Shelton Shows He Belongs

After completing his first semester in college, including being active in the secondary during Wisconsin's spring game, true freshman cornerback Sojourn Shelton proved he'll be a playmaker for the Badgers.

MADISON - Bursting with confidence and swagger throughout his later years at Plantation High School north of Miami, cornerback Sojourn Shelton decided to pocket those character traits while he went through 15 spring practices of college football to adjust to life at the University of Wisconsin.

The end result?

"I think I have adjusted pretty well so far," Shelton said.

From cautiously optimistic to unleashing some of that confidence, Shelton worked extensively with the second-team defense in the Badgers' April 20th spring game finished with four tackles and a tackle for loss.

"He has really competed all spring long, and the way he's handled the adjustment coming from high school has been impressive, not just on the field, but off the field," said Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen of Shelton. "His life flipped upside down, and he's handled it very well."

The benefit for Shelton is that he enrolled early at Wisconsin at a time when the entire defense was getting a makeover from the new defensive staff. With the Badgers disbanding some of the soft press coverage of the past to a more aggressive style, Shelton was put on the same learning curve with the rest of the cornerbacks.

All he had to worry about was academics and putting on weight.

"Everybody here is so supportive with the academic people and the coaches," said Shelton. "Everybody has been good company, so I think that's been the easy part. It helps you relax and get adjusted to the football aspect."

His level of comfort was evident during the spring game, as Shelton was around the ball multiple times in the passing game, but never was able to get his hands fully on an interception. On one play, Shelton pulled up before getting to the receiver, thinking the quarterback was going to go another option.

"I think many times in the fall I'll make that play," said Shelton. "It's just a learning experience and I'll be ready for it in the fall."

Shelton's progression is on target with the other corners. Peniel Jean – the veteran of the group as a junior - emerged as the leader by relying on his experience of playing the last two seasons, while sophomore Darius Hillary has taken more steps forward than backward in his first extended role.

Both are projected to be the starters while Shelton, Hugs Etienne, Terrance Floyd and Devin Gaulden all are firmly in the mix.

"The corners as a whole have really progressed," said Andersen. "It's a work in progress … I think they have competed day in and day out, and techniques, moving to man coverage, moving to playing dog coverage, blitzing sometimes doesn't sound like a lot, but it's a lot to put on a kid's plate. They've got better every single day."

As he answered questions following the spring game, Shelton said he picked Wisconsin because he felt he could be an impact player sometime in his career for the Badgers. That impact could be felt this season on special teams or defense, as Shelton has fit in well with an experience defense.

"I want to see what my role is in this defense, learn from those guys and try to get better," said Shelton. "I am just going to continue to work hard, get with the coaches and learn whatever scheme they want me to learn. I am just trying to get on the field and make an impact for the seniors, because I want to see those guys go out with a bang.

"I think this defense could be really good … People in the Big Ten and nationwide should pay attention because we're going to make noise this year."


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