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Faion Hicks  - UW vs. Western Kentucky

Wisconsin Badgers cornerback Faion Hicks (20) intercepted a pass intended for Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Drew Eckels (4) in the 3rd quarter. The Wisconsin Badgers hosted Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Friday Aug. 31, 2018 in the season opener at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. STEVE APPS, STATE JOURNAL (Published on 9/4/18) UW’s Faion Hicks intercepts a pass intended for Western Kentucky’s Drew Eckels during the third quarter Friday. (Published on 7/30/2019) Cornerback Faion Hicks intercepts a pass in the third quarter of the 34-3 win over Western Kentucky during the season opener last year at Camp Randall Stadium. (Published on 8/25/2019) Cornerback Faion Hicks intercepts a pass in the third quarter of UW’s 34-3 win over Western Kentucky last season at Camp Randall Stadium.

DEPTH CHART

CORNERBACKS

Projected starters; Ht.; Wt.; Yr.; Hometown

1 | Faion Hicks (above); 5-10; 185; Jr.; Miami

21 | Caesar Williams; 6-0; 188; Sr.; Grand Prairie, Texas

5 | Rachad Wildgoose; 5-11; 197; Jr.; Miramar, Fla.

Backups

4 | Donte Burton; 5-10; 180; So.; Loganville, Ga.

8 | Deron Harrell; 6-2; 182; Jr.; Denver, Colo.

20 | Semar Melvin; 5-11; 166; Fr.; Pembroke Pines, Fla.

The rest

6 | Dean Engram; 5-9; 164; Fr.; Columbia, Md.

11 | Alexander Smith; 5-11; 182; So.; Culver City, Calif.

36 | Kobe Knaak; 5-9; 191; Sr.; Franklin

17 | Max Lofy; 5-10; 184; Fr.; Colorado Springs, Colo.

16 | Amaun Williams; 5-10; 185; Fr.; Milwaukee

SAFETIES

25 | Eric Burrell; 6-0; 195; Sr.; Severn, Md.

18 | Collin Wilder; 5-10; 194; Sr.; Katy, Texas

Backups

9 | Scott Nelson; 6-2; 204; Jr.; Detroit, Mich.

31 | Madison Cone; 5-9; 182; Sr.; Kernersville, N.C.

15 | John Torchio; 6-1; 205; So.; Lafayette, Calif.

The rest

30 | Tyler Mais; 6-1; 196; Jr.; Waunakee

38 | Dante Caputo; 5-11; 181; Fr.; Pittsburgh, Penn.

29 | Brady Schipper; 5-11; 206; So.; Stoughton

26 | Travian Blaylock; 5-11; 200; So.; Humble, Texas

12 | Titus Toler; 5-11; 192; Fr.; Long Beach, Calif.

THE SKINNY

No position group returns as many snaps from last season as the secondary. Up-and-down play early in the year gave way to more consistency as the unit got more reps together. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard employed a hot-hand mentality to the group, especially at corner, rewarding those players performing best at practice with game reps. Faion Hicks, Caesar Williams, Rachad Wildgoose, Donte Burton, Deron Harrell and Semar Melvin all started games at corner a year ago. Having as many players as he does at his disposal allows Leonhard to rotate and keep competition high at practice. Safety also is loaded with returning talent, with starter Eric Burrell returning. Reggie Pearson, who started 12 games in 2019, was not medically cleared to play this season. The safety group is deep with experience, as well, with Scott Nelson returning from injury and seniors Collin Wilder and Madison Cone available.

GLASS-IS-HALF-FULL FORECAST

The depth and experience of the secondary makes up for the lack of explosive pass-rush, and the group tallies at least an interception per game. Hicks, Williams and Wildgoose continue their ascent and form one of the best DB trios in the conference, and their ability to plaster onto receivers lets Leonhard be creative with blitzes.

GLASS-IS-HALF-EMPTY FORECAST

The rotation at corner and possibly safety leads to communication errors and a lack of continuity. The tackling woes that crept up last season return and the secondary doesn’t find a way to handle the spread attacks featured by six of UW’s opponents this year.

THE NUMBER

12 | Interceptions last season, tied for the program’s fewest since 2015.

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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