Hearing the Technique

He started all 13 games last season, but junior cornerback Devin Smith knows nothing is secure, especially with a new secondary coach calling, and yelling, the shots.

MADISON - Albeit it with a laugh, Devin Smith admits that he doesn't hear Secondary Coach Chris Ash's voice as he is drifting off to sleep.

Odds are, Smith is a very deep sleeper.

In his first year at Wisconsin, Ash, who took over for current linebacker coach Kerry Cooks, has taken a much different than his predecessor. Instead of doing most of his yelling … err, teaching in the film room, the displeasure or compliments in his voice can be heard anywhere in the Camp Randall vicinity.

"He's always in your ear and coaching you play by play," Smith said. "It's definitely a good thing. Some people lose that focus and he's definitely going to be harping on you to make sure you maintain that focus, that you are doing the right things, not take a play off, have discipline and are accountable to your teammates."

Ash's aggressive coaching style is part who is as a coach and part the players he's coaching, some times flawless and fearless and other times faulty and hesitant.

An example would be a recent series involving Smith. On a first down in the red-zone drill, Smith surrendered an 18-yard touchdown pass while defending senior wide receiver Kyle Jefferson.

"Devin," Ash shouted, "not even close!"

On the next play, Smith responded a diving interception in the end zone on a ball from Budmayr to Isaac Anderson. Ash ran up and congratulated him but reminded him of the previous play.

"He's definitely a one-play-at-a-time coach, but he will remind you of technique at all times," Smith said. "The last plays don't matter after he helps you fix what you did wrong."

Smith earned his second letter after starting all 13 games and led team with 11 passes defended and nine pass breakups, but the sense of security is gone. Through the second week of camp, Smith has been primarily working opposite sophomore Marcus Cromartie on the second-team defense, as senior Niles Brinkley and junior Antonio Fenelus have seen the majority of reps with the first team.

"Nothing is ever secure and I just have to go out and compete no matter what," said Smith, who ranked fourth on team with 55 tackles. "I have to do my job and do the right things to make sure I am getting better as a player, getting better to help my defense, as well."

Although the benefits haven't shown of having a starting season under his belt, Smith was candid about feeling the game slow down, allowing him to not be so anxious on game day and recognize familiar situations to allow him to go through his progressions.

His technique and reaction time has improved to make his play important to the success of UW's nickel package, something Smith attributes to two years experience and seven months under Ash.

"My experience definitely helps me relax and play, but the technique he's bringing in is definitely helping me play a lot better," Smith said. "I am definitely competing with all the DBs, but I am mostly competing with myself. I want to be better than I was last year and not fall back into bad things I did last year. I want to take more strides because there are definitely a lot of expectations. I want to go out there and be proud of myself."

Badger Nation Top Stories