MADISON – Midway through his first fall camp last August, Titus Booker said it was too early to tell how the adjustment was going to go from behind a confident high school running back to learning to be a college cornerback.
Eight months later, it’s easy to tell that Booker has a lot of potential for Wisconsin’s defense.
“I would say Titus Booker is a guy who has really jumped out recently, the last couple days,” defensive back coach Jim Leonhard said, without being prompted, following Thursday’s practice. “It’s fun to watch him play. He loves to compete. As a DB, that’s what it comes down to.”
The former four-star recruit has flashed since the Badgers returned from spring break last Tuesday. In five practices in pads, Booker’s abilities in the secondary has certainly shined with his ability to cover ground quickly, break up passes and hold his own in one-on-one coverages against experienced receivers.
“I think my athleticism helps a lot,” Booker said. “I used to run track, so using my speed, using my length and just working technique first. That’s the most important part. Without technique I can’t use anything.”
While senior Sojourn Shelton and junior Derrick Tindal have emerged as the starting duo, Booker and junior Natrell Jamerson have been closing the gap working with the second-team defense.
After rushing for 214.6 yards per game his senior season, earning first-team all-state honors, Booker is in position to earn playing time.
“The coaches tell me to keep on competing and go after it every day,” he added. “They are saying they like a lot of stuff that I’m doing, but I am just trying to work my technique and stay consistent.”
Feast for the DBs
While Booker didn’t register an interception Thursday, plenty of his fellow defensive backs did during various team drills. Junior Lubern Figaro, who is working to get back in the rotation after losing his starting spot as a true freshman, had three interceptions while Shelton and juniors Keelon Brookins, Joe Ferguson and Tindal each had one
Senior quarterback Bart Houston went 8-for-11 in 11-on-11 and modified team drills (selective pass rush) and 4-for-9 in red-zone team drills. He delivered a pair of touchdown strikes to junior Jazz Peavy, who caught a 20-yard and a 21-yard score in coverage. His 21-yard catch came on fourth down. However, Houston’s two interceptions were the result of misplays by Peavy.
The first came on a pass that Peavy deflected into the air and into the hands of Figaro. The second came to conclude practice when Peavy slipped coming out of a route that Figaro easily intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
Redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook wasn’t so fortunate, going 5-for-11 in early team drills and 3-for-7 in red-zone drills that were feast or famine for him. After his first two series going against the first-team defense resulted in a 20-yard touchdown throw to a wide-open Eric Steffes and a 5-yard touchdown to Reggie Love off play action, Hornibrook threw picks on his next three drives to Figaro (twos vs twos), Shelton (pick six in ones vs ones) and Tindal (pick six in ones vs. ones).
Peavy, again, slipped on the Shelton interception but it appeared the pass was doomed to fail from the start. Tindal was locked into one-on-one coverage with tight end Troy Fumgalli in a play that could have drawn a pass interference penalty. Hornibrook’s other completion was a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Edwards.
Hornibrook threw two interceptions in early team drills that were results of off-target throws, a pass behind a receiver that Brookins intercepted and an overthrow that Ferguson returned into the red zone.
Unofficial quarterback red-zone series breakdown: Hornibrook had four series ones-vs-ones, one series two offense vs one defense and one series twos-vs-twos. Houston had four ones-vs-ones and three twos vs. twos.
Extra Points: Former Wisconsin players Jared Abbrederis and Hayden Biegel were spotted at practice … Kyle Penniston continued his solid play with another catch over the middle of the field in team drills … Sophomore receiver Krenwick Sanders was the only new addition to the injury report, out of practice with a left thigh injury … Wisconsin returns to the practice field Saturday for its ninth spring workout.