Badgers cornerbacks moving on from Dontye Carriere-Williams’ departure
Dontye Carriere-Williams’ announcement on Wednesday that he was leaving the University of Wisconsin football program may have surprised the Badgers’ other cornerbacks as much as anyone.
The sophomore entered this offseason as the only corner with meaningful game experience. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard relegated him to the second team midway through fall camp, but the the Miami native gave no hint he was contemplating a transfer.
While nothing about UW’s 34-3 win over Western Kentucky on Friday night indicated that Carriere-Williams’ departure affected others at his position, it became somewhat of an emotional week for sophomore Caesar Williams.
“I’m very close with Dontye, and I thought he would tell me something like that,” Williams said after Friday’s game. “I felt a little hurt. We talk about everything, off the field, on the field, we’ll go out to eat and just sit down and talk. Him leaving is a big shock to me. ... It hurts our heart. I know he loves this place. He loved to play for this place. So when I get a chance to talk to him, I’ll just give him encouragement and wish the best for him.”
Williams produced a standout performance in the first start of his career against the Hilltoppers, helping lead a new-look defensive backfield that held Western Kentucky’s pass-heavy offense to just 180 yards and an interception on 30 pass attempts.
He said he dedicated Friday’s game to Carriere-Williams, writing his teammate’s name on his wrist. As of late Friday night, Williams said the two had played phone tag for a couple days but had yet to talk since Carriere-Williams’ announcement.
“His desire to not sit behind somebody, you’ve got to respect it,” Williams said. “If he wants to go somewhere else and shine, I respect it. It’s just, everybody has their own, different path, and this is his. I don’t judge him for it.”
Williams, who noted Carriere-Williams practiced Tuesday but not Wednesday, said he didn’t know if UW’s depth chart was the sole reason for his teammate’s departure, or if there were other factors involved. When asked about the situation Friday night, Badgers coach Paul Chryst said, “I had a conversation with Dontye earlier, and so thought it was best for him.”
Leonhard said during fall camp that Carriere-Williams’ highs were high but that he needed to show more consistency and effort in practice.
“One thing I tried to help him do, body language plays a big role,” Williams said. “I don’t think he lost first-team reps because of the way he competed. I think coaches may have moved him to second team to bring him to another level, you know? You’ve got to bring out another level in yourself. ... If you’re the only (corner) that played last year, coaches want to see you leading the pack, so they might put you in adversity to bring out better in you.
“He might have taken it the wrong way. He might have taken it the right way. I’m not sure yet.”
If Friday night serves as a sign of what’s to come, the Badgers should be able to survive without one of their most talented cornerbacks.
Redshirt safety Scott Nelson took the blame for Western Kentucky’s biggest play of the night — a 48-yard pass that set up the Hilltoppers’ only points of the night.
Redshirt freshman cornerback Faion Hicks saved a potential touchdown with an interception at UW’s 3-yard line later in the second half, while sophomore Madison Cone, redshirt freshman Deron Harrell and true freshman Donte Burton also held their own when given the chance.
“We still have great guys behind us who are hungry and who want to play,” Hicks said. “We lost one, but we’ve still got plenty more who are ready.”
While Williams was affected on a personal level by Carriere-Williams’ departure, he understands the Badgers must now move on.
If anything, he said, it may actually bring the best out of those who remain.
“We try not to let things like that bother us,” Williams said. “Dontye was a great corner. He was a great corner. His decision to leave, it just means more pressure on us, and I like pressure. I think we did well with pressure, and I think we let our playing do the talking tonight.”