Musso Making His Mark

From a hard-nosed high school running back to the starting strong safety throughout the first week of camp, redshirt freshman Leo Musso is seeing the results of all his hard work.

MADISON - With so many young, inexperienced players working at strong safety entering fall camp, first-year secondary coach Bill Busch was planning on frequent changes to his depth.

So something has to be said to the fact that redshirt freshman Leo Musso, a former standout prep tailback at nearby Waunakee High, spent most of the first week working next to senior Dezmen Southward on the first-team defense.

"Nothing but outstanding so far," said Busch. "We're excited about him."

Generously listed at 5-10, Musso came to Wisconsin after rushing for 5,531 yards and 87 touchdowns in high school, but the former coaching staff labeled him as an ‘athlete' because his size wasn't conducive for being a Big-Ten level tailback.

So when given the opportunity in the spring to be thrown into the defensive mix at safety, Musso jumped at the chance.

"I've heard about a lot of running backs that switched over to the defensive side, and playing safety or maybe even linebacker," Musso said. "The thought was always in the back of mind that it could happen to me. My mindset was that I already love the game of football so wherever they put me I'm going to play no matter what."

It turned out to be a fortuitous move. After spring practices concluded, redshirt freshman Reggie Mitchell – the starter at the end of spring – got homesick and transferred back to Pittsburgh, and incoming junior college transfer Donnell Vercher was denied admission.

That left Wisconsin scrambling, but Musso his opportunity to play and plenty of reps at his new spot on the field.

"I love playing defense," Musso. "You get to hit people and you get to cover people. It's different, but it's kind of sparking a new love for the game. Defense is different because you have to know everything mentally. Coach Busch expects us to know three different positions. This summer I made sure I was in the film room every day sometimes three times a day."

Musso had plenty of film to watch. Because of Wisconsin transitioning to a new defense and unable to have one-on-one teaching contact with the players during the summer, each position coach made teaching videos with voice-over instructions for each position. With approximately 20 tapes that involved Musso's position, he estimated he watched each well over a dozen times.

"I knew if I ever had the opportunity to come out here and compete, I would really have make sure I knew exactly what I was doing or otherwise there's going to be no opportunity for me," said Musso.

Now that he is on the field, Musso has been working specifically on his footwork, becoming physically stronger and faster. It hasn't been the easiest transition, but Musso has made it look smooth when he's out on the practice field.

"The switch to defense hasn't been too overwhelming," said Musso. "It's more of an eagerness to get into the film room and out on the field to improve my game. I'm always going to have to put in extra work after practice and in the film room. But I always try to think ahead about what I can do better before the coaches tell me what I have to do better."

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