Spring Q&A: Peniel Jean

Although he is still building his starting mentality, redshirt junior cornerback Peniel Jean has put in the extra work in the offseason to make himself one of the favorites to start in Wisconsin's secondary this season.

How important was it for you to get back and play healthy at the end of last season, especially knowing you were going to have an opportunity to compete for playing time this year?

Peniel Jean: It was a big impact before the season, before I got hurt. Obviously I was all hyped up. After I got hurt, I had to find a new role, either special teams or just being a leader off the field. Coming in after the Rose Bowl, I knew I had to become a better leader and help lead the younger corner.

How much did breaking your foot right at the end of fall camp stunt your growth?

Jean: It did. It hurt me for awhile, and then I realized that there was nothing I could do about it. The only think you can do is either go up or down. I figured that I had to go up and get better each day. Coming into this spring, I had to not think about it and just work every day.

How did you spend the winter preparing yourself to earn one of the starting cornerback spots?

Jean: I took full advantage of it. Tuesdays, Thursdays the receivers, quarterbacks, tight ends ran patterns and go routes and I would come work releases with them and press techniques. I came out Mondays and Wednesdays and work on stuff on my own or with the group.

Do you use to go that hard as a freshman or sophomore?

Jean: Not really until the older guys would talk to me and tell me, ‘I wish I did this when I was younger.' They spoke to me about having regrets and work on everything while I can right now instead of saying ‘I wish' when I am done playing college ball.

What's it like matching up with Jared Abbrederis on the field? He's probably your best test on the field.

Jean: Heck yeah he is. Me and him are going at it all the time. I press him every time I have the opportunity because, I believe, he's the top receiver in the Big Ten. If you are able to guard him, you should be confident to guard anybody else.

Wisconsin didn't do a ton of press coverage last year and now it seems the defensive backs are playing a lot tighter to the line of scrimmage. As a competitor, you want to hit the guy right away don't you?

Jean: Exactly, because it disrupts them. Playing off the line, they have a lot of leeway to do stuff in front of you and just react to the ball. Now it's all about getting a hand in their face and being able to run with the receiver.

From a secondary standpoint, what were some of your group's downfalls as a defense? What did the secondary need to do better to win those close games?

Jean: Collectively, I felt we did everything that we could. We put in all the overtime that we preached about and took one game at a time, but collectively we all could have improved. There wasn't one person, one group or one thing. Collectively it was just about getting the job done.

Wisconsin lost six games by a combined 25 points last season. Has that been one of the motivational factors this offseason to get better to win those close contests?

Jean: It's all about finishing in the fourth quarter right now. He (Gary Andersen) is preaching once you get tired toward the end of practice, make sure you are pushing it. That's basically the fourth quarter. If you finish on the practice field, that should translate over to game day.

What were winter conditioning workouts for you like in the weight room? What were some of the big areas you focused on to get yourself better?

Jean: It was tough. I just wanted to tone up, loose body fat and weight and be more lean. I wanted to focus in on that because now they (the strength staff) have a specific weight they want us at. They weigh us every week and we can't go two pounds below or two pounds above or we get punished. That was a big factor and be at the weight they want us at.

What kind of punishment do you guys get?

Jean: If you are overweight, you will do extra running or be put on a diet. If you are underweight, I am not sure. They'll probably make you pound protein shakes.

What has the first couple weeks been like working with the coaches on the field and getting a chance to see what the coaches are looking for?

Jean: It was great. They just want to see a sense of urgency moving around and just see what guys can do. Whatever they say, we just have to believe in what they are saying and believe it will work. There really wasn't much to it other than putting in a new scheme, believing in it and working at it.

Do you have a starter's mentality right now or is that something you are still building?

Jean: It has to be developed. Right now we're all competing for the same stop. Nobody has a starting job. Fall camp is still a long ways away. We all have something to improve upon to get better for next season.

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