Spring wrap-up: Safeties

Roderick Rogers (AJ Maclean/Badger Nation file)

Part 4 of BadgerNation.com's look back at Wisconsin's 2006 spring football practice season

News and notes — Seniors free safety Roderick Rogers and strong safety Joe Stellmacher are returning starters. Senior Johnny White also returns as the No. 2 strong safety.

Senior Zach Hampton converted to cornerback, establishing Shane Carter as the No. 2 free safety. Carter and Hampton are the leading candidates for the nickel defensive back job.

Sophomore Aubrey Pleasant, the No. 3 strong safety, sat out the spring while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

Junior James Kamoku heads into summer as the sixth safety. Walk-ons William Hartmann and Brian Herman are next on the depth.

Spring MVP — Rogers. He started slowly last season and he struggled with inconsistency at times. But things started to click for Rogers about midway through last season — after some positive early-season moments — and he continued to develop at a rapid rate this spring. Rogers did not make a lot of highlight-reel plays during the course of spring, but he certainly made his presence felt in the spring game, with a big hit on Travis Beckum for a tackle for loss on the first play from scrimmage and an interception later in the game.

Rogers covers a lot of ground at free safety and he can be an imposing presence when he plays with confidence and aggression, as he did in the spring game.

Springing ahead — Carter established himself as the heir apparent to Rogers. A high-caliber athlete, few players could match the sheer volume of plays Carter made during spring. He is a ball hawk who can play physically versus the run — or against receivers that venture over the middle. A cornerback for a time in full training camp last season, Carter has good natural cover skills at safety. He still has to learn the finer points and he will not challenge Rogers for playing time, but Carter gives UW a very capable reserve this year who should develop into a solid starter in 2007.

Pressing questions — The Badgers do not have any major concerns for this position in 2006. There is ample depth. At strong safety reserve White has starting experience and Pleasant has enormous potential.

Might UW, though, decide to use different safeties in different situations? It is possible, depending on Carter's development. The Badgers tried out a nickel defense this spring with Rogers and Carter at the safeties and Hampton in as a third corner. Stellmacher is a big safety who does a terrific job against the run and has a knack for making plays versus the passing game. But he does not cover as much territory as Carter. Still, experience goes a long ways, and Stellmacher has far more of it than Carter.

Looking ahead — This should be a position of clear strength for the Badgers this season. Rogers and Stellmacher are a solid, experienced tandem that should make plenty of plays this season with a tough front seven putting pressure on opposing backfields.

White will likely have the opportunity to play in the short-yardage defense, alongside Stellmacher, as he did last season. Though he still needs to improve his cover skills, White showed last season that he can be a mighty productive player when the opportunity comes along (think Michigan).

Carter and Pleasant are high-caliber prospects for the future and solid reserves for the present.

Kamoku is a program guy who is excellent on special teams. He was a significantly improved player this spring, giving the Badgers a reserve who could probably play free or strong if necessary.

Incoming freshman Culmer St. Jean is projected as a strong safety or outside linebacker and could further bolster the depth at safety.

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