Backed into a Corner

Although having plenty of positives to choose from the 2009 season, junior cornerback Devin Smith focus is on the mistakes and the breakdowns, two things that served as his motivation during an intense offseason.

MADISON - Like most competitive football players, Devin Smith chooses to look closely at the bad and disregard the good. Too bad, as he's pushing over a lot of positive steps. Leading the team with 11 passes defended and nine pass breakups and ranked fourth on team with 55 tackles, Smith made two interceptions and was named co-defensive player of the week after his performance in the Purdue game. It was his two performances against Fresno State and Northwestern, however, that made those good numbers overlooked.

Against the Bulldogs, Smith was forced into prolonged duty while other cornerbacks were stricken with the flu. Early in the first half, Smith guessed on what the receiver would do, a mistake that cost the Badgers a 70-yard touchdown pass.

Against Northwestern, Smith misread his keys on a backwards pass, vacating his wide receiver. When he saw it was a pass, it was too late to recover and allowed a 38-yard touchdown.

Those were plays that motivated Smith to get better, spending the majority of the offseason working on his keys and his technique. The result has yielded Wisconsin a constant cornerback during spring ball, and Smith hope that will continue for him moving forward.

Badger Nation: What was last year like for you in terms of you being able to get on the field and find a niche within this defense?

Devin Smith: It was a good experience, just basically starting out slow and trying to get better and better every single game, every single day. Basically, it was important for me to figure out how to contribute to the team in a very important role as a cornerback. I just got more comfortable in that role as the season went on so I can make more plays out there and really support me defense.

Badger Nation: Was the biggest problem the cornerbacks faced as a whole last year consistency?

Devin Smith: I think so. We had a lot of ups and downs as a secondary.

Badger Nation: How do you battle through that and correct that so you cornerbacks are more consistent this year and find that fine line so you can be a shutdown unit every game?

Devin Smith: Basically, it's just focusing through four quarters all the time, staying fundamentally sound and practicing good technique throughout the entire game. One let up could lead to a big play, which happened a lot last year.

Badger Nation: Was the focus absent at times last year or what do you attribute the slip ups to?

Devin Smith: I think it could have been absent, but the big thing was technique. We got lazy. We got tired. Little focus with our eyes and not reading our keys got us beat at times.

Badger Nation: If one is looking for focus it would seem (Secondary Coach) Chris Ash is the guy to bring focus and intensity in practice. Not that Coach Cooks didn't do a lot for good things, but is he the right new guy for the job in terms of getting you focused?

Devin Smith: Yeah. Coach Cooks did preach hard focus and everything like that. Coach Ash is starting from the basics, trying to get us right and have that focus throughout four quarters consistently. When we are tried, that's when we have to lock in even harder against the person we are going against.

Badger Nation: With the starts that you have under your belt and the players you played against last season, do you have a lot of confidence under your belt heading into the season?

Devin Smith: I definitely feel more confident and that the younger guys are starting to look up to me. I just have to keep building my confidence every single day in practice, but to be sure that I am down and focusing on making plays every single play that comes to me. I also have to make sure that I am helping out my defense and taking care of my responsibility every single time.

Badger Nation: What was the biggest thing you worked on after the season?

Devin Smith: It was more technique that I focused on over the winter. I spent some time in the weight room, but I wanted to get my technique down. I feel it's better than it was in the bowl game, but I switched sides, so it's like starting back over with my steps. I think that if I keep building every single day, it will become better than it was in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Badger Nation: What do you like about the cornerback group that you have coming back? You have Niles that is aiming to be a starter, but you have a young group of guys that are pushing you for playing time.

Devin Smith: We have a lot of players that started games last season. We have a lot of depth, and a lot of potential that is getting better every single game. Antonio (Fenelus) is using his experience as a starter to make some plays, Dezmen (Southward) is getting better and understand the concept. The depth is exciting to see.

Badger Nation: Last season your secondary has Chris Maragos as a leader. Has a leader emerged now among you guys to take that role?

Devin Smith: I think Jay Valai is working his tail off every single day and Aaron Henry also. They've started numerous games like our secondary, so we are all on the sideline level as each other in terms of understanding what we need to do. Whether it's one or the other, I think leadership carries throughout the whole secondary.

Badger Nation: What's the biggest thing you are trying to achieve in the next two weeks?

Devin Smith: Just trying to improve. I want to get fundamentally sound on both sides so I can play left corner and right corner. That's the main thing along with eliminating any big plays. I want to make good breaks on the ball.

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