Wisconsin's secondary, which was already a position facing some depth concerns this season, has suffered its second departure by a safety in about a week.
Last week, redshirt freshman Reggie Mitchell -- who had practiced as the team's starting free safety this spring -- was granted his release for an expected transfer to Pittsburgh. Now there is word that Donnell Vercher, a junior college transfer whom the Badgers signed in February to help shore up the safety spot, isn't coming to Madison after all.
According to a Fresno, Calif., TV report, Vercher was denied admission to Wisconsin and instead will play for Fresno State this season. Vercher, who had eight interceptions for Fresno City College last season, had committed to the Badgers right before signing day and was viewed as a potential challenger for a starting safety job.
So now there are even more questions for a Badgers secondary that returns only one starter: strong safety Dezmen Southward. The competition for the other safety spot figures to include junior Michael Trotter, who started three games last year but needs to raise his level of play; juco transfer T.J. Reynard, who signed with the Badgers just last month; and Jeff Lewis, who has reportedly moved from running back to safety to provide help.
I spoke with Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen on Monday and asked about the depth concerns in the secondary (before the Vercher news broke). Here's what he told me:
"Everybody has places where I guess they feel comfortable with the depth, and other places where they're a little bit concerned," he said. "Because Reggie departed, I don't think that makes me more overly concerned about the depth. It puts us in a situation kind of like the offensive line, where the depth is a little bit worrisome and we've got to be careful and smart. And I'd say the same thing about the safety position.
"The key thing at the safety position is to truly identify the two starters. As we came out of spring we had a starter, and we had some kids competing for the other spot. Reggie was one of those guys competing. Dez has the one locked down, which is as it should be. The other one is up in the air and we'll see how it goes. It is a concern, but it is what it is. We've all got some depth issues or concerns, and as we move forward, we'll do our best to clean it up."