September 11, 2008

McFadden adjusting well to new role

MADISON, Wis - Junior Jaevery McFadden is the as far away from being shy as one can possibly be . Maybe that's why the move to middle linebacker, one where communication is essential, has gone as smooth as it has. After the opening two games, the former outside linebacker leads the team with 20 tackles, nine more than the next closest.

When a play is in progress, McFadden is all over the field much like a missile locked on to its target. His speed and athleticism, primary reasons for moving him to the middle, allows him to close in on his opponents even when he is not in the correct spot. Still, for the outgoing McFadden, the quick start to his season has him in awe of his play.

"I mean, hard work did pay off," McFadden said. "To be honest with you, I didn't think I would be off to a quick start like this, but I can't complain. I'm just trying to go with the flow."

A season ago, Elijah Hodge anchored the mike position. However, lingering knee issues slowed him down to the point where the UW coaching staff wanted to go with a faster force in the middle. With eight of the 12 teams on the schedule incorporating aspects of the spread, the move made sense.

"I think last year they said it was a void at the mike spot," senior Jonathan Casillas said. "He's (McFadden) stepping up, he's playing great, he's making great tackles, great third down plays, and big plays. That's what we need at that position."

Position coach Randall McCray is just as impressed with his speed.

"He's one of the guys," he said. "He's not always right, but he's quick enough and he's got that suddenness, that burst. He can make himself right pretty quick."

Against Marshall, one play stood out. Early in the second half, after Niles Brinkley had already set up a Badger score following his first interception, McFadden found a seam up the middle, dove over the running back attempting to block him, and made contact with the quarterback on their ensuing possession.

At the time, it looked like a fumble was forced, DeAndre Levy picked up the ball and rumbled down inside the Marshall 10 yard-line. After a review, the play was reversed and ruled incomplete, but it showed the athleticism the new middle linebacker brings to the table. Oh yeah, a couple plays later Shane Carter intercepted a pass and the route was on.

"I've been doing that since high school," McFadden said. "I'm just trying to get to the ball anyway I can. I put my body on the line, it hurts when you hit the ground, but it is what it is.

"I just put my body on the line and just try to get that sack or that pressure just to add that extra second or extra energy to get to the quarterback to make something happen. That's what I'm trying to do."

For McFadden, making plays and tackling does not seem to be his problem. Perhaps the toughest transition he has had to make is as a communicator on the field. At the outside linebacker position, there are not many calls that have to be made, but in the middle, that player is basically the quarterback of the defense.

"Being outside backer you got a couple calls here and there," McFadden said. "Some plays you don't got to say nothing, just listen to the mike. That's something that I had to get used to, just talking every play and opening my mouth every play to make sure everybody lined up.

"I think I am getting comfortable for that right now."

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