Running back in his future?

Redshirt freshman Antonio Freeman could remain at cornerback or move to tailback in 2006

Antonio Freeman's most successful moment on a football field in the past two years came in July 2004, in the Wisconsin Shrine all-star game. Freeman, a standout running back and outside linebacker at Wauwatosa West High School, broke free for a 52-yard fourth-quarter run that set up a key touchdown.

Freeman, though, knew at the time that his days on offense were numbered. He was on his way to the University of Wisconsin that August to play cornerback.

Now, Freeman might be set to return to what he calls his "natural" position.

"There's been some talk," Freeman said. "Nothing's engraved in stone yet."

The "talk" has been Freeman's conversations with future head coach Bret Bielema, defensive backs coach Ron Lee and co-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who is expected to remain on Bielema's staff as offensive coordinator.

Freeman (6-foot, 186 ponds) has had a difficult time feeling natural at cornerback, but is showing some signs of getting accustomed to the position. He has spent this season on UW's third team, but has not challenged the top four corners for playing time.

Freeman's elite speed, which initially piqued UW's interest in recruiting him as a cornerback, could also be an asset at tailback.

"No. 1, I just want to get on the field," Freeman said. "… Running back's my natural position, I would love to play there… I just want to get on the field, that's all I want to do. Wherever I can contribute, that's where I'll go."

So far in bowl practices Freeman has remained at cornerback. Bielema, currently UW's defensive coordinator, has stated that any position changes for 2006 will take place after this season is complete.

"Nothing's being engraved in stone," Freeman said. "I talked to the coaches. I mean it's a possibility. We're still working to see."

Freeman said he did not approach the coaching staff about the potential change. It just came up in conversation.

"I guess it was just all talk," Freeman said. "Nobody approached anyone. They seen me run at the bowl game last year. There must have been a little bit of talk somewhere."

Freeman, though, is not sure whether he would end up playing cornerback or tailback long term.

"I'm really on the edge, like everyone else is," he said.

Freeman is nearing the completion of his second season in the UW program. He redshirted last year. A minimally used reserve, he has traveled with the team to away games.

"I think the year went all right," Freeman said. "I traveled all year. I was on standby. We didn't have too many injuries so (we) didn't go too deep into the depth."

Freeman, also a member of the UW track team, has exceptional sprinter's speed; he ran the 100 meters in as fast as 10.51 seconds as a senior in high school. He has had a tough time fine-tuning the fundamentals of playing cornerback, however, and has struggled to translate his potential into speed on the football field.

That is due in part to his football background. He has toiled with his footwork after adjusting from prep outside linebacker to college corner.

"I'm getting a little bit more comfortable now," Freeman said. "Now, I'm just touching up things. I still could use a lot of work, but I'm coming along. I had to be coming along, I'm traveling every week."

"I think I could go out there, play fast," he added. "I know everything. I know what I got to do. It's just all about going out there and doing it."

Freeman did not run track last year, but plans to compete in the indoor and outdoor season this time around. He will compete in the 60-, 100- and 200- meter dashes and the 400 relay.

"I'm always excited about track," Freeman said. "It was fun for me in high school. It is probably just going to be something to ease my mind a little bit and relax a little bit."

Why didn't he compete in track last year?

Said Freeman: "I wanted to work on football. I wanted to get on top of school and everything. So I sat that year out, told them I was going to do it the next season."

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