December 19, 2009

Fenton embraces competition at linebacker

MADISON - If you were to take a look at the Wisconsin roster, it would not take long to notice a long list of players at the linebacker position. For A.J. Fenton, the competition within the unit is something he enjoys.

At the conclusion of a recent practice, caught up with the freshman. The following is a question and answer with Fenton.

Just talk about how the season has gone for you and your development.

Fenton: This season has been big. I've been on scout team all year and that helped a lot never playing linebacker before. Just getting technique down and starting to learn what you're supposed to do, seeing run and seeing pass plays. I mean it's helped.

Do you see yourself kind of getting into the fold at linebacker?

Fenton: Yeah, definitely. The last couple of days we've been running a bunch of developmental stuff. I'm starting to get it. I'm starting to see it and I'm starting to realize that technique is going to help you no matter what. I mean, athleticism helps, but technique is going to take you even farther. The last couple of days have been really helpful.

Is that something that you just take repetition with. It probably takes a little while to get used to.

Fenton: Well there's a mentality that you have as a linebacker, where you're going to get the ball instead of playing quarterback and running back and running away from the guys trying to get you. So you kind of got to flip your mind around into a more aggressive and more I want the ball, I want to go get it and I'm going to tackle this guy kind of thing. It's been a tough switch, but scout team has definitely helped in getting me to a point where I can actually use the technique and do the things correctly.

You played quarterback and running back I'm assuming in high school. Do you use that to your advantage as a linebacker and kind of go through their thought process?

Fenton: Definitely because you start to know somewhat of what the offense wants to do and what their goals are. Kind of when they lineup in certain things, you've got a hunch of what's going on and stuff like that when they make certain calls. It's definitely an advantage. I don't know how much of an advantage, but it helps a little bit.

Where do they have you playing linebacker? Are they kind of moving you around or do they have you set somewhere?

Fenton: Yeah, they're kind of moving us around. I mean, everybody is moving around with the younger guys just because a certain guy will play the middle and then you'll go to the outside and then another guy will come in and you'll flip to the other side. So they're kind of flipping us around which is good because you want to know both so you have a higher opportunity to play.

Do they have you playing the middle at all?

Fenton: Not as of late, no.

Did they earlier?

Fenton: During fall camp and a little bit on scout team during the first couple of weeks, but that was it.

Now obviously in bowl prep you are doing some Wisconsin vs. Wisconsin stuff. Is that fun?

Fenton: It's starting to be fun. Scout team is scout team. You go down there, you help the team and you do what you can. But when you actually start to playing football and start doing what you do on the football field, it becomes a whole different world. I mean, it starts to really become fun.

Is this kind of a start to next year? I mean, obviously you guys have a game that you're trying to win and you're focusing on that, but is this kind of the start for the next season?

Fenton: For the younger guys, definitely. We're doing a lot of scout team stuff with our No. 1's and No. 2's, but we always break it down at the end in the developmental. I think for the younger guys, it's kind of getting into the beginning of next season trying to get ready for spring ball where we can compete for jobs and help the team out as much as possible.

What are your expectations moving forward into winter conditioning and what are you trying to do come spring ball?

Fenton: Spring ball, I'd like to compete and just get on the field. Whether that be two deep or first team, I would just like to be able to contribute. In the weight room for winter conditioning, just get stronger, bigger, faster and all that kind of stuff.

Do you feel like you are putting yourself in a position to be able to compete?

Fenton: Definitely. These past couple of days the confidence levels have been up. I'm starting to see things better, I'm starting to know what I'm doing a little bit better so definitely.

You look at this team, and this is kind of an in general statement, but there are a lot of seniors that make a pretty good impact. But when you look at the makeup of this team, it's a lot of young guys. You guys are doing some things, winning nine games, almost 10 games. That's got to be exciting moving forward, with you being a part of it?

Fenton: I think coach Brett Bielema said the other day that we're like the fifth youngest team in college football. That's exciting for the young guys because we're growing up with them and we're eventually going to be one of the oldest teams in college football. I mean that in itself is pretty exciting especially having nine wins right now.

Do you talk about that with your classmates so to speak?

Fenton: I mean, yeah, we'll mingle about 'we're going to do this in the future or we're going to do that in the future.' But we're pretty focused on the now and what's going on and trying to get to a point where we're playing at the same level as older guys and we're just working.

What have you learned from some of the older guys just in general like Jaevery McFadden or Culmer St. Jean?

Fenton: Or even Chris Borland. You learn from watching them, you learn from their technique and what they're doing, how to make plays. You know what not to do sometimes. It's been a whole lot of help especially talking to them and picking their brains a little bit. 'Hey, what do you do here or what do you do there?'

Is it pretty competitive among the linebackers? There's a stable of linebackers on this team.

Fenton: There's a lot of them and it's pretty competitive. But that's at every position and that's what you're going to get at such a high level of football. You're going to get competition everywhere. I think that's why everybody came here. They want competition and they want to be the best they can be and they want to get on the field.

Are you set at linebacker? Do you feel like they're not going to move you around at all?

Fenton: I don't think they're going to move me around. You never know, but I feel pretty set there, I feel pretty confident there right now. So I hope they don't move me.

Did you add any weight or anything during the season?

Fenton: Actually, about 15 pounds since I've been here. I'm about 220 right now.

Is that where you want to be? Are you looking to bigger?

Fenton:. I'm thinking 10 more pounds would be good.

Is that over a certain period of time or just by the time you're done here?

Fenton: Well, hopefully by next fall if not this spring. But who knows.

The following is the audio file from Fenton's interview:
Fenton, Bowl Prep Q&A

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