‘Sky’s the limit’ for speedy Casillas

‘Sky’s the limit’ for speedy Casillas

first_imgJonathan Casillas made his mark as a freshman last year by sparking an improbable Badger comeback versus the Minnesota Gophers with a jaw-dropping blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown.In Wisconsin’s first game this year against Bowling Green, Casillas struck again and not only blocked a punt, but recovered it for a touchdown himself as well.”I guess I’m in the right place at the right time,” Casillas said of his punt-blocking capabilities.The 6-foot-2-inch, 214-pound sophomore linebacker from New Brunswick, N.J. seems to have been in the right place at a lot of the right times so far this season, but the humble Casillas won’t take all the credit.”The coaches put together a good game plan every week and they kind of put me in the right position,” he said. “The only thing I have to do is … use my athletic ability to get to the spot.”He also credits his fellow linebackers.”We’ve got a good group of tough linebackers,” Casillas said. “Although we’re fast, I think we are tough, too. We like to come and hit.”After seeing quite a bit of action last season on special teams, as well as at reserve linebacker, Casillas has stepped into the starting role.”He got in there a little bit last year, made some big plays on special teams,” said linebacker Mark Zalewski. “Now I think he just wants to do the same on defense. He’s still been making those big plays.”Dave Doeren, co-defensive coordinator for the Badgers, feels Casillas has done well adapting from backup to starter.”He’s done a good job so far,” Doeren said. “He really enjoys playing the game.”Casillas recognizes going from special teams to starting linebacker takes mental toughness.”You come in there once every five or six plays and you get in and you go all out one play on special teams,” he said. “But [as a starter], I’m gonna be in on consecutive plays, so I gotta be able to get my mindset that if I mess up one play, the next play I can give my all and not worry about the play before it.”One of the things that have allowed him to gain a starting role has been his speed.”He’s extremely fast and athletic,” Zalewski said.”Being a fast player makes you good in about everything you do if you like hitting people,” Doeren added. “He likes to hit and he’s very fast, so that’s why he’s good on special teams and on defense.”As a student of the game, however, Casillas realizes he can’t get by on athletic talent alone, which is why he has been watching more film than Roger Ebert.”I try to go in and watch as much film as possible and talk to my coaches,” Casillas said.He acknowledges the leg-up that film gives him, preparing him for any situation he may see on the field.”It’s better to come in prepared,” Casillas said.His work habit during practice is also a reason why the sophomore linebacker has started to find the spotlight.”You always want guys who come ready to work every day, and he’s that type of guy,” Zalewski said.Casillas is not only a hard worker, but also a great teammate, according to Doeren.”He’s a team player, he’ll do anything coaches ask and he’ll do everything the players want.”Some fans may have noticed a change in Casillas’ uniform number from 46 to 2. Casillas said his father wore number 21 in his basketball days, but since that number wasn’t available, he chose 2 instead for the 2006 season.”46 wasn’t the best-looking number,” he said. “I think 2 is a good fit for me.”But no matter what number he wears on his back, Casillas is sure to be all over the field, whether it be special teams or defense.With an important game coming up next weekend against Michigan in the Big House, it would be easy for the team to overlook this week’s match-up versus San Diego State. However, Casillas and the rest of the team are focused on the task at hand.”We know it’s coming down the road,” Casillas said. “But right now, it’s Big Ten against Mountain West. That’s what we’re all focusing on right now.”As for the future, Zalewski expects to see big things from his teammate, and Doeren feels that, in Casillas’ case, “the sky’s the limit.”last_img

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