Notes: Even-Keeled Cornerbacks

After struggling to contain a spread offense with speedy skill players two weeks ago, Wisconsin's two young cornerbacks will have another strong challenge on its hands, but head coach Gary Andersen sees Sojourn Shelton and Darius Hillary having a steady approach in the days leading up to No.23 Wisconsin's game at No.4 Ohio State.

MADISON - After their struggles two weeks ago against wide receivers with speed, talent and athleticism, nobody would blame redshirt freshman cornerback Darius Hillary and true freshman Sojourn Shelton if they were extra motivated.

But part of the reason the duo got the starting nod out of fall camp was their ability not to get too high or too low depending on the situation, and that's certainly been the case in the days leading up to No.23 Wisconsin's biggest conference test of the year.

"They've been the fine; same old, same old," said Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen of his cornerbacks Thursday, two days before the Badgers take on No.4 Ohio State at Ohio Stadium. "Very focused, just like they've been every game. Just keep on grinding, and that's the way they've prepared and I hope that's the way they play."

Ohio State – winners of the last 16 games – is averaging 529.0 yards of total offense and ranks fourth in the country averaging 52.5 yards per game. The group is much better statistically than Arizona State, but the Sun Devils still threw for 352 yards and drew five penalties against the two cornerbacks.

Shelton admitted he lost a little bit of swagger in the controversial loss, but said the confident returned to him and his group after holding Purdue to less than 200 yards passing in last week's victory. Andersen agrees.

"I think he took the advice and handled it very, very well," said Andersen. "He did respond. The moment can catch up with a freshman if you will and staying focused, completely playing within the defense comes with repetitions, experience. He handled that well in the last game, but he'll be tested this game, possibly more than the Arizona State game."

One of those receivers is senior Devin Smith, who is averaging one touchdown catch every four receptions this season. His 281 receiving yards and 70.2 yards per catch are best on the team, and his name is a sore subject with Wisconsin fans considering he caught the game-winning touchdown two years ago the last time these teams met in Columbus.

"They gave him opportunity to make big plays, but yards after the catch are pretty good with him," said Andersen. "He catches balls in contested areas, which is always a tell-tell sign of a quality wide receiver. He's shown he can do that. He has tremendous speed, and I think he has good vision. Once he gets the ball in his hands, his ability to read the field in his open spaces is pretty impressive."

Quarterback Shuffle

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer named junior Braxton Miller the starting quarterback for this weekend's game. That move puts senior quarterback Kenny Guiton back on the bench, momentarily, despite two impressive starting performances the last two weeks of guiding the Ohio State's offense to over 600 total yards.

While it's still expected Guiton will play, Andersen doesn't expect both players to be on the field at the same time.

"I think with the backs that they have, and their back to full strength at running back, I anticipate two back, more triple option, some of the stuff they did a year ago," said Andersen. "Both quarterbacks run it very well. They've been effective with that in the past. I would expect that. I could be wrong, but we have prepared a little bit down those lines."

Part of that preparation for defensive coordinator Dave Aranda was reaching out to two people with experience shutting down Miller. Running a defense last season that held Miller to 48 rushing yards, both Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash and California defensive coordinator Andy Buh were both reached out to by Aranda.

"Anytime you have a relationship with coaches, which coach Aranda does with those guys, they'll come back, communicate with each other and share some information," said Andersen. "Dave is very thorough. He's thorough in everything he does. That's just a good part of it and I don't think it's unnatural in coaching."

Fast Starters

While admitting that the majority of Ohio State's first four games have been over by the end of the first quarter, Andersen said he's learned more from watching this year's film compared to the 12 games last season, getting a better idea of who they are and the defense's different schemes.

The first quarter has been a Buckeye blowout through four weeks, as Ohio State has outscored its opponents 102-14 in the first quarter. In three home games, the Buckeyes have yet to allow a point in the first 15 minutes.

In comparison, Wisconsin has outscored its four opponents 38-3 in the first quarter, also not allowing a point at home.

"They are fast starters without question," said Andersen. "The teams that they've played have been ready to play. Ohio State is executing at a very high level. Last week, they got the ball and their field position has been unbelievable for the first four or five series."

In 22 trips to the red zone this season, Ohio State has scored 20 touchdowns and one field goal.


Andersen on the blocking of the wide receivers

"I think first off they take pride in it. Secondary I think Coach Beatty does a great job of making it important and recognizing the kids when they make those blocks. I do my best to make sure I recognize them when they are sacrificing themselves that way. They block very well, they're physical, they're on the right guys … the biggest thing is the wide receivers take pride in blocking."

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