth, ILB; Andrew Lyons, OL; Isaiah Mullens, DE; Conor Schlichting, P; Marty Strey, OLB; Jack Torchio, S; Nakia Watson, RB; Chase Wolf, QB

Out for season
Mason Platter, OLB

 

REDSHIRT FRESHMEN

Tyler Beach, OL
Western Kentucky: Played, did not record a statistic
New Mexico: Played, did not record a statistic
BYU: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Rutgers: Played, did not record a statistic
Penn State: Played, did not record a statistic
Purdue: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

 

Logan Bruss, OL/TE
Western Kentucky: Played, did not record a statistic
New Mexico: Played, did not record a statistic
BYU: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Started, did not record a statistic
Nebraska: Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Started, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Rutgers: Played, did not record a statistic
Penn State: Played, did not record a statistic
Purdue: Started, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

 

Jake Ferguson, TE
Western Kentucky: 4 catches, 43 yards
New Mexico: 1 catch, 4 yards
BYU: 3 catches, 61 yards
Iowa: 4 catches, 58 yards, TD
Nebraska: 4 catches, 47 yards, TD
Michigan: 2 catches, 46 yards
Illinois: Started, 3 catches, 62 yards, TD
Northwestern: 2 catches, 7 yards
Rutgers: 2 catches, 33 yards
Penn State: 2 catches, 18 yards
Purdue: 2 catches, 16 yards
Season totals: 29 catches, 395 yards, 3 TD

 

Cade Green, WR
Western Kentucky: Did not play
New Mexico: Did not play
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Rutgers: Did not play
Penn State: Did not play
Purdue: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

 

Izayah Green-May, OLB
Western Kentucky: Played, did not record a statistic
New Mexico: Played, did not record a statistic
BYU: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Did not play
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Did not play
Rutgers: 1 tackle
Penn State: Did not play
Purdue: Did not play
Season totals: 1 tackle

 

Deron Harrell, CB
Western Kentucky: Played, did not record a statistic
New Mexico: Played, did not record a statistic
BYU: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Started, 3 tackles (3 solo)
Nebraska: Started, 2 tackles
Michigan: Started, 3 tackles, (2 solo)
Illinois: Started, PBU
Northwestern: Did not play
Rutgers: Did not play
Penn State: 2 tackles (1 solo)
Purdue: PBU
Season totals: 9 tackles (6 solo), 2 PBU

 

Matt Hennigsen, DE
Western Kentucky: Started, 4 tackles (1 solo)
New Mexico: Started, 2 tackles (1 solo), TFL
BYU: 2 tackles, QBH
Iowa: 2 tackles
Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Started, 6 tackles (3 solo)
Illinois: Started, 2 tackles (2 solo), sack, TFL, QBH
Northwestern: Started, 2 tackles
Rutgers: 3 tackles, QBH
Penn State: Started, 1 tackle
Purdue: Started, 2 tackles
Season totals: 20 tackles (4 solo), sack, 2 TFL, 3 QBH

 

Faion Hicks, CB
Western Kentucky: Started, 3 tackles (2 solo), INT
New Mexico: Started, 1 tackle, PBU
BYU: Started, 5 tackles (3 solo), PBU
Iowa: Started, 4 tackles (4 solo), TFL
Nebraska: Started, 2 tackles
Michigan: 1 tackle (solo)
Illinois: Did not play
Northwestern: Started, 2 tackles (2 solo)
Rutgers: Started, PBU
Penn State: 6 tackles (6 solo)
Purdue: 6 tackles (6 solo)
Season totals: 30 tackles (24 solo), 3 PBU, INT, TFL

 

Kayden Lyles, DL
Western Kentucky: Started, 2 tackles (2 solo)
New Mexico: Started, 2 tackles (1 solo), FR
BYU: Started, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Started, 1 tackle (solo)
Nebraska: Started, 1 tackle
Michigan: Started, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Rutgers: 1 tackle
Penn State: Played, did not record a statistic
Purdue: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: 7 tackles (4 solo), FR

 

Scott Nelson, S
Western Kentucky: Started, 7 tackles (5 solo), 2 PBU
New Mexico: Started, 4 tackles (2 solo), INT
BYU: Started, 5 tackles (1 solo) 1.5 TFL, PBU
Iowa: Started, 4 tackles (1 solo), PBU
Nebraska: Started, 5 tackles (3 solo), FF, PBU
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Rutgers: Did not play
Penn State: Started, 6 tackles (5 solo)
Purdue: Did not play
Season totals: 30 tackles (17 solo), 5 PBU, 1.5 TFL, INT, FF

 

Josh Seltzner, OL
Western Kentucky: Played, did not record a statistic
New Mexico: Did not play
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Rutgers: Played, did not record a statistic
Penn State: Played, did not record a statistic
Purdue: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

 

Danny Vanden Boom, QB
Western Kentucky: Did not play
New Mexico: 1-for-1 passing, 3 yards, TD
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Did not play
Rutgers: Played, did not record a statistic
Penn State: Did not play
Purdue: Did not play
Season totals: 1-for-1 passing, 3 yards, TD

 

Aaron Vopal, DE
Western Kentucky: 1 tackle (solo)
New Mexico: Did not play
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Did not play
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Rutgers: Played, did not record a statistic
Penn State: Played, did not record a statistic
Purdue: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: 1 tackle (solo)


Have not played
Michael Balistreri, DE; Ethan Cesarz, ILB; Jake Collinsworth, FB; Alex Fenton, OL; Hunter Johnson, RB; Collin Larsh, K; Tyler Mais, S; Emmet Perry, WR; Coy Wanner, TE

Out for season
Blake Smithback, OL

 

“TRUE” SOPHOMORES

Adam Bay, LS
Western Kentucky: Played, did not record a statistic
New Mexico: Played, did not record a statistic
BYU: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Nebraska: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Rutgers: Played, did not record a statistic
Penn State: Played, did not record a statistic
Purdue: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

 

Jack Coan, QB
Western Kentucky: Did not play
New Mexico: Did not play
BYU: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Nebraska: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Northwestern: Started, 20-for-31 passing, 158 yards, TD
Rutgers: 5-for-7 passing, 92 yards, TD
Penn State: Started, 9-for-20 passing, 60 yards, 2 INT
Purdue: 16-for-24 passing, 160 yards, 2 TD
Season totals:34-for-58 passing, 282 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT

 

Madison Cone, CB
Western Kentucky: Played, did not record a statistic
New Mexico: 1 tackle (solo), INT, PBU
BYU: 3 tackles (3 solo)
Iowa: 1 tackle (solo)
Nebraska: 5 tackles (5 solo)
Michigan: 1 tackle
Illinois: Started, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Started, 2 tackles (2 solo), INT
Rutgers: 4 tackles, .5 TFL
Penn State: Played, did not record a statistic
Purdue: 1 tackle (solo)
Season totals: 18 tackles (13 solo), .5 TFL, PBU, 2 INT

 

Danny Davis III, WR
Western Kentucky: Did not play (suspended)
New Mexico: Did not play (suspended)
BYU: 4 catches, 40 yards
Iowa: 1 catch, 12 yards, TD
Nebraska: 3 catches, 38 yards
Michigan: 1 catch, 12 yards
Illinois: 4 catches, 48 yards
Northwestern: Started, 5 catches, 55 yards
Rutgers: Started, 6 catches, 60 yards, TD; 1 kick return, -2 yards
Penn State: 2 catches, 24 yards; 1 rush, 0 yards
Purdue: Started, 3 catches, 3 yards, 2 TD; 1 rush, 0 yards
Season totals: 29 catches, 325 yards, 4 TD; 1 rush, 0 yards; 1 kick return, -2 yards

 

Jonathan Taylor, RB
Western Kentucky: Started, 18 rush, 145 yards, 2 TD
New Mexico: Started, 33 rush, 253 yards, 3 TD
BYU: Started, 26 rush, 117 yards; 3 catches, 14 yards
Iowa: Started, 25 rush, 113 yards; 2 catches, 6 yards
Nebraska: Started, 24 rush, 221 yards, 3 TD
Michigan: Started, 17 rush, 101 yards, 0 TD
Illinois: Started, 27 rush, 159 yards; 1 catch, 2 yards
Northwestern: Started, 11 rush, 46 yards
Rutgers: Started, 27 rush, 208 yards, 3 TD; 1 catch, 30 yards
Penn State: Started, 20 rush, 185 yards, TD
Purdue: Started, 33 rush, 321 yards, 3 TD
Season totals: 261 rush, 1,869 yards, 15 TD; 7 catches, 52 yards

Dave Helleris the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow(a Larry Ritter Book Award nominee), Facing Ted Williams – Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Livedand As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns