August 20 practice report, part 2

Two freshmen defensive backs look poised to hit the playing field this fall.

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Just last week it appeared that freshman cornerback Roderick Rogers was the No. 6 cornerback on Wisconsin's depth chart. Freshman free safety Johnny White was likely No. 3 at his position, but a distant third at best.


How quickly things can change. Rogers and White have had impressive fall camps since the very beginning and when it came time to separate the scouts from the depth, the two were firmly planted with the reserve defensive backs. Rogers joins Chuckie Cowans and Levonne Rowan as the reserves behind starters Scott Starks and Brett Bell at the two corner positions.


White is still the third free safety, behind starter Jim Leonhard and top reserve Robert Brooks. But with Brooks playing on the top nickel unit, White is stepping up, suddenly receiving reps with the second defense.


Of course, just because the two have quickly leaped up the depth chart does not mean they will necessarily be in this position when the season begins.


"We still have two weeks yet and we have some scrimmages," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. "They can do some good things. We are just trying to see if they can pick things up and if we can trust them. We will continue to work with those guys.


"I think Roderick has a chance and I think Johnny still has a chance, especially in special teams. And we would like to give Johnny a look in the nickel situation also."


With Dontez Sanders, previously a safety on the second-unit nickel, playing with the scout defense, White seems the natural choice to step up. White has displayed good ball skills and, at 6-2 and 202 pounds, he has already prove he is a capable hitter.


Rogers is quickly catching people's attention. He has above average skills at every aspect of the corner position. He runs with receivers well and does a good job of making a play on the ball once it is in the air. Rogers is a big corner, 6-2, 185, and he runs extremely well. Rogers and Cowans were the primary No. 2 corners today, with Rowan rotating in with Rogers on right side. Rogers also held the top right cornerback spot on the nickel yesterday.


Alvarez on fullback Matt Bernstein:


"He is a load. As you study film from a year ago, by the end of the year he was a very physical blocker…We give player of the day awards each night for practice. There have been a number where we have given it to Bernie and shown three or four of his blocks where he has taken a linebacker and hit him and knocked him right to his back. That is 270 pounds coming at you. He is an excellent blocker and he is really a physical player.


"He needs to learn to bend a little bit as a runner. We have talked to him about it. He can be a big target, yet he can be a punishing runner but he has to learn to bend at the waist. But Bernie is doing well."

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