December 17, 2008

Hubbard uses redshirt to grow mentally

MADISON, Wis. - As is the case with many areas of the defense, the Wisconsin linebacker unit will lose a couple key starters following the bowl game against Florida State. With that in mind, freshman linebacker Leonard Hubbard hopes to contribute at the position in the near future. recently caught up with the Illinois native. The following is a question and answer with Hubbard:

Just going through your first full season as a collegiate player, how would you say it went for you?

Hubbard: It went great, it went great. I redshirted this year and got a year under my belt and learned the speed of the game, learned the defense. It's definitely different than high school, a lot of aspects to it.

Looking back at the redshirt, was that tough for you at all?

Hubbard: At first it was because I go from playing to scout team and it was very tough. But you know, I just looked at it like you need to learn. You got to learn, get a year under my belt and see what I can do next year.

Is that approach one you had to force yourself to take or is that just how it kind of developed?

Hubbard: I kind of had to force myself, but one I thought about it, I talked to my parents about it, they just said maybe that's the best thing for you having four more years, compete and do the things out there that they know I can do and everyone else knows I can do.

What can you say you've learned from some of the older guys like Jonathan Casillas or DeAndre Levy?

Hubbard: Just good work ethic, how to play hard and play not only with physicality but my mind and mental things. That was one of my biggest things, messing up mentally. Learning from those guys, those are great teachers.

Did they kind of take you under their wing and kind of show you the way?

Hubbard: Oh yeah, first week Jonathan Casillas came up to me and was like, 'I saw what you can do, we think you're really nice.' They really opened up to me with open arms.

Going back to fall camp to where you are today, where have you improved the most?

Hubbard: Oh man, you know, probably just like I said, mentally. Just learning the game, there are so many things that you have to learn from high school to college. You don't really think that you have to know, especially what you do in coverage's and everything else, but I think that was probably my biggest thing.

Would you say you are completely comfortable with the playbook right now?

Hubbard: You know, I would like to say yes, but no. I don't think anybody is totally comfortable. I think I have a good handle on it, a good handle on it.

Just looking towards the future, a lot of those linebackers are seniors and won't be here next year. What are your goals moving into spring practice?

Hubbard: Right now I'm just taking it day by day, just trying to learn the playbook and do well academically. Academics always come first. We'll see what happens in spring ball. Hopefully I can step in and play a big role next year.

Have the coaches been saying anything about what your role will be?

Hubbard: No, not really. It's always competition. You always got to earn your spots. It's kind of up to me, you know, I got to earn my spot on this team.

I know you won't be playing, but how exciting is that just to get out of Wisconsin and get down to Florida for the bowl game?

Hubbard: Oh, well yeah, I've actually never been to Florida. It's definitely going to be a fun trip for me to go to Florida. We're going down there to win not just to go.

Is it kind of exciting when you play a team like Florida State though?

Hubbard: You grow up and you always hear about the Florida's, the Florida State's. Just to be on the same field as them is going to be an honor, not only playing but everything.

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