Wisconsin Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Start This Season
Last season, the Wisconsin football team found themselves with more seniors than could start, leaving them with a bevy of experience and a dearth of spots for freshmen. Cornerback Sojourn Shelton was the only one to crack the starting lineup as a freshman.
This season, the Badgers' collection of seniors have all graduated, leaving nearly every spot on defense up for grabs. The question then becomes will anyone from the Badgers' highly-touted recruiting class step in and fill a starting role right away?
While I believe most freshmen will have a chance to see the field this season, it's unlikely more than a couple of them will start. With that being said, let's take a look at which freshmen can crack the starting lineup this season.
WR Krenwick Sanders
With a receiving corps that was thinned out so heavily in the spring that Kenzel Doe had to take virtually every rep, there are spots at the wide receiver position for the class of five incoming freshmen at the position to stake their claim.
The one with the best chance of cracking that proverbial nut is Krenwick Sanders, a former Georgia commit and Georgia native. In his senior year of high school, Sanders recorded 65 catches for 1,483 yards and 26 touchdown receptions, plus 463 rushing yards and six touchdowns, according to the Badgers' site.
Though Doe and Jordan Fredrick are probably going to be split out wide against LSU, I'd be shocked if Sanders didn't get a shot to start a game this season, either in the slot or out wide where he looks more comfortable.
NG Jeremy Patterson
To the best of my knowledge, Warren Herring is the rock in the middle of the Badgers' 3-4 defense. With the requisite experience to go along with a sturdy frame and a good amount of skill to boot, Herring's their man in the middle.
With that being said, if incoming freshman Jeremy Patterson progresses well in fall camp, then it would give the flexibility for Herring to move out on the edge.
To understate things a bit, Patterson is massive and has room to grow. At 6'3" and 315 pounds, Patterson has the frame required to play the nose guard position in a 3-4 defense and can aptly fill in for the graduated Beau Allen in the middle.
The Badgers rarely get players from Georgia, though that's changed quite a bit over the past 18 months and will continue to improve in that regard with Thomas Brown on board. Patterson runs a shade over five seconds in 40-time and squats an impressive 440, according to Yahoo!
With his size, (relative) speed and strength, Patterson will contribute early on and even has a chance to start if the coaching staff chooses to get creative.
C Michael Deiter
While Jaden Gault may be the better player, the number of people in front of him at either of the tackle spots will likely prevent him from seeing too much of the field this season, much less a starting spot. But Michael Deiter, on the other hand, is one injury away from being installed as the starting center.
Deiter took many of the first-team snaps in the spring after he enrolled early, and Dan Voltz and Dallas Lewallen sat out due to injury. Opportunity knocked for the Ohio native, and he made the most of it.
Though I don't see him starting against LSU, Deiter has a chance to crack the starting five at some point during the season with continued strong play throughout practice and an injury in front of him.
S Austin Hudson
While safety may be one of the strongest positions for the Badgers, that doesn't mean that a freshman doesn't have the chance to start. Michael Caputo is easily one of the best players on this year's team, particularly on defense, and will be called upon as a leader from the safety spot.
But what if he doesn't play safety? Caputo has been moved around quite a bit, playing linebacker and sniffing around the line of scrimmage more than he will be playing in deep coverage. Next to him will likely be Peniel Jean, if he ends up playing safety. It could also be Leo Musso playing across from Caputo.
But let's say that Caputo plays linebacker and Jean plays cornerback. In that scenario, early-enrollee Austin Hudson would be the man for the opposite safety spot. The hard-hitter from Florida impressed in the spring and could very well see his name on the top of the depth chart at some point this season.
K Rafael Gaglianone
The kicker spot has caused nothing but nightmares for Badgers fans, and bringing Rafael Gaglianone in on scholarship could quell some of those fears. Gone are the days of worrying that Kyle French would miss an extra point—he missed at least one in each of his three seasons—and Jack Russell, though he improved, is still not locked in for the role.
While I think Russell will likely be the starter against LSU, any sort of misstep from the incumbent kicker will at least open the door for Gaglianone to put his foot in and take the job. Russell's one career field goal beyond 40 yards, and the fact that Chris Borland was strongly considered for taking long attempts, shows that there's already doubt in the minds of the coaching staff.
Gaglianone will provide the strong leg necessary to take all the kicks asked of an FBS kicker, including the leg for 50-plus yarders, as seen above. Though he finds himself holding down the last spot of this slideshow, Gaglianone is likely the first of this batch to start.
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