Depth issues mount for Badgers secondary

Gary Andersen inherited a veteran-laden Wisconsin team that featured good depth at most positions with one obvious exception: the secondary.

The Badgers returned just one starting defensive back, safety Dezmen Southward, from last year's Big Ten championship squad. Andersen and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda knew they needed bodies in the back four and found a potential solution this spring in Reggie Mitchell.

A cornerback who moved to safety under the new staff, Mitchell drew praise from Andersen and Aranda for his performance this spring. Andersen last month told Sirius XM’s "College Sports Nation" that Mitchell "is going to lock down one of those safety spots."

But Mitchell won't be playing for Wisconsin this season. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh are reporting that Mitchell has been released from his scholarship at Wisconsin. WPXI-TV reports Mitchell, a Pittsburgh native, will transfer to Pitt. Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph recruited Mitchell to Wisconsin while he was on the Badgers' staff.

I'm sure there's more to the story as Mitchell seemed to be in a good spot at Wisconsin, and we'll pass along information as it becomes available.

Mitchell's departure makes a thin Badgers secondary even thinner. The competition to start opposite Southward in camp should be ramped up. Andersen has brought in two junior-college defensive backs in Donnell Vercher and Tekeim Reynard. Junior Michael Trotter also could be in the mix at safety, and there are reports that running back Jeff Lewis has been moved to safety to help the depth there.

Lewis' move is a bit odd so late in his career, although Wisconsin clearly needs help at safety and should be OK at running back with James White, Melvin Gordon, Vonte Jackson and incoming freshman Corey Clement.