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Wisconsin football: Departures of Caleb Kinlaw, Elijah Strong hurt future depth at cornerback

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There will be opportunities for young cornerbacks to make a splash next year.

Caleb Kinlaw during Wisconsin's win over Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 12 at Camp Randall Stadium.
Caleb Kinlaw during Wisconsin's win over Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 12 at Camp Randall Stadium.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin State Journal's Jason Galloway reported on Tuesday that three Wisconsin Badgers, most notably redshirt freshman running back-turned-cornerback Caleb Kinlaw, left the UW football program.

Kinlaw's departure, along with the confirmation by Galloway of true freshman Elijah Strong also leaving the team, hurts the depth of the cornerback position heading into the 2016 season.

The Badgers lose seniors Darius Hillary, T.J, Reynard and Terrance Floyd after Wednesday's Holiday Bowl against the USC Trojans. The most daunting loss is Hillary, a near lock down corner that started all 12 games this season, contributing 40 tackles and credited with six pass break-ups. Reynard and Floyd played sparingly in their careers but did add bodies to the UW secondary.

Returning for Wisconsin will be Sojourn Shelton, along with Derrick Tindal, Natrell Jamerson and Titus Booker. Shelton's had a resurgent 2015 season, rebounding from a tough 2014 season. Opposite him will either be the soon-to-be juniors in Tindal and Jamerson. Jamerson, a converted wide receiver and UW's kickoff returner, has filled in nicely when Tindal's been injured this season. With the multiple subpackages Wisconsin runs, if defensive coordinator Dave Aranda returns, he'll be needed to continue his evolution into a dependable defensive back.

Booker's an intriguing prospect who was named Wisconsin's scout team defensive player of the year earlier this month.The redshirt freshman will be needed to fill in the two-deep at cornerback, especially if injuries mount.

Sophomore Lubern Figaro moved over to cornerback with Kinlaw this season from safety. Whether he stays at the position or moves back to the center of the field remains to be seen for now.

The 5'10, 190-pound Kinlaw could have fought for playing time and position on the depth chart considering the turnover. He was recruited as a running back and redshirted in 2014, but found himself buried on the depth before the move. Kinlaw did have his moment to shine in the offensive backfield, as he rushed for 30 yards on seven carries, along with catching a five-yard touchdown pass against Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 12. Per a report from WCIV's Scott Eisberg, Kinlaw plans to move back to running back.

Strong was a walk-on from Oak Creek, Wis., but didn't show up much in his only season at UW as a true freshman. One would have thought, with limited numbers entering 2016, he would have had a chance to make a splash.

Wisconsin and secondary coach Daronte Jones could depend upon two known verbal commits from the class of 2016 to fill in spots, if they sign their national letters of intent. Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (St. Thomas Aquinas) cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams and Jacksonville, Fla. (University Christian) Ke'Shan Pennamon, both three-star prospects, are the two cornerbacks who have verbally pledged to this class for now.

Galloway also reported redshirt sophomore Aidan McNamara left the program. The 6'4, 314-pound offensive lineman and Madison native saw playing time in two games in 2014 before leg injury sidelined him for the rest of the season on Nov. 12.