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Wisconsin spring football: cornerback overview

A look at where the Wisconsin Badgers are at cornerback following spring ball.

The Wisconsin Badgers officially concluded spring camp, and now head into the summer months preparing for the fall.

While spring football is generally a time for self-improvement and overall development, the 15 extra practices also provide players the opportunity to step up and show the coaching staff that they warrant playing time come fall.

While the Badgers were confined to the McClain Center with ongoing renovations to Camp Randall, the defense under Jim Leonhard was flying around and making plays.

Over the next two weeks, All Badgers will take a position-by-position look at some of the general takeaways from the spring and what it could mean for each position group come fall.

Previously covered positions:

Wrapping up the defensive side of the ball, today we focus on the cornerbacks. 

The Wisconsin cornerbacks posing for a picture during a break time.

Cornerbacks Justin Clark (No. 21), Alexander Smith (No. 11), and Ricardo Hallman (No. 2) pose during a break at spring practice. 

After losing a pair of long-time starters in Faion Hicks and Caesar Williams, the Wisconsin Badgers attacked the transfer portal this off-season, adding three graduate transfers to help add experience to the cornerback room.

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Justin Clark came to Wisconsin from Toledo, Jay Shaw from UCLA, and Cedrick Dort left Kentucky for the Badgers.

So far, the move appears to have paid off for cornerbacks coach Hank Poteat, as Wisconsin has quickly made the position a strength this spring.

Returning senior Alexander Smith has taken over as the leader in the room and put together a stellar spring to situation himself in the top group. The redshirt senior bounced between cornerback and safety out of necessity, but he was firmly in the starting rotation all spring long in the practices I attended.

Transfers Justin Clark and Jay Shaw also flashed this spring and positioned themselves for key spots in the lineup. I was particularly impressed by Clark, who came away with several interceptions and tirelessly competed against Chimere Dike and the top receivers on the roster. Shaw missed a couple of practices with an injury, but his ability to come up in run support makes him a valuable part of the top group. 

If spring practice was any indication, I think that those three have the upper hand to be the top three corners heading into the summer.

With so many experienced options vying for playing time, the player that impressed me most though was redshirt freshman Ricardo Hallman. While the three already listed are probably a bit ahead of him in the pecking order, I think Hallman put together a strong spring that sets him up nicely to see the field next season and potentially be a multi-year starter down the line. He did a great job of breaking on the ball and utilized his hands well to break up passes.

The emergence of Hallman overshadowed the play of Kentucky transfer Cedrick Dort and some of the others in the room. For example, walk-on cornerback Amaun Williams played well, as did sophomore Max Lofy, who created a turnover in the final practice of the spring.

Semar Melvin was not a full participant this spring and could also shake up the competition if he returns to full health come fall, but in general, the cornerback depth was a key storyline to surface from spring ball.

The Badgers have a level of talent and playmaking ability that should allow Jim Leonhard to maintain his aggressiveness in the front seven and provide some versatility with some concerns with safety depth.

Alexander Smith, Justin Clark, and Ricardo Hallman all made my spring defensive stock risers list from last month, and I think there is reason for optimism heading into next season with the cornerbacks. 

Projected depth chart:

  1. Justin Clark (7th SR) and Alexander Smith (RS SR)
  2. Jay Shaw (6th SR) and Ricardo Hallman (RS FR)
  3. Cedrick Dort (6th SR) and Amaun Williams (RS SO) or Max Lofy (RS SO)

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