A favorite football coach's adage is that a player cannot hide mistakes. Every lapse will show up on film and opposing teams will take advantage of those errors time and time again.
When teams have watched Scott Starks on tape, however, they have only seen a player they want to avoid.
"I believe Scott is developing into one of those lockdown corners who you always look for," free safety Jim Leonhard said. "He's a Jamar Fletcher type of guy, where you know you look over there and see Scott, you figure you can cross that guy off and help out somewhere else."
That was certainly the case last week, when Penn State threw all of three passes in Starks direction: ‘Sparky' broke up two and the other fell incomplete.
A solid performance from a corner who has played at an exceptional level all season. But Jamar Fletcher-caliber?
"I think he is," Leonhard said emphatically. "And I believe the coaches think he is. I have that confidence in him. I've played with him for four years now. I feel real confidant in what he can do over on his side."
"I don't even want to hear that [reference to Fletcher]," Starks said. "I just want to compete and get better. I want to win games and continue to get better as a team."
What Starks does is simply shutdown opposing receivers. He is versatile, with the strength and technique to play press man coverage and the sprinter's speed (4.28 40-yard dash, 10.64 100 meters) to stick with receivers down field whether matched up or patrolling a zone.
He also does the little things, from filling against the run to helping his teammates digest situations on the field.
"The thing I like is during that flood break that we were on [at Arizona], Scott had very intelligent questions," defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said. "We had to adjust to a few formations and talk about some things and he's on cue with everything and he's able to process what we're thinking and translate to the guys that maybe have struggled with the issues of it."
Starks was named Wisconsin's co-defensive player of the week after the Badgers' last two non-conference games. He had five tackles and his first career sack against UNLV but notched just two tackles (one for loss) against Arizona. Starks, though, makes numerous contributions that do not show up in the stat sheet.
"He's just in the right spot all the time," Leonhard said. "He's one of those guys that he's never out of position and even if he is a little bit out of position his speed will make up for it. It's one of those things you can't account for. He only had two tackles but he created more tackles than that. He created more big plays."
Starks led the Big Ten in passes defended (16 in conference games only) last season after fighting to keep his starting job. After struggling early in the year, he relinquished his starting spot for one game, breaking a string of 27 straight starts that had dated back to his freshman year. Starks, though, rebounded and played very well down the stretch.
This season he has four pass breakups, 11 tackles and has helped lead a Badger defense that has held opponents leading receivers to five, two, four and two catches.
"I feel it is a continuation of what he left from last season," defensive backs coach Ron Lee said. "He's been performing well and he's out there competing."
"It's important for him to have a great senior year because I think that he really felt that his junior year he didn't have a complete year," Bielema said. "There were times he played well, there were times he didn't play well. We always preach and harp, ‘you are who you are on film cause film doesn't lie.' I don't think he wants to have one example on film of him not doing his job."
Stark warning: watch out for No. 2
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