THE BADGERS DON'T
have a safety with even one game of starting experience, but not to worry.
Linebackers Jonathan Casillas and DeAndre Levy, Wisconsin's third and fourth
leading tacklers last year, are taking a personal interest in the situation.
This fall the two juniors will share a four-bedroom, off-campus house with
sophomores Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter, who will be taking over at the
strong- and free-safety positions, respectively. Talking about defense will be
a house rule. "It's going to be all football all the time in there,"
Besides being the
best linebacking duo west of Penn State, the 6' 2", 220-pound Casillas and
the 6' 3", 230-pound Levy are ideal tutors. Both played safety in high
school. Levy hits like a hammer, and Casillas, who has been timed at
4.37�seconds in the 40, is the second-fastest player on the team. "He
plays so well in space," second-year Badgers coach Bret Bielema says of
Casillas. "There were times last year when we used him basically as a
As for the
safeties, what Carter and Pleasant--who both redshirted last season with
shoulder injuries--lack in experience, they make up for in athleticism. The 6'
2", 206-pound Carter, the younger brother of former All-Pro wide receiver
Cris Carter, earned praise from Bielema in the spring for his playmaking
ability. "The safety position will be the most critical part of the defense
this year," says Bielema. "A leader has to emerge there."
should have suitable time to get acclimated because, in addition to Casillas
and Levy, Wisconsin possesses a stellar defensive line and perhaps the
country's top pair of lockdown cornerbacks. Up front, three starters and six
players with significant experience are back. Holding down the corners are
juniors Jack Ikegwuonu and Allen Langford. Ikegwuonu had only two interceptions
last season because teams basically stopped throwing to his side of the field,
but he still earned All-Big Ten honors.
Solid defense will
make things easier for whoever wins the starting quarterback job. The options
are fifth-year senior Tyler Donovan and junior Allan Evridge, a Kansas State
transfer. The 6' 1", 185-pound Donovan has a significant edge in
experience. He started the final two games of the regular season last year,
throwing for more than 500 yards and four touchdowns in wins over Iowa and
Buffalo. The 6' 2", 226-pound Evridge has a big league arm, but he
struggled with consistency during spring practice. "It's still up in the
air," says Bielema.
But Bielema can
rest a little easier knowing he has a defense that makes the Badgers a threat
to win their first Big Ten title since 1999.