Most Indispensable Badger - No.3

With the college football season just around the corner, BadgerNation brings back its list of the 20 most important players to the Badgers' success in the 2015 season. Helping make Wisconsin's defense one of the top defenses in the country over the last two seasons, senior Michael Caputo is one of the unquestioned leaders of Wisconsin.

After having an outstanding 2014 campaign, fifth-year senior Michael Caputo will be called upon as the leader of the Wisconsin defense as they look to keep their impressive few seasons going. Over Caputo's two seasons as a starter (2013-14), Wisconsin ranks No. 3 nationally in total defense (299.6 ypg), No. 6 in scoring defense (18.6 ppg) and No. 6 in passing defense (185.3 ypg). The 6-1, 200-pound veteran has enough potential to take the secondary to the elite level while becoming one of Wisconsin’s best defenders against the run. Caputo will need to continue to show his aggressiveness, as well as athleticism, if he wants to shine as the season goes on.

Strengths: Caputo obviously has plenty of strengths but what seems to make him stand out the most is his ability to be destructive and his toughness. Caputo isn’t the biggest safety in the country, but the power he fits into his frame is impressive. He will take on any opposing player no matter the size and do his best to try and put him on his back.

Weaknesses: The only thing that Caputo is missing, compared to other safeties around the conference, is top-end speed, something that only really comes into play if he gets beat on a misread of a receivers routes. Improving his quickness is something Caputo has been working on over the past few seasons, meaning the ability for him to catch opposing receivers is getting better and better.

Why he is #3: Caputo is vital to UW’s 3-4 defense. He has the impressive abilities on defense, which will take him to the next level, but his ability to be a prolific leader on this team is what will set him apart indefinitely. There is no senior on the defensive side of the ball that has as much responsibility placed on their shoulders (both pre-snap and post snap or in the run and the pass) or have as earned more respect form his teammates than Caputo.

Overall: Although Wisconsin has second-string safeties who have played in pressure situations before, Caputo is such an unique athlete and a critical piece that the Badgers would struggle mightily without him. Case and point – Wisconsin’s pass coverage was a disaster in the 2013 regular season finale against Penn State when Caputo was sidelined with an injury. Caputo has the ability to make big plays consistently and against whomever he guards. If he stays healthy, the senior has a chance to elevate Wisconsin’s defense to an ever higher level of efficiency.

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