Varsity - The Official Digital Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics

Varsity - August 22, 2013

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W LUCAS AT LARGE BY MIKE LUCAS // UWBADGERS.COM Competition friendly between Caputo, Musso hile Leo Musso is from the one and only Waunakee, eight miles from Madison, Michael Caputo is from the one and only Imperial-Enlow (Pa.), 14 miles from Pittsburgh. In addition to their training camp battle for playing time at safety ― Musso was starting the first week and Caputo the second ― they have found that they have much in common. "Leo and I are good friends on and off the field," Caputo said. "First thing, we're both Italian, that's always a positive. Leo is just a cool guy; he's real laid-back, like I am. We get along." That amounted to a speech from Caputo, who's anything but longwinded. "We just think alike on about everything," said Musso, who's also short and to the point with his responses. "He's a great athlete and he's a guy I looked up to when I first stepped on to campus." Musso mentioned how Caputo was a running back in high school and has since made the transition to safety in college. "And he was right there helping me out with everything," Musso said. Caputo shrugged on what he felt was his input to Musso. "When I came in, I didn't know anything about safety," he said. "Leo came in, and he did fine. We all play hard; he plays the hardest." Nonetheless, Musso was grateful for Caputo's guidance during his own transition. At Waunakee, he broke more tackles than he made. 12 // VARSITY August 22, 2013 He finished his prep career with well over 5,000 rushing yards. Updating his status at safety ― where Michael Trotter is also in the mix for minutes in the sub-packages ― Musso said, "I always think I have a ton of room to improve both mentally and physically." How will it play out? "Whoever gets put back there is best for the spot," said Musso. But has he found his niche? "Like I said, there's always room to improve both mentally and physically." You get the idea. He would much rather talk about his Waunakee homies at this week's scrimmage ― "It's special when they can come out and watch" ― than talk about himself. Afterwards, Musso went over and greeted his mom, who was also in attendance. Caputo, a redshirt sophomore, is the same way. He's not going to pound his chest or say much when he's the topic. So it was left up to UW coach Gary Andersen to speak about him, if not for him. "I know how bad he wanted to play football," said Andersen, also knowing the rehab that Caputo went through to just get back on the field this fall "showed me his toughness and true want-to." Caputo's resiliency was first tested at West Allegheny (Pa.) High School after he broke his ankle in the first game of his senior season. It was tested again in early February to a much greater degree. Caputo had surgery for a protruding disk in his neck. Last season, when he first began experiencing the numbness in his legs, he wasn't sure where it all might lead. During his examinations, he said, "I held my breath and crossed my fingers" especially since he thought about the worst-case scenario. "Not being able to play again was always a concern," he said. Caputo had a couple of options for surgery, one of which entailed a longer recovery. It was really his only choice if it would guarantee that he would have a chance again to play the sport he loves. "I've been playing football since I was 5 years old," said Caputo, who missed all of spring ball; doctor's orders and a small price to pay, to his thinking. "I feel good right now." So does Andersen about Caputo, who was headed to linebacker before detouring to safety. "He's picked up the defense that is very complicated in the back end and done a nice job," Andersen said. Thus far, Andersen has identified Caputo, Musso and Trotter as the complementary safeties alongside of senior Dez Southward, who's also slated to be utilized as a nickel back in some packages. The Badgers may travel with six safeties. "It's a true testament to all the athletes we have at the safety positions," said Musso, a redshirt freshman. "A lot of guys can play a lot of different positions." Just getting back on the field excites Caputo, who started one game at safety last season. "It's just about playing football," he said, not needing to explain.

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