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Takeaways from Badgers spring practice No. 14: Defense

The Badgers are nearing an end to their spring football program.

The Wisconsin Badgers conducted their 14th practice of the spring, including Saturday’s “The Launch”, nearing an end to their spring practice schedule.

After a shaky performance on Saturday, the offense had a better showing, especially from top quarterback Tanner Mordecai, against Wisconsin’s evolving defense.

Defensive Line changes

The Badgers’ defense continues to mix up their rotations, especially amongst their defensive front.

With C.J. Goetz not practicing, Michigan State transfer Jeff Pietrowski saw a good portion of first-team reps, where he flashed his ability to get to the quarterback on several occasions.

The Badgers involved several packages with three defensive linemen and two outside linebackers, with four down linemen and an outside linebacker working off-ball near the line of scrimmage.

With the action, several faces got first-team reps, as Gio Paez, Isaiah Mullens, and Curt Neal split nose tackle reps with the top unit, while Darryl Peterson, Pietrowski, T.J. Bollers, and Kaden Johnson all rotated in at outside linebacker.

Additionally, defensive end James Thompson Jr. seemed to benefit well from the formation, as he showcased flashes of being a disrupter, working against Michael Furtney on a pressure, amongst other plays.

Injured secondary?

Top nickelback Jason Maitre, as well as backup slot cornerback Amaun Williams, did not practice on Tuesday, which led to a unique look for the Badgers: three inside linebackers and three safeties on at the same time.

As a result, redshirt junior Bryce Carey earned some meaningful reps with the first-team defense in the slot, working alongside Hunter Wohler and Kamo’i Latu.

The Badgers have implemented three-safety looks on several occasions under defensive coordinator Mike Tressel’s defense in an attempt to be more aggressive, while manning the backend with extra personnel.

However, this has occasionally led to safeties dealing with man-to-man coverage, which hasn't always worked in the defense’s favor this spring.

Tressel’s defense has certainly been a valuable asset, and a reason why the offense has displayed inconsistencies, but that could be an area to look for during the season.

Of course, the addition of Travian Blaylock back into the defense eases worries, given his athletic abilities.


The Badgers’ defense keeps finding their hands on the football, and it continues to be in different ways.

A variety of different linebackers and defensive backs have accumulated interceptions this spring, with cornerback Ricardo Hallman flashing the most, generating six turnovers in a period of two practices last week.

However, on a day with a lesser focus on the deep passing game, there were several plays to be made near the line of scrimmage.

Jake Chaney struck paydirt first with an interception off Braedyn Locke on a short pass intended for Will Pauling, while reserve safety Jackson Trudgeon recorded a pair of picks.

Trudgeon first intercepted third-string quarterback Marshall Howe before picking off Nick Evers on a short crosser that the quarterback threw behind his receiver, forcing a deflection and an interception by the safety.

Last season, the Badgers struggled to generate turnovers with their defensive backs on deeper passes, apart from safety John Torchio, but that could change with Tressel’s aggressive defensive style, as has been seen thus far in the spring.