He burst on the scene as a true freshman in 12 starts and his four interceptions were the second most ever by a Wisconsin freshman. Those kind of numbers – and the fact he plays with plenty of emotion – put plenty of expectations on Sojourn Shelton’s shoulders entering his sophomore season. In retrospect, and his own admission, Shelton didn’t deliver the way he wanted to. After failing to surpass his numbers from two years ago as a sophomore, admitting the expectations got to him, Shelton went back to his roots and regained his moxie this past spring with plenty of spectacular plays. They were moments that again have amped up the expectations for the man self-proclaimed as “Shelton Island.”
Strengths: Entering his third year as a starter, the 5-9 corner has the experience to match his confidence. Shelton has plenty of strengths, but his athleticism and quickness is what sets him apart from other corners. He has the savvy ability to read a quarterback, jump the gun and predict routes as they develop, allowing him to step in front of the pass before the opposing receiver sees it coming. He has the ability to stay with any receiver no matter their height or size.
Weaknesses: Shelton lives and dies with his confidence, which was evident by his play during his first two seasons at Wisconsin. There was rarely a time his true freshman year where Shelton let a missed opportunity or a penalty linger longer than the net snap. That wasn’t the case last season when Shelton never appeared to find a groove, as pass interference penalties became the norm instead of the rarity. It was evident when teams consistently attacked him last year, something they didn’t do as much two years ago, that something was missing. That appears to be in Shelton’s past, but we really won’t know until we see his response following the first mistake of the season.
Why he is #6: Shelton falls here for many reasons. Not only is he a critical piece on defense for the Badgers, needing to be a consistent presence on the back end of a very talented Wisconsin secondary, Shelton’s play effects those around him. When he’s on fire and making plays, his emotion gives the entire unit a lift. When he’s not, that passion is missing. The junior has plenty of potential, but it will be a matter of if he can keep progressing.
Overall: There are 10 other players between the hashes, but Shelton is possibly the most important. As a freshman when he was making plays, Wisconsin was tied for 53rd in the country in turnover margin. Last year when he wasn’t the Badgers ranked 110th. He has the ability to continue his reign on “Shelton Island,” but he will need to play even better this season if he wants to continue his consistency. He has the tools to become one of the best corners in the conference. This year will say a lot it he can use those tools to make UW’s defense a turnover machine.