MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 05: Nick Toon #1 of the Wisconsin Badgers is stopped short of the goal by Ricardo Allen #21 of the Purdue Boilermakers as Albert Evans #32 leaps over both players at Camp Randall Stadium on November 5, 2011 in Madison Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
I am not sure what to think about our secondary this year. We have a pair of solid corners along with good depth behind them, but the question marks lie at safety. Our inability to cover the middle of the field on third down, therefore, lies with them in addition to the linebackers. Almost everyone in the conference would take our corners. Hell, their backups would be pretty good anywhere. We have speed to burn, but it seems like we've been missing an impact safety since Stu Schweigert graduated.
Sure, you could mention that Bernard Pollard was good, but I got tired of him wildly celebrating tackles made 15-20 yards down field. What I want is a true ball-hawking safety that actually makes it dangerous for teams to go over the middle. Stu, with 17 career interceptions and numerous hard hits, was that safety. If we found another Stu I think our defense would get a whole helluva lot better.
I do think this group has some solid potential, however. It at least has plenty of experience, which will help when we go with five or six defensive backs. There isn't one guy that you can necessarily pick on.
Ricardo Allen - Jr. - 81 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 INTs (1 for TD), 4 pass breakups, 7 passes defensed
Josh Johnson - Sr. - 64 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 INTs, 9 BU, 11 PD
Max Charlot - Sr. - 41 tackles, 2 BU, 2 PD
Taylor Richards - So. - 7 tackles, 1 INT
Allen and Johnson's limit is an all-Big Ten season. Both are highly respected and should be at least in consideration for the two cornerback spots on the all-conference team. Although Allen still has scars from the beating Michael Floyd gave him last year he has the talent and drive to be one of the best corners in the country. He already has three career touchdowns after interceptions with two years left in his career. Six career interceptions make quarterbacks think twice about going his way.
Johnson can be just as good as Allen and has a bit more size to boot. Both Allen and Johnson are sure tacklers. Johnson has the edge of entering his third year as a starter. Combined with Allen's talent and experience this pair will hopefully allow a pass rush with Ryan Russell to develop.
Charlot holds one of the starter spots for now and is also a veteran entering his third season of regular play. He has eight starts in 25 career games. He only has one interception in his career, but is a solid presence in the middle of the field.
What I am looking forward to is the emergence of Taylor Richards. He played sparingly as a cornerback and a nickel back last season, but had a solid bowl game with his first career interception as we faced a very pass happy offense. According to news today he has won the starting free safety position. I like this. The announcement comes early in camp at a position of needs. It's good we have this settled early.
Landon Feichter - So. - 25 tackles, 1 BU, 1 PD
Frankie Williams - Fr. (RS)
Normondo Harris - Jr. - 22 tackles, 1 BU, 1 PD
E.J. Johnson - So. - 4 tackles
Antoine Lewis - So. - 1 tackle
With the nickel packages we can expect at least one of these guys, I am thinking Harris or Williams, to get extensive playing time. The nice thing is that two of them are starter-caliber players. Harris already started three games last season. Feichter played in all 13 games with one start.
I do have to single out Feichter for his solid play. Last year I received an e-mail chastising me for pretty much dismissing him during the countdown to Purdue football and saying he likely wouldn't make the field or something like that. I stated that mostly because I saw he was a walk-on.
Man, was I wrong there.
He came pretty much out of nowhere to have an immediate impact as a redshirt freshman walk-on, including eight tackles against Notre Dame. It is safe to say that he will definitely be a solid contributor for three more years, which is excellent.
Back to ball-hawking safeties for a moment: I had very high hopes that E.J. Johnson would become one of those. That's what he was for two-time state champion Cocoa, Florida. A separated shoulder has given him trouble so far though. He had 11 interceptions in his final two years of high school, so I would love to see him get a shot if he is fully healthy.
As for Williams and Lewis they are solid depth players. Look for them to get some time and battle for starting spots next season.
Anthony Brown - Fr.
Chris Quinn- Sr. - 4 tackles
Brown is listed on the two deeps at the moment as a cornerback, so I can't say with any certainty he is going to redshirt. The good news is that he has plenty of examples on this team to learn from as a true freshman. If he makes it through the year with the redshirt intact that makes things even better.
Quinn is a career reserve that has found a role on special teams mostly. He can play safety in a pinch, but we'll likely see him more on kickoff and punt coverage. That's fine though. Chris Carlino did well in a similar role.
Jordan Shine - Fr.
Evan Feichter - Fr.
Shine is a sad case, as he has yet to be cleared physically. He was the first commit in the 2012 recruiting class too. Coach Hope has not stated what his injury is exactly, but it is enough that he has not passed a physical.
The other Feichter on the roster is, of course, Landon's brother. He too is going the walk-on route and has his brother as an example of how successful hat can be. Both played for Ft. Wayne Dwenger, which is one of the top Class 4A programs in Indiana. I would not rule out the younger Feichter eventually playing in the secondary with his brother.