One of the many corners who will have a chance to step up and earn playing time—next year and in the seasons that follow—is Antonio Freeman, a true freshman who came in high on talent and very raw on cornerback skills.
"He may not have the best technique in the world but you are not going to outrun him," Badger defensive backs coach Ron Lee said. "He's gotten a lot better."
Freeman, along with true freshmen corners Allen Langford and Jack Ikegwuonu, is redshirting this season. Freeman has played on the scout team all year and as such works with Lee and the rest of the defensive backs for 10 minutes at the beginning of practice, before he moves on to working against the Badgers' offense.
"We get 10 minutes a day working on man-to-man with the wide receivers," Lee said. "That's the time where we are coaching him on technique."
Freeman has elite speed, drawing acclaim as one of the top prep sprinters in the nation his junior and senior years at Wauwatosa West. He was also a highly regarded football player; he does not fit the track-guy stereotype from a physicality standpoint.
However, Freeman played mostly outside linebacker in high school, typically taking responsibility for the flats in a ‘cover three' scheme.
"He's been playing linebacker in high school, he's been up in the box, now he's out on the corner," Lee said. "He's out on an island out there. He has to learn the little things of footwork and the technique. You don't have to coach his speed. He has that. Just the little things he needs to continue to work on.
"Being in the box and being outside is two different techniques and running track and backpedal is two different things. It takes a little while to get used to. As a linebacker you don't pedal as much. You are more lateral and side-to-side."
Once Freeman has his technique down, Lee feels he can be a major contributor.
"He comes up in the office every Monday to talk about school and talk about football,' Lee said. "He's a quality young man and he's going to be a great player here."