MADISON, Wis. - With the regular starter Jay Valai recovers from his off-season sports hernia surgery, fellow safety Aubrey Pleasant has seen plenty of reps with the No. 1 defense this spring. As a former starter himself, Pleasant has used his time with the starters to focus in on, and hone his own skills as the practice schedule progresses.
Following a recent practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with Pleasant. The following is a question and answer with the safety as he goes through his final spring season.
About two weeks into spring practice, how is it getting the football juices flowing yet again?
Pleasant: It feels good to get back into the flow of things. Sometimes people don't realize that we're doing a lot of conditioning before we actually get to go into spring ball. So you just work on the conditioning side of it and not so much the physical football side of it, so it feels good to get back into the flow of things.
Talk about that some more. With the new seven-week strength and conditioning program serving as a second summer of sorts, how did you like that?
Pleasant: I enjoyed it. It was different it was a change. Sometimes change is good so I enjoyed it.
Did you add weight or gain bulk at all?
Pleasant: No, I don't want to gain more weight. I want to stay lean and want to gain more muscle mass. My weight is pretty much the same, around 203 or 204, but that's where I wanted to play.
I see you out there with the first team, how does it feel to be back out there with the starters?
Pleasant: To be honest with you, I really don't pay that much attention to it. I just go out there and play my game. Obviously, to be good at this level, when you're out there no matter who the guys you're playing with, you have to play the same. So, it just gives me an opportunity to go out there and be able to make plays.
Would you characterize yourself as a physical player?
Pleasant: Always have been. In this game either you're going to get hit or you're going to hit somebody. That's how it is every play. Somebody's either getting punished, or they're punishing somebody.
Does that ever come back to bite you sometimes? Maybe you go for the big hit and miss the tackle?
Pleasant: That's one thing you have to be careful with. You can't always go for the big hit. A lot of times, the big hit is not the best tackle to make. Sometimes those ankle tackles aren't the tackles you have to make in the open field.
Is it hard to hold yourself back?
Pleasant: In division one football, it's definitely hard. It's definitely hard to hold yourself back because a lot of times that big hit can cause a fumble, can get the crowd going, can get the team going. But, at the same time, if you miss that tackle as a defensive back, it can be a touchdown. So I think, that's like you said, every other position is different. The d-line makes a mistake, it goes to the linebackers. The linebackers make a mistake it goes to us. If we make a mistake, the band is playing.
Talking about the physicality, (at the time of the interview) you guys aren't tackling, is that tougher to hold up in practice?
Pleasant: When you can't tackle, it is more difficult because you can't always get the full game speed and the game understanding. But at the same time, it's very very smart to do that because our bodies can't take that pounding. We're already practicing and conditioning year round. Even in the off-season, there really isn't an off-season. But at the same time, when you do have those times to go full contact, you use those to the best of your ability because you get the game speed.
You talked a little while ago about how it doesn't really matter who you are playing with, but what are your expectations for the spring? And have the coaches said it was pretty open back there at the safety spot?
Pleasant: To be honest with you, I really don't have any expectations. Like I said, I'm just going out there and I'm just playing my game. I'm just trying to make the people around me better because at the end of the day, whoever produces the most is going to be on the field.
Through the first few practices, have any of the wide receivers stood out to you?
Pleasant: Everybody is doing real well. I like seeing them because they are getting more experience. A lot of the guys were really really young last year and all of them are really doing a good job.
I know Aaron Henry is back, do you guys have a little more of a swagger when he is out on the field?
Pleasant: Anytime you have people on the field that actually played in games, I give them more respect than people who actually haven't. Not saying that the other people that haven't played in games, can't play to that caliber, but nobody really understands how it is playing in front of 80,000 fans, when the stadium is rocking, third and nine. When you have that experience, it brings something else to the table.
How do you like the depth of this secondary in general?
Pleasant: A lot. I don't like the depth as much as I would like to be on the field a lot more, but at the same time in order to make it through a Big Ten season, you have to have depth being realistic.
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