The Wisconsin Badgers are looking for their fourth straight Big Ten title in 2013 under new head coach Gary Andersen. There are questions about how Andersen’s new schemes will translate to Wisconsin, particularly in the secondary. The Badgers are thin in coverage, putting added pressure on senior safety Dezmen Southward to assume a leadership role next fall.
Southward was one of the key members of the defense in 2012 when he finished fourth on the team with 69 tackles, including eight tackles for loss, four pass breakups and an interception. He is the only returning starter in the secondary for Wisconsin next season and will be surrounded by inexperienced options at every position.
Andersen has tried to address their thin ranks by bringing in a pair of junior college transfers to man the corner positions. Redshirt freshman Reggie Mitchell appears ready to step in at the other safety position, but beyond that, the Badgers are paper-thin. Southward developed into a solid player last season, but will have to do more in 2013.
On top of being one of the top producers on the defense next season, Southward will be charged with being a leader on and off the field. He will have to raise the level of play of the inexperienced group around him. His ability to hold the group together as they work through their Big Ten slate will determine Wisconsin’s chances of making another run to the Rose Bowl.
Southward has shown he has the skill-set to be one of the better safeties in the conference, but does he have the leadership to bring the rest of the secondary with him in 2013?