With Wisconsin having to break in two new starting safeties this season, first year defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard has been experimenting with multiple combinations since arriving before spring football. With things still unsettled, fall camp will be a critical time for one of the most inexperienced groups on the roster. While the Badgers have a number of talented underclassmen that need to be vetted, the Badgers do have a fifth-year senior at their disposal in Leo Musso. Having played 38 career games with three starts, Musso will be given every chance to show why he deserves to be on the field.
Stats: Eight tackles (five solo), two interceptions for four yards, one pass breakup, one quarterback hurry and one fumble recovery in 2015.
Strengths: The experience Musso gives him the ability to diagnose a play before he acts on what he reads. Musso’s two interceptions from last season tied with Michael Caputo for second most on the team. With Wisconsin wanting to generate more interceptions, it could be Musso who could be the benefactor by his ability to, more often than not, be in the right place at the right time. A hard worker who has put himself in a position to succeed throughout his career, Musso possesses a strong football IQ, allowing him to take the proper angles to puts himself in a position to make a play. Whenever Musso’s out on the field he’s locked in and knows what his assignment is.
Weaknesses: It is hard to get past Musso’s size at 5-10 and 186 pounds, a trait that can play at a disadvantage when he’s defending taller wide receivers or trying to bring down a bigger back in the middle of the field (see Alabama’s Derrick Henry as a prime example). It’s a reason why Musso has to be technically sound at all times, because his margin for error is so small. Although Musso appeared in all 13 games last year, registering at least one tackle in the four nonconference games, he didn’t register a single tackle in Big Ten or postseason play.
Why he’s #13: Who replaces Caputo and Tanner McEvoy as the two starting safeties is the biggest question that surrounds the defense and it could be a question that takes a while to figure out. It’s hard to look past Musso as a good option. While he may not have as high of a ceiling as some of the other safeties on Wisconsin’s roster, his experience could prove important this coming season with the difficult schedule.
Overall: Musso’s class schedule caused him to miss a ton of practice time in the spring, but the Waunakee, Wis., native worked primarily with the starting unit when he was there. A lot has been made about Musso’s lack of size, but his new secondary coach carved out a nice career for himself despite having less-than-ideal size.
Although missing large portions of spring hurt Musso from a development standpoint, he will have all of fall camp to solidify one of the starting positions. With the amount of question marks surrounding young players, the coaches may want someone they know they can trust in the deep part of the field. Musso will have a lot of eyes on him throughout camp to see if he can be that impactful leader among the secondary.