For Jameson Davis, Wisconsin's 17-year-old freshman cornerback, quite a bit is new this spring. He traveled from Hamden, Conn., leaving high school behind to enroll a semester early at the University of Wisconsin. He has had to learn a new system, meet new teammates and face the shock that all freshmen have to brace themselves for: the fact that his athleticism is just part of the crowd now, rather than an exceptional asset in and of itself.
The biggest change for Davis, though, is getting used to a new body.
"I've put on 21 pounds since I've been here," he said. Davis plugged into the team's offseason workouts in January after moving to Madison. A lithe 185-pound athlete in high school, Davis now possesses a muscular build.
"I've got to learn how to use that weight to my advantage," Davis said. "I'm one of the biggest corners we have here already. What I have to do is learn how to take that and use that on the field and use my strength on the line, you know, to jam guys and throw them down."
Prior to becoming a Badger, Davis had never lifted weights while playing football. He had always worked out in the offseason, then simply played the game in the fall, and played it well, excelling as a quarterback and defensive back at Hamden High School. Now, he is lifting three days a week in addition to diving into the rigors of spring practice and his first semester of college academics.
"This is solid right here. Between school and football, this is a job," Davis said. "I love it though. This is an opportunity kids would die for and here I am at one of the biggest universities in the Big Ten and the country and I'm feeling good, having a great time.
"I couldn't ask for anything better. I'm very blessed. I'm grateful for everything I did. I worked hard for it and now I've got to make the best of it."
In a minor shock, Davis was listed as a second-team cornerback on Wisconsin's official spring depth chart, released prior to the start of spring practices March 4. He rotated in with the second team in scrimmage drills for the first two practices, but has spent most of his time since then with the third unit, only moving up when teammates are nicked up and sitting out practice or missing due to a class conflict.
In addition to his increased strength, Davis needs to become accustomed to the speed of the game. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash last summer and feels his speed has stuck with him despite the added bulk. Still, more seasoned receivers have been teaching him quite a few lessons in practice.
"The way these guys run by me half the time, I'm not sure if it's just me because I'm not used to the speed or if (I'm) slower," Davis said. "But I'm working on it."
That work begins with his feet.
"The biggest thing that's hard for me is to get my mindset and tell my feet what to do and at the same time not try to think too much but react," Davis said, adding that his high school coaches worked hard to teach proper footwork, but at the time it was not applicable.
"I developed my confidence in high school off athletic ability alone," he said. "Here you have to actually do it in order to be successful but there you can kick it in and know it and use it every once in a while when you have a good player (to compete against). Here, every player is good."
"Everything is moving a lot quicker than he's used to and I think he just needs to develop confidence in himself and develop a sense of where he needs to be and go out there and play," defensive backs coach Ron Lee said.
"He is a really young kid that has a lot to learn," Bell said. "Everyone has been in his shoes on this defense. They know what he's going through, they know how hard it is to learn on the go and learn on his feet. He's taking it all in and he's doing well."
"The biggest thing for me is just I'm trying to get better every practice," Davis said. "If I can get better at every practice, I'm not worried about anything else. If I get better at every practice, every time we work out, then everything should fall into place."