HUNTINGTON, W.Va — Corey Tindal is considered so essential to the Marshall football team’s defense, he occupies two spots in the starting lineup.
His name again is at the top of the list at nickelback, where he starred last season and shared Conference USA freshman of the year honors. Yet it’s also found at corner, evidence that, no matter what formation the Thundering Herd runs this season on defense, coaches want Tindal on the field.
In a 2013 season where he racked up more than one conference honor, adding his share of freshman of the year to an all-freshman team berth and all-conference honorable mention, Tindal recorded 61 tackles, five for a loss, with 1.5 sacks, six pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.
This spring, since head coach Doc Holliday and defensive coordinator Chuck Heater both know how Tindal fares at nickel, he’s getting plenty of work at corner. Tindal, a Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., native, said moving to the outside hasn’t been a tough transition.
“In my opinion, nickel is harder than corner,” he said. “You’ve got the outside and play inside. There’s two ways to go. You have to be more athletic inside. Both help me out with the other. The technique on the outside helps me get better with technique inside.”
Tindal’s time at corner has come with defenisve flexibility in mind. Last season, the Herd started 12 of their 14 games in a nickel package. This year, Heater hopes to use a little more three-linebacker sets and a little less of that five-defensive-back look. Moving D.J. Hunter from strong safety to linebacker was one part of that strategy. Playing Tindal at corner in that defense is another, and one Heater thinks will help Tindal in the long run.
“He’s a good player,” Heater said. “I feel like him playing outside will help him if he comes back inside. We’re just moving some people around right now, but I think it will make him a better cover corner inside by playing outside.”
“I think that’ll help him for the future,” he said. “That’s probably something he needs to do.”
Holliday agrees, saying certain aspects of secondary play will be easier for Tindal by logging time at both spots.
“The thing with Tindal playing out of that corner, is if he did make the move back to nickel, he’s going to feel a lot more comfortable in man coverage because of all the work he got at corner this spring.”
Tindal realizes the trust his coaches are showing in him by designating him a starter at both corner and nickel. It shows him they consider him so talented and so integral to the defense’s prospects that they want him in the game as much as possible. The 5-foot-9, 179-pound redshirt sophomore said he wants to reward that trust.
“I just have to step up to the challenge and show I’m able to do that,” he said. “I come out here every day to show I can play outside and inside. Hopefully, Coach Heater has a mindset of keeping me out there. I’ll be thankful for it and I’ll keep going hard.”
That tenacity has earned him the respect of teammates and coaches early in his career. He was named a captain for last season’s Ohio game, just his third in a Herd uniform. He’d like to see that respect only grow, and knows continued hard work on and off the field will allow that to happen.
“I just want the team to look to me and know I make good decisions,” Tindal said. “I won’t lead anybody wrong, on and off the field, with my play and in the community. Just be a good guy. Once you know people look up to you, you’ve got an image to hold. You don’t want that to go down.”
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.