It is difficult to replace a three year starter but Derrick Tindal faces the challenge of filling in for the now departed Darius Hillary, who started 41 games (54 total games) in his Wisconsin career. Although it will be difficult to replace that experience, Tindal possesses plenty of experience himself. Having played in 24 games in his first two years and making five of his seven career starts last year, Tindal’s role has evolved throughout his time in Madison. After serving as the team’s starting nickel cornerback last season, Tindal is expected to take the next step in his career and become a starter opposite Sojourn Shelton.
Stats: 32 tackles (18 solo), 0.5 tackle for loss, five pass breakups and two quarterback hurries in 2015.
Strengths: Tindal is confident in his play on the field and with his technique, as he’s known from a young age how to read and cover a wide receiver. Tindal made his presence felt during the four nonconference games last year by leading Wisconsin’s secondary with 18 tackles, including combining for 15 in back-to-back weeks against Troy and Miami (OH). With Tindal’s technique improving, it should allow him to be able to make more plays when the football is in the air.
Weaknesses: Tindal is improving as a player but he could become more physical at the snap of the ball to prevent being beaten off the line of scrimmage, a problem that popped up at times last year. The junior has the ability to play closer to the line of scrimmage and play bump-and-run coverage. His speed can be an asset if he gets beat off the ball, but his size (he’s listed at 5-11) limits his ability to fully recover is he makes a misstep at the snap. Tindal was ejected once last year for targeting, so becoming a more consistent tackler is a must.
Why he’s #11: With a veteran cornerback on the other side of the field, Tindal will be challenged more this year in the passing game, meaning the pressure on him to prevent the big play and demonstrate he can lock his side of the field down will be paramount. Tindal has shown he can be relied on in pass coverage but being an every-down starter is a different animal with increased responsibilities. UW needs Tindal on the field, because any missed time will result in Natrell Jamerson being bumped up to starter and leaving the nickel position in the hands of a vastly inexperienced player.
Overall: This is an important season for Tindal, who is one of the few players returning to the secondary with game experience. Tindal showed defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard throughout the spring that he could handle the starting role, as he worked almost exclusively with the starting unit. If Tindal can’t consistently protect his side of the field, it could be a long season for the secondary, especially since the Badgers will be breaking in a new safety combination. A year ago Wisconsin’s veteran secondary held Big Ten opponents to 148.6 yards passing a game, best in the conference. Coming close to duplicating that number will depend on Tindal being an asset rather than a liability.