MADISON, Wis. - After manning the mike linebacker spot a season ago, Wisconsin senior Jaevery McFadden has moved back to his natural position of will. As the linebacking core looks to forge a new identity after the departure of key parts from 2008, McFadden and his experience will look to guide the position in 2009.
At the conclusion of a recent practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the Florida native. The following is a question and answer with the veteran linebacker:
At this point in spring practice, how is spring ball going for you at this point?
McFadden: For me, in general, it's going pretty good. I feel faster and quicker out there. Not that I'm getting faster because I am, but at the same time, I feel a lot smarter. I'm kind of like the old head out here and I know the defense inside and out from playing inside last year and now outside. I feel a lot more comfortable at the outside. I feel like I can use my God given talent out here on the outside edge and stuff like that. I'm more reactive to the ball, to the plays, instead of just trying to think it and try to go make plays. I'm more reactant out here and try to make plays which is a good thing.
Is that more of a natural spot for you?
McFadden: Yeah, I think so. At first when I moved over during the bowl game, I was thinking about it. It felt good, but I wasn't really sure. I wanted to play mike in that game. Right now, I feel like being the outside is a pretty good spot for me out in space.
Looking back at last spring you were switching over to mike. Now you're switching back to will. Is it tough jumping around like that at all?
McFadden: It wasn't really that tough. The toughest part was just playing with that club. That was the tough part. I just couldn't use my hand. But then playing inside the mike with that club wasn't fun. That was basically the toughest part. As far as transitioning over to the mike and knowing what to do, I got that down, but it was basically just playing with that club. For the most part, I tried to make the most of it. With the transition over to outside, I'm feeling a lot more comfortable. I'm not going to lie. I just feel like I'm better off in space and that's how I can do more damage.
How would you explain to the average person what it is like to play with that club on?
McFadden: You might as well just tie your hand behind your back and go out there and play. You can probably swing at somebody, but on the field, you're not really swinging. You got to time it and cock back and swing at somebody. You might as well cut your hand off, I'll say it like that. You're playing with a cut off hand on your right hand. You just got one hand. You got no fingers, no wrist, you just got a nub on your right hand. So, you basically are just playing with a nub on your right arm and just going out there and try to make plays. Just diving and putting your body on the line to make plays, you can't wrap up or nothing. I'm not going to make that an excuse. I tried to do the best I could and everything. I can't even explain. It was definitely hard, but I tried to make the most of it.
Is it completely healthy now?
McFadden: Yeah, it's healthy. I got a little scar, but that's all. I still have a plate in there too.
With the way spring camp is set up this year, does it feel like it's going by a little faster than in years past?
McFadden: Oh yeah, it definitely is man. I'm loving the new schedule we got because last year, I wasn't a fan of that. The six o' clock in the morning, I wasn't a fan of that. I think coach Bret Bielema took a note of that and everything. I feel like everybody comes out here with energy everyday and practice and stuff like that, so it's definitely a new feeling.
Losing Jonathan Casillas and DeAndre Levy from last year, do you guys feel like you are forming a new identity a little bit?
McFadden: Oh yeah definitely. Everybody knows Jonathan Casillas was definitely a dynamic duo because even before I was starting I was just watching those guys and try to learn some stuff from them. But with me, Culmer St. Jean and Blake Sorensen, we definitely are trying to get a little identity for us. We're going to wait for that during the season, but as far as right now, we are trying to get mentally and physically tough, get that toughness back that Wisconsin always used to have. Just go out there and be the team that doesn't beat ourselves. I think last year, we beat ourselves a lot just making bad mistakes and errors and stuff like that. A lot of mental errors and stuff like that like we could have been, should have been. So we just want to be mentally and physically tougher. If we do that, I think we'll be alright.
Does it get psychological at any point last year with what you were just saying?
McFadden: You could say that. There would be times where we knew where the play was coming and you knew they would fit a run. Then, like I said, they might come down in red zone and we just freak out. So you can definitely say that. I don't want to say that, but it was something. You could say a lot of stuff didn't go our way. We had bad luck and stuff like that or maybe it was just one of those seasons where it just happened to come up. Everybody had to go through it but at the same time, what don't kill you makes you stronger. It definitely made us stronger, it definitely made our minds stronger. Everybody is doing the little things that is going to help them get over the hump and that is what we are trying to do right now.
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