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Wisconsin football 2020 fall practice position preview: cornerback

This room is deep and experienced. How big of a strength will they bring to the Badgers defense in 2020?

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Ohio State vs Wisconsin Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Look, we don’t know if there is going to be college football this fall but until we know for sure that there isn’t, we are going to treat this offseason like any other and get you prepared for the 2020 season. Here are our thoughts on each position group before spring practice started and then, uh, got canceled to get you fully up to speed.

Since, to be quite honest, not a whole lot has changed since we wrote the spring previews we’ll be adding a couple of different elements to these previews. We’ll take our best guesses at how the depth chart for each position group will look this fall and we’ll also take a look at a potential breakout player for the 2021 season (in case you haven’t had your Graham Mertz fix in a few months).

The next group is the cornerback room.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Returning players:

Faion Hicks, 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, redshirt junior
Rachad Wildgoose, 5-foot-11, 197 pounds, junior
Dean Engram, 5-foot-9, 164 pounds, redshirt freshman
Deron Harrell, 6-foot-2, 182 pounds, redshirt junior
Alexander Smith, 5-foot-11, 182 pounds, redshirt sophomore
Donte Burton, 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, redshirt sophomore
Semar Melvin, 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, redshirt freshman
Caesar Williams, 6-foot, 188 pounds, redshirt senior
Travian Blaylock, 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, redshirt sophomore
Cristian Volpentesta, 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, redshirt senior
Kobe Knaak, 5-foot-9, 189 pounds, redshirt junior

Departing players:

James Williams, Medical retirement

Incoming players:

Max Lofy, 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, freshman

Depth Chart

Depth Chart Player Position Year Games Played
Depth Chart Player Position Year Games Played
Starter Faion Hicks Cornerback RS junior 14
Backup Rachad Wildgoose Cornerback Junior 13
Starter Caesar Williams Cornerback RS senior 14
Backup Semar Melvin Cornerback RS freshman 4

Breakdown position and depth chart: Last season one cornerback position was constant with the presence of Faion Hicks. The other side was a bit of a revolving door with the likes of Deron Harrell starting the year, but Caesar Williams took over that role and played very well down the stretch of the season. Rachad Wildgoose is not listed as a starter, but he may as well be as he played most of the snaps at the nickel position. With all three of those players back the starters looked primed to have a big season, but there is plenty of talent behind them as well.

Semar Melvin played in a few games in 2019 and appeared to be a bright spot for the future aside from his opening play at Minnesota. Donte Burton is also a player that has seen some of the field, and was a highly recruited player out of high school that will look to jump up and make an impact. Deron Harrell is an interesting case for the Badgers as well. He started for Jim Leonhard last season and fell down the depth chart in the front half of the season. If he can return to what Leonhard saw last fall the Badgers could have six reliable corners with the likes of Travian Blaylock, Dean Engram and Alexander Smith behind them.

Most important player in position group: Caesar Williams is the most important player in this group. As a senior, if he can come out and do what he did down the stretch in 2019, the Badgers will be in great shape for their secondary. Hicks and Wildgoose we’re pretty good for the entirety of 2019 and it’s expected to be that way again in 2020. If Williams can match that output for a full season the Badgers will have something special brewing with the three of them. All have importance, but I think consistent performance at the second cornerback spot will really separate this secondary from good to great.

Potential breakout player for 2021: We saw a little bit of Semar Melvin last season, and for good reason, he’s a very talented player. In the late stages of the season Melvin took on a much bigger role playing against Minnesota, Ohio State, and Oregon in the Rose Bowl. This year there are certainly some talented guys in front of him, but Melvin will likely compete for one of those spots. If a player under performs, Melvin could find his way into the lineup more so than he did in 2020. If not, he could still get some time under his belt and really be primed to step into the hole left by Caesar Williams to graduation come 2021.