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October 12, 2011

Jean-Baptiste a natural fit at cornerback

It took less than two weeks for Stanley Jean-Baptiste to show what defensive coordinator Carl Pelini had been hoping for the past two years.

After coming to Nebraska as a receiver from Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College in 2010, Jean-Baptiste made an unexpected move to cornerback two weeks ago following the Huskers' win over Wyoming.

The change was done mutually both so the Miami, Fla., native could have a better chance at seeing playing time and NU's coaches could add some size and physicality to a relatively undersized position.

While all parties thought the move would be for the better, no one expected Jean-Baptiste to do what he did on Saturday against Ohio State.

With the game tied at 27-27 and a little less than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the sophomore made a spectacular one-on-one play and snatched a Joe Bauserman pass out of the air for a game-changing interception.

The Huskers then went right down and scored the go-ahead touchdown on the next possession and never looked back.

"I know I gave up a pass before then, and they just told me to keep my head up," Jean-Baptiste said. "I knew they were coming back at me, and when (OSU receiver Chris Fields) threw his hand up I looked back and saw the ball. I just had to make a play on it."

That kind of play was exactly what Carl and head coach Bo Pelini had been imagining from the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jean-Baptiste. He was a standout safety back at Miami Central High School, hauling in six interceptions and two touchdown returns his senior year.

When he moved from receiver to corner two weeks ago, Jean-Baptiste said he always felt more comfortable on the defensive side of the ball. Fortunately, his coaches thought so too.

"I've said before, I'd been begging for him for two years," Carl Pelini said. "I just thought he'd be a great cover corner. We were a little nervous, but when he went in there we were just smart in how we used him and what we called. We didn't put too much on him, let him use his talents, let him press cover and it worked. We look like we're halfway smart sometimes."

Because Jean-Baptiste had only been working at cornerback for two weeks, Bo Pelini said NU had to scaled back its defense a bit to keep from overwhelming him on Saturday. As he continues to grow at the position, Bo Pelini said Jean-Baptiste could be exactly what the Huskers need at the position over the next few years.

"We moved him there because we thought he could be good there, so we're not surprised by it," Bo Pelini said. "I'm happy for him. Obviously we were hoping we could take a little but more time, but we needed him, he stepped up, and he did what we thought he was capable of doing. If we were surprised by it, we wouldn't have made the move in the first place."

With two weeks to prepare for Nebraska's next game at Minnesota on Oct. 22, Jean-Baptiste should continue to get reps with the first-team defense in practice. Considering the Huskers have had five different starters at cornerback in the first six games, it's not that far off to assume he'll be right in the mix for a starting job against Gophers.

In fact, Bo Pelini said just as much.

"Yeah, I think so," Bo Pelini said when asked if Jean-Baptiste could potentially start next game. "That's why we moved him in the first place. We wouldn't have moved him if we didn't think he could make a significant difference on our football team."



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