As Wisconsin’s season-opening clash with LSU looms ever closer, Badger of Honor continues an in-depth preview of each position for the 2014 Badgers.
Where some wiggle room still exists for the safeties, Wisconsin’s starting cornerbacks appear set in stone.
Sojourn Shelton returns as the clear-cut No. 1 starter at cornerback.
A highly-touted recruit, Shelton lived up to the billing as a true freshman last season, playing his way to honorable mention All-Big Ten honors after amassing 30 tackles, four defended passes and four interceptions in 2013.
What’s even more impressive about Shelton’s freshman campaign was his ability to bounce back after some roughness early on.
Following the Arizona State debacle, a game that Shelton picked up three penalties in and looked every bit a true freshman, Shelton told the Journal Sentinel that the player who showed up that game was not the true Sojourn Shelton.
“I’m looking forward to show that I’ve grown up because that was one of the most immature moments that I’ve had here. Everybody has been saying how mature I’ve been. That was one of those freshman moments,” Shelton said after the loss. “I’m ready to get back and prove that it won’t happen again.”
Prove it he did.
Shelton went on to have a stellar 2013 campaign, as evidenced by a 2014 Preseason First Team All-Big Ten selection by Sporting News and a third team selection by Phil Steele.
The sophomore will line up opposite experienced junior Darius Hillary, who has 27 games under his belt and started all 13 games last season.
Hillary did a little bit of everything last season, recording 30 tackles and picking up a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, five defended passes and an interception.
Hillary – at 5-foot-11 – brings more height to the table than Shelton – 5-foot-9 – although Shelton hasn’t let his height hold him back.
The duo will help solidify the Badgers defensive backfield that will face several big-name receivers this season in Big Ten play – Stefon Diggs (Maryland), Kenny Bell (Nebraska), and the Jones duo (not related) of Tony and Christian out of Northwestern.
Behind the starters, redshirt junior Devin Gaulden has had a nice off-season after struggling with knee injuries two years ago and missing the entirety of last season. Despite his junior status, his injuries have held him out of all but 10 games in his career.
A healthy Gaulden will be in the mix with surprise freshman D’Cota Dixon for playing time, as well as 2013 returnees Dare Ogunbowale (redshirt sophomore), T.J. Reynard (junior, JUCO transfer in 2013), and Terrance Floyd (redshirt junior).
CB1: Sojourn Shelton
CB2: Darius Hillary