Defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard threw the University of Wisconsin’s potential cornerback depth chart into a frenzy last week when he relegated the position’s top returning player, Dontye Carriere-Williams, to second- and third-team reps.
Leonhard said last week that Carriere-Williams’ “highs are high” but that last year’s No. 3 corner needs to display more consistent effort in practice. The sophomore may be the only one at the position who truly knows what it’s like on Saturdays in the fall, Leonhard said, but “that doesn’t give him a pass to compete on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and in training camp.”
With less than two weeks until the Badgers open their season Aug. 31 against Western Kentucky at Camp Randall Stadium, it’s now up to Carriere-Williams to earn back his place in the starting lineup.
“Adversity causes some to break and some to break records,” Carriere-Williams said. “I was told that when I was in high school. I’ve got to go out there and I’ve got to give more. I’ve got to get comfortable with going that extra mile, giving that extra push out there for my teammates.”
Carriere-Williams entered camp earlier this month perceived as a sure starter and UW’s No. 1 cornerback after a promising redshirt freshman season.
A little more than a week into camp, however, his first-team reps became scarce, and he’s yet to see them since.
In response to Leonhard’s comments last week, Carriere-Williams said, “Coach Leonhard is a very wise guy. Love him to death. Probably my best coach I’ve ever had. So whenever he says something, I definitely take it down as a mental note. His feedback is vital to me. I know he cares about my future as much as I do, so any little thing, any little detail that he picks on me about, it’s up to me to look myself in the mirror and go out and bust my (butt) and give it more.”
Sophomore Caesar Williams and redshirt freshman Faion Hicks took the majority of first-team reps last week, the final week practices were open to the media. Redshirt freshman Deron Harrell, who moved from wide receiver to cornerback this offseason, recently became the top choice for UW’s third cornerback spot when the Badgers went to nickel packages. Sophomore Madison Cone also continues to compete for playing time.
None have as much experience as Carriere-Williams. He said he doesn’t know if he’ll be starting against Western Kentucky, but it’s up to him to “bring energy and give extra” throughout the final week of fall camp.
One thing Carriere-Williams is sure of, however, is that he doesn’t expect to fold under the pressure of losing his place in the lineup.
“I don’t know what pressure is,” he said. “I’m from Miami. Getting out of Miami, that’s pressure. Anything football-related, that ain’t pressure to me. I do this. It’s just I’ve got to go out there and go that extra mile every day, bring energy and get better with my teammates every day.
“I’m very confident in my ability. I’m very confident. I come from a strong household, and confidence is something that, we breathe confidence where I’m from. I carry that over on the field.”
Pryor to handle kickoff returns
Wide receivers Kendric Pryor and A.J. Taylor both said Monday that Pryor is UW’s No. 1 kickoff returner, while Pryor said Danny Davis and Jack Dunn are currently the top two punt returners.
Pryor, who returned kickoffs in high school, said he’s excited to showcase his speed and what he can do with the ball in his hands. He also said he wasn’t aware of the specifics on a new NCAA kickoff rule this season that allows teams to fair catch the ball inside the 25-yard line for a touchback.
“Honestly, I knew there were new kickoff rules, but I don’t know the exact rules,” Pryor said. ”... I know for me, I probably won’t be fair catching it at any time.”