Published Sunday, September 8, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 10:23 am
FOOTBALL
Tough spring talk spurred Husker CB Jean-Baptiste to improve
UCLA at Nebraska
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium
TV: ABC
When: 1110 AM KFAB

LINCOLN — After Nebraska concluded its spring practices five months ago, senior cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste sat in a meeting room with two no-nonsense coaches, listening to them list his flaws.

Bo Pelini and Terry Joseph didn't hold back, either. For Jean-Baptiste to reach his potential, they said, he had work to do — and it had little to do with his physical ability.

It appears Jean-Baptiste got the message.

Through two games, he's been perhaps the Huskers' most impactful defender, intercepting two passes, breaking up three others and making a few stops near the line of scrimmage.

The transformation may have started with that post-spring talk.

“When you have conversations like that with players, they're not the most pleasant conversations because it's constructive criticism,” Joseph said. “A tribute to him is that he took what we told him and he went to work.”

Now Jean-Baptiste is reading receivers and making mid-play assumptions about his guy's route — which is how he baited the quarterback and intercepted the game's second pass in a 56-13 win Saturday.

Two receivers went deep on the play, so based on the route combinations that Jean-Baptiste remembered from film study, he presumed his man would cut off his pattern after about 5 yards. He was right. The touchdown return was the second of his career.

Jean-Baptiste's interception against Wyoming during the Huskers' season opener was another example of his mental growth. He followed his man on a crossing route until a teammate, playing in Nebraska's matchup zone, took over. That allowed Jean-Baptiste to float — and since he knew what the Cowboys liked to run, he dropped to the deep middle and found the football.

“(It's) just putting in the extra work in the offseason, studying film and getting more comfortable,” Jean-Baptiste said.

Exactly what the coaches told him to do, among other things.

There was a time — as recent as last season — that the Huskers could use Jean-Baptiste only as a man-to-man corner. He was limited by a lack of familiarity with the NU scheme and opponents' tendencies. Playing hard every snap was once an issue, too. The coaches wondered if there were too many moments that he wasn't quite emotionally plugged in.

But growing pains were expected of the former receiver who moved to cornerback midway through his sophomore year. Jean-Baptiste has settled in now.

“He's a true cornerback,” defensive coordinator John Papuchis said.

And he's making a difference for a young Nebraska defense that is still trying to define roles.

Against Wyoming, while the rest of the defense was trying to get lined up as the ball was snapped, Jean-Baptiste fought through a block and sniffed out a bubble screen on third down. He made a similar stop against Southern Miss.

Jean-Baptiste certainly still has room to improve, but he's an example of dedication paying off, Joseph said.

“When you put in the work,” the coach said, “you're going to get the benefits of your work.”

* * *

Video: Sam McKewon breaks down the Southern Miss game:



Video: NU coach Bo Pelini after the Southern Miss game:



Video: NU's Taylor Martinez after the Southern Miss game:



Video: NU's Josh Banderas after the Southern Miss game:



Video: NU's Randy Gregory after the Southern Miss game:

Contact the writer: Jon Nyatawa

jon.nyatawa@owh.com    |   402-473-9585    |  

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football and baseball, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008.

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