Fall Camp Guide: Secondary

Brett Bell (UW Athletics)

Despite losing three starters, defensive backfield abounds with talent and depth

Starter returning: Senior cornerback Brett Bell, 6-feet-0, 200 pounds (2004 stats – 12 starts, 12 games, 64 tackles, 13 passes defended, 3 interceptions).

More key returnees: Senior cornerback Levonne Rowan, 6-1, 191, (0-11-12-0-1); junior strong safety Johnny White, 6-2, 217 (2-9-17-0-0); junior strong safety Joe Stellmacher, 6-1, 216 (was a reserve defensive back who made tackles in five games; had 10 tackles); junior free safety Roderick Rogers, 6-2, 181 (0-10-1-0-0); junior free safety Zach Hampton, 5-10, 178 (0-12-10-0-0); redshirt freshman cornerback Allen Langford, 5-11, 187; and redshirt freshman cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu, 6-1, 199.

Newcomers: Freshmen defensive backs Shane Carter, 6-2, 190; Prince Moody, 5-11, 190; and Aubrey Pleasant, 6-0, 205.

Also in the mix: sophomore strong safety James Kamoku, 6-2, 211; sophomore cornerback Ben Strickland, 5-9, 180; redshirt freshman safety Jameson Davis, 6-0, 199; redshirt freshman cornerback Antonio Freeman, 6-0, 186; and redshirt freshman cornerback Phil Arnold, 5-7, 170

Key departures: Cornerback Scott Starks (12-12-45-10-1), free safety Jim Leonhard (12-12-72-13-3), strong safety Robert Brooks (10-10-59-4-0) and cornerback Chuckie Cowans (0-12-10-2-1).

Reasons to be excited: Even after losing four of their top six defensive backs, the Badgers have a deep, athletic, talented secondary that should be among the better units in the Big Ten… Corner Brett Bell, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in January, has been given the go-ahead to practice in full from the first day of camp and might just be the best corner in the league if he stays healthy… Levonne Rowan has always had the physical tools, and as a senior the Badgers are expecting big things out of him… Langford and Ikegwuonu look like stars of the future… all four juniors competing for the starting safety spots are good players.

Cause for trepidation: Aside from Bell and Rowan, there is little experience and several top-notch passing teams grace the Badgers' schedule… Rowan has shown flashes of being a very good corner, but has been inconsistent and he struggled with injuries last year… The new safeties are playmakers with a lot of potential, but UW may be prone to more big plays without Jim Leonhard's steady play in the back end.

Camp questions: First and foremost, who starts at safety? White, Stellmacher, Rogers and Hampton are all starting caliber players, which is a good problem to have…. Will Rowan step up and secure the starting spot opposite Bell, or will Langford or Ikegwuonu take over?... Who fills spots in the nickel and dime? Langford, Ikegwuonu, whichever two safeties fall to second string, Kamoku and Strickland will all have a chance…. Which positions will the three freshmen settle into? Carter and Moody could play corner or safety…. Most importantly, will Bell stay healthy?

Forecast: Assuming Brett Bell stays healthy, he will be a first-team All-Big Ten corner. Bell is big, athletic and tenacious and he could be a true shutdown corner this season… Expect Langford and Ikegwuonu to put a lot of pressure on Rowan, but the senior will have a solid season retain a starting job… The feeling here is that Rogers and White will end up starting at safety, but it is going to be a very tight competition throughout the fall… Both Hampton and Stellmacher are too good of playmakers to be stuck on the sidelines and will be in the mix for playing time in five and six defensive back sets… With the depth and potential in this secondary, do not be surprised if it is playing even better than the Starks-and-Leonhard-led 2004 secondary by season's end.

BadgerNation.com projected depth chart

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