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2018 Wisconsin cornerbacks preview: Who will replace Nick Nelson, Derrick Tindal?

Dontye Carriere-Williams and a few younger defensive backs will have an opportunity.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin’s 2018 Cornerbacks

2018 Spring CB 2018 Eligibility
2018 Spring CB 2018 Eligibility
Dontye Carriere-Williams R-SO
Madison Cone SO
Faion Hicks R-FR
Caesar Williams R-SO
Christian Volpentesta R-SO
Deron Harrell R-FR
Kobe Knaak R-SO
Donte Burton FR

*Note: The 2018 spring roster was released on March 12, so we have updated this table to note the roster changes.

2017 Leaders

Dontye Carriere-Williams (30 tackles, one interception, six pass break-ups)
Nick Nelson (35 tackles, one tackle for loss, 21 pass break-ups, one punt return for a touchdown)
Derrick Tindal (28 tackles, one tackle for loss, two interceptions, 10 pass break-ups)

Who’s Leaving

Lubern Figaro
Nick Nelson
Derrick Tindal

Early Enrollees

Donte Burton

Key Additions

Travian Blaylock
Alexander Smith
Rachad Wildgoose, Jr.

Position Overview

With the loss of both starting corners heading into the 2018 season, Wisconsin will need to fill the two positions left by All-Big Ten cornerbacks Nick Nelson (consensus first-team) and Derrick Tindal (consensus honorable mention).

The Badgers’ pass defense ranked fourth in the NCAA in 2017, with 160.6 yards allowed through the air per game. In order for Wisconsin’s defense to continue its prowess in the defensive passing lanes, young corners will need to step up and fill those starting spots.

Namely, Dontye Carriere-Williams and a slew of other young players—notably redshirt sophomore Caesar Williams, true sophomore Madison Cone, and redshirt freshman Faion Hicks.

Carriere-Williams was the third cornerback last year in Wisconsin’s nickel package and played in all 14 games for the Badgers. The South Florida native and St. Thomas Aquinas product is the most experienced player at the position, so more will be asked of him heading into the season.

Cone saw action in nine games as a true freshman, registering one tackle and contributing a pass break-up late in Wisconsin’s 34–24 win over Miami in the Orange Bowl.

Williams will be in his third year in the program, while Hicks enrolled early and was set to participate in spring ball only to be sidelined with a shoulder injury during that time. He later redshirted.

In late December, defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard spoke with reporters and gave his thoughts on those cornerbacks. B5Q highlighted Leonhard’s biggest quotes after the Orange Bowl win:

On Carriere-Williams:

“Secondary-wise, obviously Dontye Carriere-Williams has had a great year for us as our third guy [cornerback], and now he’s got to take the next step and become a leader in that room and really on and off the room.”

On Cone:

“Madison Cone is a guy that’s impressed me all year just with his approach to the game. He’s a very mature kid that understands football and wants to get better. Anytime you have that, it’s great.”

On Hicks:

“Faion Hicks, loved what he’s done once he’s been able to get healthy. He’s extremely athletic and he’s hungry. He had some injury issues early where he’s just fighting back, and just his approach, I think he’s got a chance to be very good in this program.”

On Williams:

“Caesar, I think has figured out who he is on the field and he needs a big offseason to physically get where he needs to be to really help this team, but I think he’s close.”

Incoming freshman Donte Burton enrolled early and will take advantage of the 15 spring practices starting next week in hopes of building momentum toward earning playing time, potentially opposite Carriere-Williams.

If it is confirmed that Deron Harrell moves to cornerback, that only adds more depth to the position group until the likes of incoming freshmen Travian Blaylock, Alexander Smith, and Rachad Wilgoose, Jr., arrive for summer conditioning.