There are some alarms going off in the office of Bill Busch today. Busch, the secondary safeties coach for the Wisconsin Badgers, just saw another key piece of his 2013 depth chart disappear when safety JUCO commit Donnell Vercher was denied admission to Wisconsin. The reason for the denial is unknown, and Vercher is reportedly signing with Fresno State.
This news is even tougher to swallow after projected starter Reggie Mitchell bolted the Badgers before camp. In just two weeks, Busch's job went from tough to mission impossible.
So what now?
The most logical plan would be to build the secondary around rising star Dezmen Southward, and then pray. Michael Trotter and Michael Caputo make up the rest of the safeties with an ounce of game experience on the roster. Their combined four starts unfortunately revealed two players in desperate need for more field vision and maturity. Caputo notched 10 tackles while Trotter has 24 and a pass break up. A season can make a world of difference, though. Precious first team reps will most likely go to Trotter and Caputo as their backup status has been upgraded to projected starter.
The team still needs bodies at a position that was razor-thin to begin with. It starts with special teams stalwart Kyle Zuleger, who is switching to safety this season to help bolster the depth. Next, the Badgers are also embracing the philosophy of when a door closes on defense, a window opens on offense. That is why running back Jeffrey Lewis is rumored to be joining the other side of the line.
Safeties are normally the captains of the secondary, and a strong presence at the position will be especially needed as the Badgers change their defensive scheme to a 3-4. The loss of Vercher stings even more because he was described as a "ballhawk" which would have fit nicely in a defense predicated on the interception and forced fumble.
Great teams have to deal with unexpected personnel issues all the time. How Gary Andersen overcomes such a vacuum at such a critical position will be an early indicator on how creative (or how lucky) the new coach is.