Last week redshirt freshman cornerback Allen Langford and junior strong safety Joe Stellmacher stepped into the starting lineup against the Owls and played well alongside senior corner Brett Bell and junior free safety Roderick Rogers.
"It was good to see those two guys come in and not take the level down," secondary coach Ron Lee said, referring to Langford and Stellmacher. "They actually brought it up… And they gave the guys that are fighting for a position (an example); to show them this is the level I need to play consistently to get on the field."
After supplanting senior corner Levonne Rowan and junior strong safety Johnny White in the starting lineup, Langford and Stellmacher are again penciled into first-team roles for tonight's tilt with North Carolina here. But Lee was quick to state that the starting roles are far from settled.
"Well each week starts over," he said. "I base it on who's playing and who's working well as a group."
There were few bright spots in the secondary in UW's 56-42 win over Bowling Green in week one. That disappointing performance precipitated the shakeups in the starting lineup. Last week's game with Temple was better, certainly. But even in that 65-0 rout, there were mistakes to clean up.
"I really was happy to see the guys go out there and compete but I'm going to tell you like I told them," Lee said. "With the 1's they probably had 35, no more than 40 plays. And I found about 15 things we've got to get better at.
"So the good news is we had a great effort. The bad news is that we're still finding little things we need to correct."
UW will have another chance to show progress tonight against the Tar Heels. It is unlikely that the Badgers' secondary, or its defense in general, will struggle again this season to the extent it did against Bowling Green. And it is equally unlikely that UW will shut another team down as thoroughly as it did Temple.
So where, within the spectrum of those two extremes, does UW's secondary truly lie?
"The best way I can answer that question is that we have to continue to grow," Lee said. "I have a goal set of the potential of where I want them to be and we still have a long ways to go."
Last week, true freshman Shane Carter played free safety in the Badgers' nickel defense.
Said Lee: "It was his first game. We put him in one technique he had to work the whole time. And he didn't get big eyed. He went there and he didn't have any direct plays at him. But that's what I'm looking for. I'm anxious to see when the play is coming at him directly how he handles it."
The first week of the season, junior Zach Hampton played free safety in the nickel and it appears either player could earn that role as the season progresses.
"Zach is still in the plans," Lee said. "I've got to be careful with Zach because he's on a lot of special teams as well. It's been a hot two weeks and he's working hard. I'm happy with his progress."