Pleasant beginnings

Freshman is working his way into depth in the secondary, establishing niche on special teams

Aubrey Pleasant is justifiably proud to be on the Badgers' first-team kickoff squad.

A 5-foot-11, 206-pound true freshman strong safety from Flint, Mich., Pleasant already owns a prominent place on the University of Wisconsin football team's special teams depth charts, just a week-and-a-half into practices. In addition to kickoff, he is also on the first-team for punt coverage and the second-team for kick return and punt return.

"I'm spread all over on special teams," he said. "I'm happy about that, especially about the kickoff."

Why kickoff? Because it can be the first play of every game. And when Bowling Green comes to visit Camp Randall Stadium Sept. 3, it could be the first play of the season.

"That would be very exciting knowing that all those, I heard 500 former players are coming back," Pleasant said, his eyes growing wide as he referred to one part of the Badgers' plans to celebrate the grand re-opening of the newly remodeled Camp Randall. "That would be very, very interesting."

So early in his UW career, Pleasant appears to be wired well for special teams work. He is an aggressive, physical player who can run well and deliver a blow. But it would be intriguing to see Pleasant on the field for a season-opening kickoff against Bowling Green.

Consider the particulars of his situation. Pleasant is a true freshman and he is currently the third-team strong safety behind a pair of able bodied juniors, Johnny White and Joe Stellmacher, who are competing for the starting spot.

"I expected a lot of competition. I expected this level," Pleasant said. "This is the second level… I expected it to be way faster (than high school). I expected everybody to be good. And that's exactly how it is right now. I've got two great safeties in front of me in Johnny and Stellmacher. And they're pushing me and they're making me work harder than before."

Pleasant has been receiving a series' worth of reps here and there with the second defense since apparently passing James Kamoku for third on the strong safety depth chart, just enough to whet his appetite for playing time. Pleasant was eager for today's closed door intrasquad scrimmage, during which the coaching staff was expected to take a close look at him and the rest of the freshman class.

"We'll kind of get a chance prove ourselves," Pleasant said.

But Pleasant understands that, barring injury, he is a bit buried at strong safety.

"You have two guys that both have enough potential to play at the 1 spot," Pleasant said. "So they get a lot more reps."

So with his path to playing time at strong safety seemingly blocked, does Pleasant want to burn his redshirt for the chance to play on special teams?

"You know what, that's a tough call," he said. "That is something I have to just be left with the coaches. You never know…."

"Both Johnny and Stell are going head up. They are doing a great job and then on top of that they are both juniors."

While Pleasant is still trying to make sure he knows what to do, White and Stellmacher have been through the rigors of practice for a few years and are busy making plays.

"I just have to say ‘leave it to the coaches,'" Pleasant said. "I think they will have my best interests in mind. So if they… were not to let me use the redshirt, then obviously they think I have the potential to help them on special teams. And maybe on the field, because right now, I'm one injury from being second deep. Like I'm just an ankle twist away."

In high school a year ago, Pleasant was on every special team and played on both sides of the ball. So he is not used to being rested when he begins sprinting down the field to help cover a kick.

"Actually it's very interesting actually being on kickoff, feeling rejuvenated, being able to run down there," he said.

"Being on special teams is cool because special teams can really determine a way of a game," Pleasant said. "Like coach (Barry) Alvarez said, the first day we got here he said, ‘You younger guys, if you want to prove yourself, special teams is the way to do it.' So I just go out there and try to do everything the coach asks me to."


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