MADISON – It’s far from a secret that a prominent portion of last season’s defensive production can be credited to an elite secondary. Apart from the occasional deep ball, Wisconsin’s defensive backs were among the best in the nation. With the likes of Natrell Jamerson, Derrick Tindal, Lubern Figaro, Joe Ferguson and Nick Nelson setting their eyes on NFL futures, next season’s secondary is on pace to be completely overhauled. However, as is characteristic of college football squads, change is inevitable. But more importantly, change is manageable.
I got a chance to catch up with three young defenders dripping with potential, all of whom feel this year’s squad won’t show any signs of regression.
Deron Harrell, a 6’2″ freshman CB out of Denver, Colorado emphasized above all else how willing this group was to learn whatever’s asked of them. Harrell would be one to talk, as he’s more or less new to the CB position, and can be found working on honing his footwork and building physicality well after practice has concluded. Harrell let me know that extra effort is motivated by his unshakeable desire to adapt to the speed and strength characteristic at the college level. Harrell believes his length sets him apart from other corners, saying there weren’t many 6’2″ corners out there — he believes those physical traits will be invaluable to this year’s unit.
Caesar Williams, another lengthy, speedy CB echoes Harrell, saying his optimism about this year is high, but not unrealistic.
“I don’t think we’re gonna lose a step,” he said. “I think we’re gonna shock a lot of guys this year.”
Williams highlighted how working alongside such elite receivers makes his job at practice that much more challenging. But with that challenge comes inevitable growth. With in-game consequences removed from the equation, each DB is free to make mistakes, but more importantly, each DB is free to learn from such moments.
With the considerable talent on Wisconsin’s receiving corps, Williams finds he’s got all the challenge he’ll need right here in Madison.
“I think we’ve got some of the best receivers in the nation,” he said. “If I can guard [Quintez Cephus] I can guard anybody.”
Williams isn’t in it for the personal glory, however. He repeated that he firmly believes this year’s unit is balanced enough to match up against whichever offensive weapons stand in their path. His mindset is simple, it doesn’t matter who’s matched up with the best opposing receiver, that receiver is in for a hell of a 60 minutes.
Madison Cone, a sophomore CB out of Kernersville, North Carolina, doesn’t boast the raw physical attributes that his teammates are privileged enough to benefit from. At 5’9″, Cone’s always been undersized, saying being overlooked is nothing new to him. And yet, his confidence is blossoming, quoting his favorite proverb to keep level-headed.
“It’s not the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog,” he said.
Cone believes his competitiveness and passion are just as important as his production. When asked about what he brings to this secondary, he was straightforward — passion.
“Come game day, no one’s gonna compete more than me,” he said.
These three growing talents paint a clear picture of their collective goals as a team. Regardless of personnel losses, this group values consistency and continued domination above all else. They face plenty to learn and have ample room to grow, but come game time, expectations based on last year’s production won’t plague them. They have their own agenda — to shut down opponents, just like last year.
Photo courtesy of Badger 247 Sports