Redshirt freshman Reggie Mitchell, who was projected to be the University of Wisconsin football team’s starting free safety this season, has been granted his release from the program and is expected to transfer to Pittsburgh.

WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh reported the news.

Mitchell, 6-foot, 183 pounds, is from Pittsburgh and attended Shady Side Academy. He was recruited by former UW tight ends coach Joe Rudolph, who is now the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator under Paul Chryst at Pitt. Chryst is a former UW offensive coordinator who is entering his second season as the Panthers’ coach.

The Badgers return just one starter in the secondary, senior Dezmen Southward, who has moved to strong safety after playing free safety last season.

Mitchell worked as the No. 1 free safety for most of the spring. UW coach Gary Andersen praised Mitchell’s development in an interview last month on Sirius XM’s “College Sports Nation.”

“I’m excited about what he did,” Andersen said. “I believe as a freshman coming in, he is going to lock down one of those safety spots.”

The leading candidates to replace Mitchell are junior Michael Trotter, who started three games last season, and Donnell Vercher, a transfer from Fresno City Community College.

Junior Jeff Lewis, who was the No. 3 tailback in the spring, is also expected to move to safety to help with the depth. Another running back, senior Kyle Zuleger, moved to safety in the spring and impressed the coaches.

Mitchell, a former prep quarterback, started out at cornerback for the Badgers but moved to safety on the first day of winter workouts. He gave no indication he was unhappy at UW during a spring interview.

“It was rough in the beginning,” Mitchell said of the position switch, “just trying to learn the position, first of all, before anything else. Just trying to understand what being a safety is and attacking the playbook.

“I’ve been up there (in the football offices) watching film with Dez and all of the guys, just trying to pick their brains. They’re asking me questions; I ask them questions. It’s really been helping. I’ve made a lot of progress from day one.”

Safeties coach Bill Busch said in the spring that Mitchell was a good fit at safety because of his speed and coverage ability.

“When we first got here, we looked at (safety) and we wanted to get faster,” Busch said. “Boy, he’s done well. His care factor ... he’s tough. He can run, someone who can cover in space. He’s got a long way to go, but I love him.”

Safety is a key position in UW’s new defensive scheme and the pressure will be on Trotter, Vercher or somebody else to step up and fill the position.

“He’s got a lot of range and ability,” defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said of Mitchell in the spring. “He can play man coverage as well as zone coverage. So there’s plenty of things he allows us to do as a defense.

“From where we’re coming from, we’d like the defense to be flexible, to be able to play zone or man, or have safeties and cornerbacks, at times, be interchangeable. With (covering) tight ends and those things, he allows us to do that.

“There’s more things you can do as a defense when your safeties can cover. He’s shown the ability to tackle and put his nose in the fray. That’s a positive.”

Beat reporter for the University of Wisconsin football team.

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(11) comments


Good riddance. If he didn't want to be at UW. He wouldn't have put out 100% on the field.

Badger in lex

Can u not read toobad, I should have know some pee on would chime in. Again I never said every juco kid doesn't pan out. Quick google a couple more from decades ago. Simpleton!

Badger in lex

And he's the SMALL % that works out. And if he as a freshman was ready to START at UW they woulda got him in n pulled strung like they did for him his jr year. He was no scholar. Lol, great guy and athlete thou! Fact is if a guys ready to contribute as a freshman grades don't matter, rashad Griffith, boo wade....

Badger in lex

Ecl, I don't get the logic that losing a player in a weak position is good for THIS season?!??? It weakens and already weak pool of talent at the position. A juco kid plays juco for a reason. If he was talented enough to START in D1 in a good program someone would have got him in. Yes I know some kids cone in and shine from juco but it's a very small overall %! I agree next year or after he would be replaced but it's a win now situation and it's definitely not a good thing.

Cornelius Gotchberg
Cornelius Gotchberg

@Badger in lex;

"A juco kid plays juco for a reason." True enough, but it's not always atheticism; sometimes it's grades or maturity.

I recall a kid (1997 WSJ BB All-Area POY) coming out of Madison East went to Coffeyville (KS) CC for two years before coming home to wear the Cardinal & White & help take Bucky to the 2000 Final Four.

You know who I'm talking about (Roy Boone) and despite it being a different sport, it sure worked out O.K. Let's hope for the best!


The Gotch


A Rod played JuCo. Guess he wasn't talented enough, lex?

Cornelius Gotchberg
Cornelius Gotchberg

This article sure spent a lot of time dwelling on the coach's views of the abilities this kid will take back to Pitt.

I read a month or so back that Lewis was not interested in a position switch. He has a lot of speed and athletic ability and he'll be buried at tailback; third off the bench in the best of circumstances.

Dez Southward made a LOT of plays in opponent's backfields last season. We should look forward to more of the same this year, but he's going to need help.

We need someone on D come out of nowhere and kick some tail, like 'Ras James, Schofield, & Watt did. Be nice if it could be in the secondary this time around!


The Gotch


Mitchell saw the writing on the wall.

Donnell Vercher was recruited from junior college for a reason. He's bigger (taller and heavier), faster, and more experienced (2 years as a JC starter). He was a JC All-American. Coach Andersen didn't bring him in to sit on the bench. He was brought in to replace Mitchell.

Badger in lex

Losing a projected starter at a position that is already weak as you pointed out is definitely a big loss for this season. The one positive I took from this article was the talk about improving team speed being a priority. It might take a season or 2 but I can't wait to see this program when Anderson has a team full of his guys! On Wisconsin!!!!


"'Losing a projected starter in position that is already weak" may be a good thing. Losing a projected started in a position that is strong is a bad thing.

(In other words, was Mitchell such a good player that he will be missed.....doubtful)


Not much of loss really. He wasn't 183 lbs and wasn't known as a hitter. We've had too many "smurfs" in the defensive backfield the last 5 years and it has really hurt us. Time to move on.

Go Badgers!

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