LINCOLN — Somewhere inside the 6-foot-3, 220-pound body of Stanley Jean-Baptiste lies the cornerback who Nebraska secondary coach Terry Joseph wants on the field every day for every play.
“Stanley is a guy who physically has all the gifts to be a great player,” the coach said. “He has the body, speed and ball skills to be a dominant corner.”
“But we've got to see it every play,” Joseph said. “When you play in our defense, you're going to be on an island out there a lot as a corner. We've got to have confidence that you're going to win.
“It's about consistency, attention to detail and a guy who needs to play up to his physical capability.”
Jean-Baptiste, a senior from Miami, has teased the Nebraska staff with his skill-set since being moved from wide receiver to corner in early fall 2011.
Three weeks after the switch, he intercepted a pass against Ohio State in Nebraska's biggest comeback victory ever, earning a game ball in the process. He got his first start the next week against Minnesota, but knee problems slowed his progress the rest of 2011.
Last season, Jean-Baptiste played in all 14 games and started five — all against Big Ten foes.
There was an interception for a touchdown against Minnesota. He had another pick that was a key in holding off Michigan. And five pass breakups against Northwestern.
Yet consistency remained a problem, which is what Jean-Baptiste is working on this spring.
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“It's going decent,” he said. “I've got to keep focusing on my technique. I've got to stay focused when I get tired.”
Joseph said he sees overall improvement from Jean-Baptiste, but wants more.
“For a guy like that,” Joseph said, “you start with, 'Hey, give me three good plays at a time.' And then the next set of three.
“Now we're trying to get him to five plays and hopefully six and then hopefully up to 10 and keep improving until we get to the first game.”
Does Jean-Baptiste, a longtime receiver who played some safety in high school and prep school, finally feel like a true cornerback now?
“You can say that,” he said. “I'm starting to like it more and more. But I'm always going to have that feeling of a receiver. Always.”
Jean-Baptiste has excelled at times in man-to-man coverage. The coaches say he needs to show similar skill in zone.
“Not only finishing in the right position,” Joseph said, “but also knowing where your help is and using your help and winning every snap.”
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