Hillary turning the corner in Badger secondary
He endured difficult moments at Arizona State, when the Sun Devils passed for 352 yards.
He didn't trust his technique at Illinois and surrendered a 51-yard pass play that set up the Illini's first touchdown.
“There isn't a situation where a DB isn't going to get beat,” Wisconsin cornerback Darius Hillary said of his struggles at times this season. “It happens all the time.
“But you want to eliminate those factors before the play in order to put yourself in better position.”
Hillary, a redshirt sophomore from Cincinnati, has done that in each of UW's last two games. As a result, he made key plays in the victories over Iowa and BYU and is eager to face Indiana's high-powered offense Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
“I definitely feel more comfortable, but you never want to stay satisfied,” said Hillary, who played in 14 games last season as the nickel cornerback and has started all nine games this season. “After watching film on the past couple games there are some things on my technique I can clean up in finishing a little better.
“I'm not complacent right now. I want to strive to do better each and every game.”
Indiana leads the Big Ten in passing offense at 327.4 yards per game. The Hoosiers have 28 touchdown passes, the No. 2 mark in the league behind Ohio State (29).
Wide receivers Cody Latimer (98.2 yards per game, 8 TDs) and Shane Wynn (56.7 ypg, 7 TDs) are third and 10th in the league in receiving yards per game.
“He has had back-to-back games where I thought he has played well,” UW defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said of Hillary, “and he is going to be challenged in this game.
“Some of the things we saw at Illinois we will see here again. They are going to challenge his eyes and they do it at a (fast) pace, which makes it that much harder.”
Because BYU had bigger wide receivers, Aranda often used a 4-2-5 scheme that featured four safeties and one cornerback. Hillary, listed at 5-foot-11 and 187 pounds, was the cornerback in that package over Sojourn Shelton (5-9 and 172).
“Sojourn was kind of the odd man out,” Aranda said. “Sojourn is best when he is playing smaller, shiftier guys.
“If there are big guys that can push him off, he is at a disadvantage we felt.”
Lattimer (55 catches) is 6-3 and 215. Wynn (29 catches) is only 5-7 and 170 but Kofi Hughes, third on the team in catches with 31, is 6-2 and 217.
Aranda again could turn to the 4-2-5, in which safeties Nate Hammon and Dezmen Southward play cornerback and are asked to play man-to-man coverage at times.
“That particular situation fit what we adjusted to,” Aranda said of the BYU game. “So if that shows up again, I can see that happening again. We've got some corners that can run, but they're just not 6-2, 210 pounds. We adjust as we go.”
Hillary has adjusted his play based on mistakes made early in the season.
Against Iowa, he baited quarterback Jake Rudock into thinking tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz was open cutting across the field from right to left. When Rudock threw out of his end zone, under pressure, Hillary was in position to make a leaping interception at the Iowa 20.
Joel Stave and Jared Abbrederis combined for a touchdown on the next play to help UW build its lead to 14-6 midway through the third quarter.
Against BYU, the Badgers' lead was 7-3 early in the second quarter. BYU faced second and 8 from the UW 27.
Quarterback Taysom Hill threw a deep fade to wide receiver Cody Hoffman down the right sideline. Hillary jammed the 6-4, 210-pound Hoffman at the line of scrimmage, however, and was running stride-for-stride with him when the ball arrived in the end zone
Hillary got his head turned around in time and broke up the pass. BYU punted two plays later.
“I think when you look at BYU and their makeup,” Aranda said, “they had big plays from their big receivers and it wasn't necessarily running by guys. It was pushing off guys, making plays and kind of big-bodying you.”
Hillary, who leads the team in passes defended with five, wouldn't allow that to happen.
“All those guys have improved as the weeks have gone on,” said UW assistant Ben Strickland, who works with the cornerbacks. “They look at every week as a new challenge and they have to raise their level of play. You never want to stay the same.”