Wisconsin Football: What Badgers' Defense Must Achieve in 2013 Fall Camp

Dave RadcliffeContributor IIIAugust 5, 2013

Sep 1, 2012; Madison, WI, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers defensive lineman Brendan Kelly (97) during the game against the Northern Iowa Panthers at Camp Randall Stadium.  Wisconsin defeated Northern Iowa 26-21.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Fall camp is finally here for Wisconsin football, and it arrives after what turned out to be a more eventful offseason for the Badgers than usual. It included a coaching overhaul, unexpected player departures and surprise recruits, but now that's in the past—it's time to play football.

But before we get to football, head coach Gary Andersen was sure to clarify a few things regarding his defense at Wisconsin's media day.

For one, it turns out Ethan Armstrong will remain as an outside linebacker rather than move inside as many believed in the new 3-4 defense. In another twist, Brendan Kelly will play outside linebacker, meaning he will be moving from defensive end.

There had been some back and forth about where Kelly would line up come the start of the season, but with his move to linebacker, it opens the door for Pat Muldoon to play defensive end next to Beau Allen and Ethan Hemer. Expect Warren Herring to fill in at each defensive line position as well.

Andersen also noted that Joe Schobert deserved time on the gridiron after making plays at linebacker in the spring. Schobert, along with redshirt freshman linebacker Vince Biegel, who also excelled in the spring, should be given chances to compete for playing time. You can throw Mike Caputo, who saw some time at safety last season, into the linebacker mix as well (h/t Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal).

For now, it looks like Andersen will trust his upperclassmen to start and give younger players a chance throughout fall camp to continue proving themselves. With some questions answered, what else does Wisconsin's defense need to sort out during fall camp?


Figure out starter at safety

Among the unexpected departures during the offseason was Reggie Mitchell, who transferred to Pitt to be closer to home. Junior college recruit Donnell Vercher also moved closer to home to play at Fresno State, but only after he was denied admission at Wisconsin.

Both were expected to compete for the starting safety job alongside Dezmen Southward.

Another JUCO recruit in T.J. Reynard will be in the mix to start along with converted running back Jeff Lewis, Michael Trotter and Leo Musso. There are plenty of bodies in the secondary even after losing Mitchell and Vercher, but just how much they can bring to the position remains to be seen.


Find out if Jean, Hillary are truly starting corner material

To just hand Peniel Jean and Darius Hillary the starting jobs at cornerback after losing both starters from 2012 wouldn't be fair to true freshman Sojourn Shelton, who thrived during the spring. 

In fact, it wouldn't be fair to anyone else who plays corner. But that's what fall camp is for and Wisconsin may find it wants to go in a different direction if Jean and Hillary don't perform up to standard.


Sort out middle linebacker competition

For the longest time, it was believed that the two starting middle linebackers for the Badgers would be Armstrong and standout senior Chris Borland. Instead, with Armstrong on the outside, junior Derek Landisch and senior Conor O'Neill will compete to play next to Borland inside (via Mulhern).

Both got some run in 2012 when Borland missed time with an injury, but inexperience will be a factor here. As for the front seven as a whole, there is plenty of game experience, so that could help to hide any deficiency Landisch or O'Neill brings to the table.

Either way, it's a position Andersen and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda need to make a decision on during fall camp. 


Become comfortable with new scheme

Wisconsin's primary defense under Aranda will be the 3-4, and along with that change comes a refined approach as well—being aggressive.

That will involve more blitzing, even from the secondary. When was the last time you saw that at Wisconsin? Coverages should feature more risk taking, and with an overhaul in the secondary, that will be a development to keep an eye on.

Perhaps the distribution of iPads and voiceover videos will ease the transition, but injuries kept out some key contributors during the spring, so some players don't have long to grow comfortable with an unfamiliar concept.