MADISON -- The reason for Jakarrie Washington's dismissal from Wisconsin's football team remains unknown -- other than that he violated team rules -- but the Badgers' freshman cornerback still has plenty of support from his teammates.
Fellow UW cornerbacks discussed Washington after Thursday's practice, praising his potential and his continued effort to finish the academic semester strong.
"He grew a lot from the summer, and I feel like he's going to be a great player," cornerback Peniel Jean said. "But things weren't going his way and coaches saw different things. I guess they had to do what they had to do and release him.
"It definitely hurts. We never want to see a player leave once they come here because it's a family. We still support him so that he can finish off the year strong academically."
Another true freshman cornerback, Sojourn Shelton, has a class with Washington and said the 5'9, 180-pounder from Everett, Mass., has handled the situation well.
Shelton also said the coaching staff addressed the situation once the decision was made to dismiss Washington.
"Our coaches approached us about it, talked to us about it," Shelton said. "The whole thing was, because he's still here on campus, just to be there for him. He's going to need us. And just to make sure we were there for him in a positive way."
Washington, a 2013 three-star prospect based on 247 Sports' composite rankings, played in 11 games this season and recorded 10 tackles. He was one of two true freshmen in the Badgers' secondary, along with Shelton, to crack the two-deep depth chart in their first year on campus.
"He's a very talented player, someone that had a lot of potential," Shelton said. "I knew he was going to be pretty darn good. He's good now, but as far as getting experience and getting out on the field a lot more and getting comfortable, I knew he was going to grow.
"Just not having him out there is tough, and he's somebody that would definitely be able to help us in the future, but some things just don't work out."
Wisconsin's offensive line has led the Badgers to the eighth-best rushing attack in the country this season and only allowed 15 sacks, 13 less than a year ago.
The group also hasn't seen a player quite like South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney this season, someone almost certainly in line to become a top-five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
"He demands your attention," Wisconsin offensive line coach T.J. Woods said. "He's earned that right for us to account for him on every play where he's on the field. Bottom line is you've still got to block him."
Blocking Clowney will play a big factor in the Badgers avoiding a two-game losing streak to end the season and getting a bowl victory for the first time since 2009.
Woods said the Gamecocks will move Clowney around the defensive line at times, but left tackle Tyler Marz expects to line up against him for the majority of the game.
"You've just got to stick to your technique, trust what the coaches have taught you," Marz said. "You don't have to do anything special, out of the ordinary, but you definitely have to be on your game, too. You can't have an off game and expect to do well against a guy who's this good."
Rooting for a conference during bowl season isn't something reserved just for fans.
Many of the Badgers' players will be rooting for other Big Ten teams to represent the conference well over the next month.
"Definitely want to go out and win for the Big Ten, and we all want to see the Big Ten teams win," Jean said. "All Big Ten teams, including Ohio State and Michigan State. Even though it's like a rivalry playing against them, I want to see them win so that the Big Ten can get back on top and so that we can have our respect."
Personal relationships also play a role. Shelton said he's friends with Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard. Shelton and Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier also both attended Plantation High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The Badgers have perhaps the Big Ten's most important task, though. They're the ones playing an SEC team, the conference most consider to be the best in college football.
"You always hear, ‘SEC this. SEC that,'" Shelton said. "For us to go out there and get a chance to play a quality SEC team -- the two games they lost they could have easily won -- just to go out there and play a great team like that, it'll be big for us to win for the conference, and it'll be big for us to win here at Wisconsin. Recruits, it could help out with a lot of things and a lot of places. I think it's pretty big for us to get this W."
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