BOGACZYK: Tindal Channels ‘Swagg’ in Secondary
The Word on the Herd-Sept. 29, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The Marshall football secondary may have lost its “Swagg,” but it hasn’t lost its swagger.
When the talented cornerback Darryl “Swagg” Roberts finished his Herd career last season and was destined to make the NFL with defending Super Bowl champion New England, there were more than a few questions on how the back line Marshall’s defense would play in 2015.
One-third through the Herd season – as Old Dominion (2-2) visits Edwards Stadium on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. for a Conference USA opener – the corners and safeties have provided a different kind of cushion than is usually a reference to secondary play.
“Nothing has changed about our defense,” said Herd redshirt junior cornerback Corey Tindal, who made his 30th career start in Saturday’s double-overtime win at Kent State. “You’ve just got to make plays. That’s all.”
Roberts started 42 Marshall games – second among cornerbacks in Herd history behind 50 starts by Melvin Cunningham, who played from 1993-96 during the Division I-AA playoffs era – and his role as the boundary corner in coordinator Chuck Heater’s defense was large. It helped that Roberts, a true shutdown corner, could patrol half of the field, if needed.
Tindal plays that spot now, with senior Keith Baxter and sophomore Rodney Allen splitting time at field corner – joined by senior Taj Letman and junior Tiquan Lang at safety. It’s a veteran unit that’s performed more than serviceable for Heater, who also is the Herd secondary coach.
Marshall (3-1) leads C-USA in pass defense, allowing 177.5 yards per game. Nationally, the Herd stands between Nos. 11 and 17 in yards per opposing pass attempt (5.3 yards), pass efficiency defense (97.26), opposing completion percentage (.492) and interceptions (6).
The 5-foot-10 Tindal went through some struggles in coverage in the early days of August camp, but tightened things up and has challenged opposing receivers with success. He’s also become a better tackler, while playing all but four of the defensive snaps this season.
He has 23 tackles and four pass breakups in four outings. In two-plus seasons, the corner has recorded 157 and 22 breakups, with 7 tackles for loss, 3 fumbles recovered and an interception (a touchdown at FIU last season).
“It’s like Coach Heater says,” Tindal said. “Every year in the system you just can’t be the same as last year. I’ve taken that to heart, and this summer I went hard in the weight room and I just feel like the game has slowed down for me.
“It’s like you say to yourself, ‘You’ve been through a lot of games. This is your third season; you should know.’ I study more film now and see what they’re going to try to come at me with every week – so I can play fast.
“It’s all about playing fast. That’s one thing I did better, took the offseason more seriously and really respect the opponent.”
Tindal, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was the co-C-USA Freshman of the Year in 2013. He’s made the transition from the nickel position exclusively to corner. He said he learned plenty from Roberts – and still is learning.
“Swagg and I talk on the phone all the time,” Tindal said. “We talk about what I need to do, and I’ll ask him what he thinks about things. He tells me I’ve just got to stay calm. You’ve just got to be a technician out there, have confidence in yourself and believe you can make the play.
“Swagg left me with that confidence, and every time when I talk to him on the phone, when I call him, it’s about what went wrong and what I can do to get better. All that has helped me out. I was just on the phone with him (Sunday) night. He didn’t see this one (Kent State game), but we talked about.
“He told me, ‘Just be a great defense. Believe in yourselves and win.’ That’s all you have to control.”
When asked about the success of the Herd secondary – minus Roberts – early this season, Tindal said, “We’ve just got a trust in one another, plus our front four are doing a heck of a job getting pressure. Plus, Coach Heater just has a good game plan, so when we do get pressure, we can make plays in the back.”
The 5-11, 180-pound Allen, a converted wideout, has brought needed skills and depth to the cornerback spot, which has been needed with freshmen Chris Williams-Hall and Antonio Howard sidelined with injuries. Nickel Antavis “Skip” Rowe has played some at corner, too.
“Rodney’s a fast guy, brings a lot to the table, his ball skills are good and getting better,” Tindal said. “He’s coming along, and every game he’s getting better.”
Letman made three interceptions in the Herd’s first three games, while Lang had two picks he returned for scores in the season-opening win over Purdue. Baxter had a last-play interception against the Boilermakers. Lang ranks second among the Herd in tackles (35), despite missing the win over Norfolk State.
Tindal also has come to grasp what might be the most important facet about playing on the last line of defense – what is known as “selective amnesia.”
“Bottom line, you’ve just got to be aware that you have to make plays,” Tindal said. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to have a short memory, because no matter what happens, you’ve got to come back and make the next play – because you never know which play might win or lose the game.”
Tindal played through his freshman season when midway through that Military Bowl year, his mother died suddenly in Florida. He played a game following her death, went home for the funeral, then played on.
“Man, I’ve been through a lot in my life, so it isn’t happening,” Tindal said when asked if it’s difficult to forget the last play, even if it’s a 40-yard completion to his man. “You think, ‘That’s never happened to me,’ so that just helps me move on. It isn’t the end of the world. The next play might be a tougher one. “You get that attitude with experience, going through things. Plays have happened to me that I know people will never forget. It’s just life. You’ve got to move on.
“It isn’t going to kill you. Tomorrow is going to come, and you’ve got to attack that play like you attack the day.”