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April 26, 2014

Spring Wrap Up: Defensive Backs

MADISON, Wis. - 15 spring practices are in the books, so it's time to look back and sum up what we learned about each of Wisconsin's positions groups over the last month and a half.

Today we'll move on to the defensive backs, after I broke down the linebackers on Friday.

Devin Gaulden finally got a chance to shine

Gaulden has been on Wisconsin's campus for the last three seasons, but a series of injuries has kept him from earning consistent playing time. But with shin splints, stress fractures, and an ACL injury behind him, Gaulden broke out in spring camp as Wisconsin's No. 3 cornerback. Gaulden's resurgence came at a good time for the Badgers too, because they needed more players to step up in the secondary.

Gaulden appears to be a good fit for what the Badgers want to see out of their cornerbacks in the future. He's fast enough to run with receivers downfield, staying close enough to make a play on the ball. Gaulden is also strong enough to knock receivers off of their routes in press man-to-man coverage. For the time being it looks like Gaulden will see the field often in 2014, and as long as he's healthy Gaulden looks like a player the Badgers can count on against three-receiver sets.

Michael Caputo will probably stay at safety

The Badgers moved Caputo to outside linebacker early on in spring camp as part of their attempt to get more speed on the field. Caputo seemed excited about playing closer to the line of scrimmage, but a string of injuries started a domino effect that forced the Badgers to move him back to his old position. The Badges might try and send Caputo on some safety blitzes to take advantage of his pass rushing, but it looks like he'll stay at safety for the time being.

For what it's worth, I think the Badgers are better off with Caputo at safety. Caputo has enough range for the position, and he played well in his first year as a starter opposite Dezmen Southward. The Badgers trust him in regular coverage against receivers, too- they rotated him down into coverage during the spring game when they sent Gaulden on a few corner blitzes. With another year under his belt Caputo could be a stabilizing force on the back end.

The other safety spot is up for grabs

The Badgers thought they had something to work with at safety when they moved A.J. Jordan to the position during the spring. Jordan made some nice plays in that spot, but eventually the Badgers had to shift him back to wide receiver just so they would have enough bodies at the position to run a regular practice. As of right now the second safety spot is probably the most open position on Wisconsin's defensive two-deep.

If the Badgers leave Jordan on offense they'll likely look at Leo Musso and Nate Hammon early on in fall camp to see if they would fit next to Caputo. But neither player has proven that they can be counted on. They'll also try to give JUCO transfer Serge Trezy a chance to win the job in fall camp, but Trezy is (like the rest of Wisconsin's options at the position) still an unknown quantity.

Sojourn Shelton, 2014 spring game from Jon McNamara on Vimeo.

John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.

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