Barrett solid in reserve

Senior defensive tackle enjoys transition from guard

Earlier this season, a hot-button issue around the Wisconsin football team was opponents' tendency to hold the Badgers' star-studded defensive line—and get away with it.

The worst holding culprit senior defensive tackle Jason Jefferson has played against, however, is now on his side of the line of scrimmage: reserve defensive tackle Kalvin Barrett.

"Every play he would just hold," Jefferson said with a chuckle. "He was ridiculous with his holding. He was just awful. I was just glad he's not on that side anymore."

Barrett, a fifth-year senior, spent two seasons in Madison as an offensive guard, starting eight games along the way. Early last season, however, he moved over to defensive tackle to bolster the depth of a line ravaged by injuries.

"In the brain there is a little bit in me at guard. That helps here a little bit with keys and stuff when I'm playing but my heart's on defense," Barrett said. "I'm from the dark side now. They turned me over."

Say again?

"When you go from offense to defense you are going to the dark side," Barrett explained. "Kind of this Jedi crossover thing."

So rather than prepping his defensive teammates week-to-week, Barrett joined their ranks and has been one of Wisconsin's primary reserves ever since.

"We like him a lot on defense," Jefferson said. "He was kind of hated as an offensive lineman. But he's on the good side now."

With Jefferson and senior Anttaj Hawthorne starting, however, Barrett is resigned to taking a series here and there to spell the stars in front of him. Barrett cannot look forward to mop-up duty either. Ordinarily, defensive line coach John Palermo turns to redshirt freshman Justin Ostrowski and true freshman Nick Hayden at that time.

"Those other kids are playing so good (Barrett) hasn't had an opportunity to get in the game much," Palermo said. "At the end of the game I'd just assume get the freshmen in there because they're going to be around here for three more years and Kalvin is a senior."

Barrett, though, is comfortable with his role. After all, he would not be receiving even a handful of snaps if he was still a guard.

"I know my role and I'm happy to play it. As long as the defense is playing good, that means the reserves aren't going in. That's always a good thing," Barrett says with his customary wide grin. "I'm getting enough plays to help Anttaj and Jason whenever they need a break."

Barrett nearly lost the opportunity to play defensive tackle. In order to be effective, Palermo felt that Barrett needed to get his weight under control. So he gave him an mandate: drop down to 310 or go back to offense.

Through conditioning with strength coach John Dettmann, however, Barrett was able to hold on to his new position.

"The beginning of the summer workouts I was 329," Barrett said. "I went from 329 to close to 310."

The weight, though, has been a sidebar to the season. At times, Palermo said, Barrett's weight has moved up over the limit.

"He should be proud about getting down. Now he should be disappointed if he's climbing up….On Fridays he seems to have his weight back down to 310," Palermo said wryly.

Barrett came to Wisconsin more than four years ago weighing 317 pounds. A state champion wrestler with good strength and quickness, the Spring Valley, Calif., native has added muscle mass his 6-foot-2 frame. Though he had to learn a new position in midstream, Barrett quickly became a dependable reserve.

"Kalvin can do it. It's just a matter of him becoming consistent and in some cases controlling his weight and doing the things that he's supposed to do," Palermo said. "In order to be a good defensive linemen you have to be very disciplined and that's something that Kalvin's working on but he hasn't quite mastered it yet."

Jefferson and Hawthorne quickly welcomed their classmate, despite his old holding habit, and helped him adjust to his new position. They assisted him with the finer points, Barrett said, such as little keys to look for from opposing offensive linemen and when to shade inside or outside a gap.

There is only so much that can be taught, however.

"A lot of times they have the instinct of, I don't know what it is," Barrett said. "I ask them, ‘Well, how did you do that?' They go, ‘I don't know. It just happens.' So that's what I'm [looking] forward to getting before the season is over.

"I have a couple of times…where I did something and I was like, ‘Wow, I didn't even know I could do that.' That just comes along with learning."

Asked if he is still learning the position, Barrett laughed jovially.

"Oh yeah. Always learning. No matter how far you get in this program, no matter where you get in the NFL, there's always something to learn and I have a lot more to learn," he said. "As long as I keep a positive attitude and know how things are going I should be OK."

While Barrett's college career is just four games from complete, his football career could continue in the NFL.

"I'm sure he'll get an opportunity and than it's going to be what he does with that opportunity," Palermo said. "I'm very hopeful that he'll get an opportunity."

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