MADISON, Wis. A bout with mononucleosis shelved Michael Trotter's first season as a Wisconsin football player before it started. A pulled hamstring slowed Trotter's second season and never allowed him a fair shake to consistently see the field. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema thought so highly of Trotter that, without illness or injury, he could have seen significant playing time in either season.Instead, Trotter waited. And waited.Now a redshirt sophomore in his third season with the program, Trotter's opportunity has finally arrived. He'll start at strong safety during Saturday's game against Utah State, filling in for Shelton Johnson, who broke his right arm a week ago. "I've been waiting for this for a while," Trotter said. "I'm excited. I'm not letting it get to me. I'm just ready to play football."Last week, Trotter saw his first extensive action after Johnson injured himself against Oregon State. Trotter was on the field for 21 plays and recorded Wisconsin's only sack on a delayed safety blitz. A year ago, he said he was on the field for all of 25 plays the entire season.Despite his increased role on defense this week, Trotter isn't concerned about losing his bearings in the lead-up to his first start."Against Oregon State when it was my first time going out there, I didn't go out there like, Oh my God,'" Trotter said. "It wasn't like that. But obviously a lot of people are texting saying, Oh Michael, this is your chance.' I'm not trying to let it get to me. The practices are much more tough than the games because the coaches aren't out there on the game field. It's just you and the other team."Coaches and players have every reason to believe there won't be a noticeable drop-off at the strong safety position with Trotter in charge. And part of what makes him a leading candidate to excel is his athleticism, level-headedness and smarts."You have to have a strong sense of intelligence to play the strong safety role," Badgers cornerback Marcus Cromartie said. "They're the ones making all the checks and calls on the field. He's a very smart kid. He had like the highest GPA on the team at one point. It definitely carries over to the field."Trotter said he had a cumulative grade-point average of 3.7"I take school really seriously, and I do the same kind of studying with my football," Trotter said. "It's definitely going to help." Cromartie faced a similar situation on the field as Trotter last season. He was a backup cornerback until Devin Smith suffered a season-ending broken left foot in the second game of the year, putting Cromartie into a starting role.Cromartie said defensive coordinator Chris Ash prepares backups as if they will start each week a mindset that aided Cromartie last season and Trotter this season."Wisconsin has always been next man in, and it's got to be that way," Badgers secondary coach Ben Strickland said. "If you prepared like Michael has as a backup and prepare for that opportunity, you're going to have success. We think Michael is going to have that."Bielema said Trotter impressed him during the Oregon State game with his ability to consistently be in the right spot on the field."He hopped into that game, you've got a two-score game that suddenly became a one-score game," Bielema said. "He played very efficient, very confident in what he's doing. He's got athletic ability. I know he wants to have success. I'm excited to see his preparation this week and see how he goes to work."Trotter, whose twin brother Marcus is a reserve linebacker at UW, spent his first two seasons in the program working as a reserve free safety. He was saddled with mono two weeks before fall camp as a true freshman and was forced to take a redshirt season. Last year, he popped his hamstring in the first week of fall camp. By the time he fully recovered at mid-season, the depth chart had been set."My speed went down a lot," Trotter said. "I don't think I came back from it. So that's why I'm so happy I survived this fall camp."Initially, it was thought that Trotter would take over this season at free safety and replace graduated senior Aaron Henry. But that spot went to Dezmen Southward, and Trotter remained a backup.Trotter said he never felt down about being passed over for the starting role."I kind of liked it," Trotter said. "It was more of a challenge."Now, his opportunity is here, albeit at strong safety. He remains confident that he can make the right calls, and he's spent the week working with Johnson to better understand the position, particularly during run plays. The two spent time following Wednesday's practice examining film together.Johnson is expected to be back in about six weeks, which means Trotter will be relegated to reserve status once again. But for now, Trotter is simply hoping to take advantage of an opportunity."I'm not really looking at it as a number," Trotter said. "I'm just looking at it he's out right now and I need to fill in. However long he's out, I'm going to do my best to fill in."Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.