SEC speed has been a pervasive storyline as Wisconsin preps for LSU, but the Badgers' freshmen are remaining confident.
MADISON -- Much has been made about LSU and its team speed leading up to Saturday’s season-opener vs. Wisconsin. Some Badgers have said they don’t pay attention to the hype, while others -- like freshman strong safety Lubern Figaro -- admitted some feelings of disrespect.
Figaro, a true freshman, has yet to play a Division I football down, but he expressed confidence Wednesday with his comments about the familiar Big Ten vs. SEC comparisons, as well as how he thinks Wisconsin stacks up against LSU.
"You should feel disrespected," Figaro said when asked if he feels disrespected by all the attention paid toward the SEC. "We all know the Big Ten is better than the SEC."
The 6'0 safety from Everett, Massachusetts, said he isn’t worried about LSU’s speed on offense in preparing for Saturday.
"We match their speed," Figaro said. "We are way more physical than them. This is Wisconsin."
Figaro's confidence isn't unfounded. Despite not playing football until his freshman year of high school, he finished his career at Everett with 117 tackles, nine sacks, seven interceptions and three high school state titles.
Since arriving in Madison, Figaro has placed an emphasis on studying film and learning from Wisconsin's veterans within the safety group, especially starting free safety Michael Caputo and his backup, senior Peniel Jean.
Earlier in the week, Caputo -- widely pegged as the leader of the secondary now that Dezmen Southward is playing in the NFL -- said that Figaro is "a fiery player. He can go in and make plays. He’s a play-maker."
As for his own work preparing for his freshman season, Figaro credited some teammates on the other side of the ball for providing a rigorous test. Facing running backs Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement every day in practice, Figaro said, made a significant impact on his learning curve.
"They’re the best two running backs in the country, so they’re going to make you work," Figaro said. "You just have to adjust to them."
Chikwe Obasih, the other freshman aside from Figaro listed as a starter on Wisconsin's depth chart, was much more understated when speaking about his expectations for Saturday's game. After a strong spring, Obasih secured a starting defensive end spot despite redshirting last season.
"It’s my first college game. I have to make sure that I bring the right intensity," Obasih said. "It’s nothing like high school. It’s nothing like practice, so I got to be able to crank it up higher."
The defensive end said that playing in an NFL stadium doesn’t change his preparation, but he does want to end up playing there one day. Obasih mentioned that he hasn’t paid much attention to what is being said about LSU.
"I don’t pay attention to what is being said about them. All I know is that we are a fast, athletic group of people. We take care of business."
Obasih acknowledged that the defensive line is smaller than in years past, but thinks that it will pay dividends for the Badgers throughout the season. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has spoken throughout the offseason about a desire to make UW's defense smaller, quicker and more versatile.
"[Our size] does play to our advantage," Obasih said. "How we’ve come around with technique as a defensive line, we will be ready with the way we are."
Trotter not worried about LSU’s speed, focusing on staying calm
Redshirt senior linebacker Marcus Trotter talked about how important staying true to his own assignments will be crucial to the performance of Wisconsin's defense.
Trotter is leaning on advice from former UW standout and current San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland to prepare. Behind Borland the past three seasons, Trotter appeared in just 14 games and got his first start last year against Iowa, where he had nine tackles (1.5 for loss).
LSU’s speed and athleticism is not a concern of his for Saturday's game.
"We understand. That’s what the south is, speed," Trotter explained, "We are not worried about that. They can have as much speed as they want. It doesn’t mean they are going to win the game."
Trotter said that Wisconsin's defense focusing on holding its own will be key to winning the game. He attributes much of that preparation for LSU to having a team that can mirror what the Tigers do in practice every day.
"It makes us a lot better, "Trotter said. "Their o-line is very similar to Wisconsin in terms of size, speed and footwork," Trotter said. "That’s part of the reason a lot of SEC defenses aren’t used to that is because their offensive line isn’t as big, so they can’t really prep like we can prep."
Trotter said that what he lacks in experience, he can make up for with the lessons he's learned from watching Borland.
"I have been ever since redshirt freshman year, but its always been in a blowout," Trotter said. "Chris would always tell me whenever he got hurt and I would step in to just be calm. If you just go out there with confidence, everything will slow down."