Following a season that saw him garner Honorable Mention All-ACC accolades, junior cornerback Shaq Wiggins is pushing himself to do more in 2016.
Wiggins started all 13 games for the Cardinals last fall, his first for U of L following a transfer from Georgia, recording 30 tackles and a pair of interceptions. His 11 pass break-ups led the team. While he posted impressive numbers, there were also a few missed opportunities, something that helped motivate him during the off season.
"I've been a little more focused in the off season, so I've been working harder than usual and getting in extra lifts," he said following a recent practice.
As a result of his efforts, Wiggins says he feels "faster" and better prepared for spring practice and the season ahead.
An added expectation for Wiggins in 2016 is a result of abilities, potential and experience. New secondary coach Keith Heyward is looking towards the veteran corner for not just great and consistent play, but also leadership. Known nearly as much for his on-field talking, as his play, Wiggins is striving to do more of the walking-the-walk.
"We've talked about me being a leader," Wiggins said. "It's hard being a leader, especially on this level, so that's something that is a work in progress with me just being a leader and actually not talking so much, just going out there and showing it."
Much of becoming a leader for your position group and team is about becoming an consistent, every-down player, something Heyward wants to see more of from the 5-foo-10, 173-pound Wiggins.
"I'd like to see more," said Heyward. "More of being a leader, is about doing and not about talking. I know everybody knows Shaq as a talker, but he has toned that down a bit, but I think leaders get people to follow them and get people to do the right thing. Leaders show by their actions, and it's not just Shaq, I want to develop multiple leaders. It would be great if we could have all the guys be leaders in the group in their own respect."
Wiggins further explained that he's not necessarily quieter on the field, but more in tune with what is happening and focused on the task at hand.
"Not a quieter Shaq Wiggins, just a more mature and smarter Shaq Wiggins," he said. "I'm always going to be me, talking a little stuff on the field.
"I'm just a happy guy, especially when I'm on the field. I love covering guys and doing what I do."
Having worked against a more experienced wide receivers group for a week, including a scrimmage on Saturday, Wiggins has been impressed by offensive unit's overall performance.
"All the receivers have actually improved from last year," he said. "All those guys are faster, most definitely. They bring a little pressure to me this year. Last year I thought I was faster than them, but now they are quicker, faster, learning more about their route concepts and how to run them. All of those guys are improving."