April 16, 2010

Smith adjusting to new coaching style

MADISON - With multiple players reaching upperclassmen level, and with a new position coach that demands accountability and responsibility in Chris Ash, players such as Devin Smith have an opportunity to take their game to new heights.

At the conclusion of a recent practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the junior defensive back. The following is a question and answer with Smith.

Now that spring camp is winding down, how has it been going for you if you had to analyze yourself?

Smith: I think I'm just trying to get adjusted to the new coaching style and different techniques that he's teaching us. Overall, I think I've improved as a player. I need to just work on my consistency, but I think I've made a lot of strides. My man coverage has been a lot better this spring ball.

Was that something you were trying to do this spring ball after the way last year went? Just get better at man?

Smith: I just feel that I've got to get better overall with things like tackling…(inaudible)….I think just that and getting chemistry with the new defensive backs that are out there as well.

You talked about having a new coach. Obviously as a player it's tough to transition to him, but have you seen him transition to you guys pretty well, too?

Smith: Oh yes sir, definitely. He's been really patient going out there each and every day and helping us improve just to get better. He just tries to harp on consistency and tackling is a huge key and part of that. He's just teaching us new things and getting us better and putting us in the right position to make plays.

Does he have you guys playing press a little bit more?

Smith: Yes.

Are you fine with that?

Smith: I'm trying to work on my technique a little more so I'm getting a lot better at it. I'm a lot more comfortable with it than I was last year.

Is that a welcome change? It seemed last year there would be times when you were a few yards off on third and shorts and they would get the first down. Is pressing something you guys feel is necessary to do, especially in those situations?

Smith: Definitely. We've got to give our defense the biggest chance to get off the field on those third and shorts.

Has anybody else in the secondary impressed you so far?

Smith: Definitely. Jay Valai and Aaron Henry have been playing really well and getting used to the different things that coach Ash is teaching them. Antonio Fenelus is making a lot of plays. Niles Brinkley is doing a lot and Dezmen Southward has made some strides and has got a lot better and Marcus Cromartie as well.

Do you feel like this upcoming season is one where you can maybe prove some things in the secondary?

Smith: Yeah, I think so. I think what we've been doing over the spring has been leading strong into fall camp. It's going to show a lot and it's going to pay off this season.

Where do you still need to make improvements as a unit?

Smith: Just not giving up big plays and getting off the field on third downs. Those are the two main things we really need to work on.

Is it kind of a work in progress? You see guys like Jared Abbrederis and some of the other receivers out there making plays.

Smith: It's definitely a work in progress. I just feel like we'll just go back in film and talk over what we did wrong and not let that happen any more.

Is that where you really make the strides? Through film?

Smith: Yes sir.

What does the spring game give you a chance to do?

Smith: Just a chance to polish up what you've been working on throughout the whole spring. Just a chance to focus on, even though you're going ones versus twos, to work on your fundamentals, your keys, your eyes and making sure you're doing the right assignment. Just trying to be perfect throughout the whole play.

Is it kind of fun to get a game atmosphere with the people in the stands?

Smith: It's a lot of fun. That's what we live for to play. Just being out here and playing in front of the fans and playing with our teammates. It's going to be a great bonding experience.

Do you look at yourself as the No. 1 cornerback?

Smith: Definitely. I want to try to be that. I try to be somebody that my teammates can look to in tough situations…(inaudible)…I want them to count on me and don't want them to worry about me and they know I'm going to take care of my business.

Against a guy like Nick Toon, does that help you get that?

Smith: He's a good player so it definitely prepares you for the receivers you're going to be facing in the Big Ten as far as Ohio State, Michigan and those teams that really have great receivers.

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