UW Football: Stepping up in new roles key for secondary

SAFETY, FIRST AND FOREMOST

Spring transitions are nothing to Natrell Jamerson, a senior from Ocala, Florida. After lettering as a true freshman wide receiver who appeared in 12 games in 2014 but didn't have a catch, he was converted the following spring into a cornerback, a position that he played in high school. The last two seasons, he played in 21 games at defensive back, many as a nickel back or the third corner in passing situations. Jamerson was on the move again this past offseason from corner to safety, where he has lined up with D'Cota Dixon. "His athleticism is very exciting to me at the safety position," said UW secondary coach and defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard. "He has handled it very well. I like where he's at. Obviously, he has to continue to grow over the summer to feel comfortable (at the position) next fall."

NO ORDINARY JOE

The Badgers have been smart about not over-exposing Dixon this spring — they know what he can do — and that has opened up more reps for Ferguson, who has taken advantage of the opportunities. "Hands down," Leonhard said, "he's playing his best football here at Wisconsin. He has been highly productive and making a lot of plays. He's playing very fast, which is great to see." Ferguson, a fifth-year senior, has taken nothing for granted. "My goal was to trust everything, play fast, make really fast decisions," he said. "Trust your ability; trust you belong on this defense. There's that sense of urgency (as a senior). It's my last season so obviously I do want to make my mark." To do that, he repeated, "You have to trust you have the ability to go and make the play, and you have to go and actually do it. I think when you're younger, you hesitate a little bit. You don't trust your ability as much. But now it's time to go."

TINDAL ALL IN

Shelton was a four-year fixture in the secondary, an unsung member of what has been annually one of the best defenses in the nation. Tindal, who will be joined at corner by Hawaii transfer Nick Nelson, wants to do everything with his power to fill the void. "I've tried to step into Sojourn Shelton's role," said Tindal, a senior from Fort Lauderdale. "I just want to be that person in the group when somebody needs something in their personal life or on the football field, I can help them with it. I'm just basically trying to model myself after Sojourn."

MENTORING MATTERS

After Thursday's practice, Tindal held court with a group of McFarland High School students that he has been mentoring as part of his initiative to reach out to young people. "I had mentors growing up and if I didn't have them, I don't know where I would be right now," he said. "I know some kids struggle, especially young black kids. I just want to help them anyway I can — if it's bringing them to a practice, or just motivating them to go to school and be a good person. That's all I'm trying to do. I've been through a lot of things they've been through. I've learned a lot of things. Just doing it for the kids."

Read more at UWBadgers.com

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