After Sojourn Shelton graduated and moved on to the next step of his football playing career, the Wisconsin Badgers were left without the backbone of their cornerback unit.
Shelton started as a freshman all the way back in 2013 and continued to be a steady force of fear for opposing quarterbacks all the way through his final season. With his departure, though, the baton must be passed.
Headed into summer camp, the Badgers best option to replace Shelton at cornerback may be junior Nick Nelson. A transfer that had to sit out the 2016 season, played his freshman year at Hawaii, an opponent of the Badgers in 2015. In that game, Nelson had nine tackles and one pass defended.
The 6-foot, 200-plus pound corner finished his freshman campaign second in the Mountain West Conference in passes defended with 15 and also totaled 53 tackles. Clearly he has a nose for stuffing the run, just as much as a nose for the ball. His size is a big bonus what will surely be another top tier Wisconsin defense in the coming 2017 season.
While all these stats are from 2015 and having never played a snap in a Wisconsin uniform to date might give pause, Nelson showed in spring practices that he was more than capable of manning the starting spots with Derrick Tindal.
In fact, the coaches were so sure of Nelson and his fellow cornerbacks that they felt comfortable to move Natrell Jamerson to free safety. Due to Nelson’s skill set, the coaches were able to fill a need elsewhere.
Also, sitting out 2016 should not be looked at as a complete negative. Sitting out and being able to learn from the coaches and fellow players like Shelton was a positive. In fact, even after the season, Shelton would sometimes watch film with Nelson.
It may come as a surprise to the casual fan, but come the end of fall, Nick Nelson will be a household name for Badgers fans.