Though a lot of the earlier offseason talk was flooded by Caleb Williams, Wisconsin did find success in the transfer portal as they welcome in six new transfers who expect to take the field for the Badgers this fall.
Each of these transfers could help play a key role next season, especially considering the roster changes entering the 2022 season. The losses include running backs Jalen Berger and Loyal Crawford, who were both dismissed from the program early in fall of 2021. The team also loses some of its key contributors from the past season, with offensive lineman Logan Bruss, tight end Jake Ferguson and linebackers Leo Chenal and Jack Sanborn entering the draft. The departure of wide receivers Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor add to the overhaul. This leaves a number of holes to be filled on both sides of the field, and the Badgers look for these new coming players to help fill those voids.
Three of the six transfers are cornerbacks, which will aid a secondary that is seeing many changes as well. Both starting cornerbacks from last season, Caesar Williams and Faion Hicks declared for the draft, and Dean Engram is supposedly switching sides of the ball to play wide receivers.
Cedrick Dort out of the University of Kentucky will help fill the void. Dort is entering his senior and final year of eligibility, having played 44 games in total during his time at Kentucky. He started in 25 of those games, totaling 51 tackles, seven pass break-ups and a forced fumble over the span of four seasons. During his sophomore season, Dort started 12 games at cornerback and didn’t allow a single touchdown all season. This level of skill at the cornerback position could be huge for the Badgers, who are known mainly for their stout run defense. With the addition of Dort, the Badgers look to improve upon what was a top defensive unit in the nation in 2021.
Another addition to the team at the defensive back position is the highly-anticipated UCLA transfer, Jay Shaw. Along with Dort, Shaw is also entering his final year of eligibility, providing Wisconsin with a temporary boost for a secondary that needs it. Shaw played in 43 games for UCLA, posting six interceptions during his time, with three of them coming this past season.
Shaw was selected a second-team all-conference after an outstanding season, so he’ll surely be a great addition to the UW defense. His fantastic ability to track down the ball will help the defense generate more turnovers and force opposing quarterbacks to avoid taking shots in his direction.
The final cornerback transfer is Justin Clark from Toledo, who is also entering his final year of eligibility. In 47 career games for Toledo, he’s racked up 115 total tackles, four interceptions and 16 pass deflections. His experience can help to provide depth for the Badgers’ secondary, and he — along with the other two additions — will play important roles in the upcoming season.
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The Badgers gained not just one but two UCLA players from the transfer portal, the second being receiver Keontez Lewis. He’s yet to record a reception in his college career, starting in just one game in 2021 v. Utah, but there’s a lot of excitement surrounding the former three-star recruit. Lewis will certainly get his opportunity with the Badgers with the void left by Davis and Pryor leaving. Lewis, Chimere Dike and Markus Allen are expected to be the top three wide receivers, so expect to see Lewis make an impact for the first time on a college football field.
The last two players arriving from the transfer portal are safety Bryce Carey from Northern Illinois and kicker Vito Calvaruso from Arkansas. Carey actually signed to play as a quarterback for the Huskies back in 2019 and is making the transition to play safety at Wisconsin. It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard will look to incorporate Carey into the defensive scheme.
For new kicker Calvaruso, he might get his first opportunity to kick field goals in-game, as he served as the kickoff specialist for Arkansas. Calvaruso is seen as an elite kickoff man and was supposed to be paired with placekicker Collin Larsh. But Larsh recently pivoted and is expected to go pro, so Calvaruso could potentially handle all kicking duties for the 2022 season.
It’s safe to say the Badgers didn’t have the most explosive or dynamic transfer season, especially with the likes of programs such as University of Southern California taking the college football offseason by storm through their transfer additions. These six players will likely provide Wisconsin with some more solid framework and depth that will improve the program as a whole, and help to replace some of the players that were lost.