Midway through the season, cornerback Chuckie Cowans looked set for a free fall on the depth chart. Sophomore Levonne Rowan had assumed injured corner Brett Bell's starting spot and freshman Roderick Rogers was pushing Cowans for the top reserve role.
"(Cowans) was patient," defensive backs coach Ron Lee said. "He persevered through the ups and downs. He is 5-8 and he is not a blazer so he had to be great on technique and he has shown that you can play with anybody if you have good technique and heart."
Now, Cowans is set to start his third consecutive game. Two weeks ago against Northwestern, Cowans began the game as the third corner and shared time with starter Rowan when two corners were on the field.
Last week versus Minnesota, Cowans assumed Rowan's starting job at right corner and has not let go. When the depth chart was released Monday, Rowan had flipped back to the left side as Scott Starks' backup; while Rogers remained No. 2 at right corner.
"I gave Chuck an opportunity two, three weeks ago and he made some plays," Lee said. "I noticed he was competing and that's what you need. He was doing it on special teams when he wasn't playing in the secondary. Then when we gave him an opportunity and he ran with it."
In crunch time against the Gophers, though, Cowans went to the sideline in favor of receiver turned spot corner Brandon Williams, who played well, but yielded a long reception to Gopher receiver Aaron Hosack that set up the game-winning field goal last week.
"(We were) using Brandon in a man situation because he is a wide receiver and he can think like a wide receiver and knows what they are going to do," Lee said. "He reacts like a DB. He just turned around a little late but he battled."
Lee said Williams' play lit a fire in the secondary.
"I think that brought everybody's level up in the backfield," Lee said. "Hey, if we have to get this guy to come over and help then we need to pick up our game."
How quickly things changed for Rowan, who claimed a start at left corner earlier this season in place of Starks, then assumed the right corner spot after Bell underwent shoulder surgery, starting a total of seven games.
Now, he is in the same spot Cowans' resided in a few weeks ago, working to fend off Rogers for the top reserve role.
"I think the biggest thing I have told Levonne is that you have to be consistent and you have to put the team first," Lee said. "He practiced well this week. He is a young guy that he needs to stay focused every play and sometimes he loses his focus. This week he has practiced as good as he did the week of Illinois when he went out there and played well. So we need that."
Lee said to expect both Rowan and Rogers to play depending on the situations the Badgers face Saturday.