Coupling corners Allen Langford and Jake Ikegwuonu with the senior leadership of safeties Roderick Rogers and Joe Stellmacher, Wisconsin’s secondary last year was among the strongest in the nation. With the departure of Rogers and Stellmacher this year, the uncertainty at the safety position has become a concern for some.But not for members of the UW football team. “I look at it as a huge opportunity to showcase my talent and help this defense be better and the team be better,” sophomore defensive back Shane Carter said. “I never really looked at it as a challenge; things are challenging. At the same time, you attack challenges and make the best of your opportunities. I’m just as ready as I can (be) to help the defense.”Carter and fellow sophomore defensive back Aubrey Pleasant have stepped into the starting positions and are making strides. The two of them are finally getting a chance to play — and not just because Stellmacher and Rogers are gone. Pleasant has twice battled back from a tear in his labrum that hindered him much of the past year. Oddly enough, Carter missed a portion of last year with a torn labrum as well. This string of connections has made the two close. “We went through a lot,” Pleasant said. “I mean it was different having surgery during spring ball because everybody is still a little loose and can catch up, but having it during the season is a little different. We spent a lot of time together. We talked a lot together. We figured that next year, if we handle our business, we could start. We have a really close connection.”Carter added, “We grew close over that time not only as friends, but obviously doing the things we had to do with the medical staff and all those things.”Beyond Carter and Pleasant, Wisconsin has quite a bit of depth at the defensive back position. And with a healthy Pleasant and Carter, the secondary could even be deeper than last season’s. “We have a lot of great players back there that are ready to play and [are] hungry,” Carter said. “I know Kim (Royston) and Quincy (Landingham) that just came in, he could still be in high school and they’re just going out hard and trying to make plays. So I think all of us are going out there are eager to play and fill the position that Stell and Rod left.”While Carter and Pleasant are trying to shake off the rust from nearly six months of not playing, greyshirt freshman Landingham is learning the system for the first time.Needless to say, it has been a process. “It has been a big adjustment coming in trying to learn all the plays, all the coverages so fast,” Landingham said. “But I think if I keep on working at it everyday I’ll get better at it.”Playing doesn’t even stop for the greyshirt when he’s on the sidelines. “I just try to take mental reps, think about if I was out there, what would I be doing in the motion, what would I do when they come with this kind of route, and then (I) apply what I was thinking about,” Landingham said.Restored health and a strong relationship between Carter and Pleasant, along with some new faces, makes Wisconsin’s secondary a bit safer than many would anticipate.Practice notesThe defense prevented the offense from completing many passes down the field in the 11-on-11 drill. The play of the secondary was particularly notable. Second-teamers Kim Royston and Ben Strickland picked off Allan Evridge’s and Jon Erickson’s passes and ran them back before the offense could touch them up. … Joining Strickland and Royston in the second team’s defensive backfield were Josh Nettles and Jay Valai. … Former running back Jamil Walker looked comfortable working with coach Randall McCray and the defensive line. … Brandon Kelly remains out for disciplinary reasons and defensive lineman Justin Ostrowski didn’t dress (reason undisclosed).
Facebook Twitter Google+ Syracuse is the only team in the country to not allow an opposing player to rush for 100 yards.The SU defense will be put to the test to keep that feat alive when it faces Minnesota running back David Cobb in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27.Cobb has rushed for 1,111 yards, good for 29th in the country. He leads the team in total yards and is the main workhorse in a run-heavy attack. Defensive-minded Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said in a press conference Friday that stopping Cobb and the Golden Gophers’ run game will be critical.“I think they’ve got a doggone good running back in David Cobb,” Shafer said.Cobb’s hurt opposing defenses all season. Against San Jose State he racked up 125 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns. He torched Indiana for 236 all-purpose yards in a 42-39 win. The next week, he burned Penn State for 139 yards.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHis production is consistent, and he’s racked up the 20th most rushing attempts in the nation while leading the Gophers to their winningest season since 2003-04.“He can run the football,” Shafer said, “and he runs it well because they block well up front.”Shafer called Minnesota a “sound, tough team.” Last time the two teams meet in 2012, and Minnesota won 17-10, the Gophers didn’t turn the ball over at all. They methodically outlasted SU, building up a 17-3 lead before holding on for the win.Since then, Shafer said, Jerry Kill’s team has continued to become more consistent. Minnesota plays a “good, tough brand of football,” a style not far from the one Shafer dubs “hard-nosed” and encourages his team to live by.“They’re going to be a team that doesn’t shoot themselves in the foot,” Shafer said.Minnesota has rushed for more than 2,400 yards as a team while holding its opponents to fewer than 1,850. The Gophers were one of just 35 teams in the NCAA to rush for more than 200 per game and ran the ball 70 percent of the time.Syracuse, meanwhile, ran 57 percent of the time and finished a hair below the 200 mark as a team. While SU’s passing game was inconsistent all season, its run game was anything but.Jerome Smith put together an 840-yard, 11-touchdown season, while Prince-Tyson Gulley chipped in 440 on the ground and George Morris II and Devante McFarlane proved reliable third and fourth-string options.The key for Syracuse will be to counteract Minnesota’s run game with its own.“For us,” Shafer said, “we need to do a good job trying to run the ball on them.” Comments Published on December 13, 2013 at 7:06 pm Contact Trevor: firstname.lastname@example.org | @TrevorHass
I was never an athlete — I think most sports writers would admit to that — but unlike most others of my kind, I also wasn’t always the biggest sports fan.In reality, when I was very young, I just wanted to be a writer. Probably write some books. You know, try to make a living with words, somehow.There’s no reason I should want to be a writer — no one person in particular inspired me to start doing this and there’s obviously not a whole bunch of money to be made.Actually, let’s back up one second. There wasn’t one person, but probably one thing.Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., The Washington Post was a staple of my morning routine since I was in elementary school. I wasn’t a hoops junkie or anything yet, but I was a reader and I wasn’t going to read the news, style or business sections. Sports made more sense. I learned to love sports just as much because of what I read as what I saw.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textOf course rooting for teams was fun — even when I realized that there was no chance the Eagles or Nationals would ever win a title — but the stories were fun.And that’s why this year’s Syracuse season, in all of its beautiful imperfection, was perfect.How many years do you get to say you saw one of the best shots in SU history, Jim Boeheim’s only ejection and a 25-0 start? Every time you looked up, there was some new story seemingly more unbelievable than the last.In the middle of it all, I had a chance to go back to where it all started for myself. The Orange’s trip to Maryland will probably just be remembered as a throwaway road game in a wild, wild season, but that was where I grew up and fell in love with basketball. The 2002 Terrapins were the only championship team I ever rooted for. My family has had tickets since the Comcast Center opened. I know C.J. Fair enjoyed playing in front of his friends and family, and I like to think I felt at least a little bit the same.For the first time, my childhood and my future totally collided. UMD made me love college basketball — the greatest game — and now I was in College Park getting to watch it, and of course write about it, as a job.But suddenly, on March 22, I looked up and it was all over. Dayton stunned Syracuse. My time at The Daily Orange didn’t end on that night, but it felt like it did. I never viewed myself a Syracuse fan, but it was sad to see that team’s run — and, more selfishly, my own run — end in Buffalo. It was like the end of a good book that you never want to stop reading.This summer, I’ll be back at home. I’ll be in Maryland for as long of a stretch of time as I’ve had in years. And every morning, when I sit down at the kitchen table, The Washington Post will be sitting right there. For some reason my parents still subscribe — I like to think it’s because I’m a newspaper guy. Actually, come to think of it, maybe it’s not about the paper where the story was told, but the ones who made sure I was getting to take them all in.David Wilson was a staff writer at The Daily Orange where his column will no longer appear. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DBWilson2.-30- Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on April 28, 2014 at 12:56 am