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With Kamo’i Latu struggling, Badgers dipping into safety depth to produce

The Badgers are using their depth to good use, and it could continue in Week 3.

The Wisconsin Badgers are 1-1 through two weeks after a disappointing loss to Washington State on the road simmered the hype around the program.

Still, the Badgers are looking to get back on track in Week 3 with a home bout against Georgia Southern, prior to starting their slate of conference games, which begins with Purdue in Week 4.

While the Badgers are seen as 20-point favorites against Georgia Southern, according to DraftKings, there are still several positions to keep an eye on, with safety leading the ranks after Wisconsin experimented with a change in their starters in Week 2, incorporating reserve Preston Zachman in place of Kamo’i Latu.

Latu was pulled in the first half after getting beaten on a double-move in pass coverage, with Zachman playing the remainder of the game, with the snap distribution being 51 to 17 in favor of the latter.

However, it’s clear the Badgers didn't anticipate making the change in-game, as head coach Luke Fickell shared postgame that Zachman had actually been preparing at a different position thus far, but was called upon to man Latu’s position in the backend.

Fickell praised his reserve safety for the performance, pointing out him being able to settle down with the torrid pace that Washington State operated with, which was what Wisconsin needed at the position.

“Preston did a good job. I think he came in, he kind of calmed down, settled it down in the midst of the pace they were going with on the road. We just needed somebody to be in there, to be a little bit more settling,” Fickell said.

“And he hadn’t played the position pretty much all week. He plays a lot more with Hunter and a lot of the positions that he plays. And just in the midst of the game, we had to kind of throw him in there and settle some things down, and he didn’t bat an eye at it.”

“He played with confidence. There’s some things that playing over there that we’ll have to work with him a little bit more on, but I thought he did a really good job.”

As for Latu, Fickell said that his safety took the benching well, adding that the Badgers will continue to find ways to utilize the junior, although there likely needs to be some improvements in play after two inconsistent weeks.

“He did a good job. He did a good job at handling [the benching],” Fickell said. “I think that emotions got a little bit of the best of him and maybe the tempo. And I think after the I’m not sure if it was 20 plays or 18 plays that we made a little bit of adjustment, switched up in some situations.”

Fickell related his situation to that of running back Chez Mellusi, who had the “fumble” that allowed Washington State to pull ahead two scores and maintain their lead through the game.

“It’s similar to what happened with Chez. He can’t hang his head. He’s got to continue to move,” Fickell said. “We need him. We’re going to have to find ways to continue to use him.”

Regardless, the Badgers will look to place their best players on the field going forward, and those evaluations need to come sooner than later with conference play inching closer and closer.

“But I think for us moving forward, we’ve got to find ways to kind of figure out what our personnel is going to be, whether that’s offense or defense,” Fickell said.

That starts in Week 3, where the Badgers will look to get back on track in a home game against Georgia Southern on Saturday.