Ranking the Big Ten Secondaries — Legends Division
By Tony Gerdeman
Much in the same way that defensive backs bring up the rear of a defense, so is the Legends Division bringing up the rear of the Big Ten's secondaries.
There are a slew of issues for those not so Leaderly-inclined. Even Michigan, who returns all four starters, only finds themselves fifth on this list.
As with all defensive backs, how these groups perform this season will depend greatly on the penetration that the front four gets. Not many of these teams will be able to handle an undisruptive defensive line.
2. Michigan State
Starters: Johnny Adams (CB), Darqueze Dennard (CB), Isaiah Lewis (S) Kurtis Drummond (S)
Backups: Trae Waynes, Mitchell White, Jairus Jones, R.J. Williamson, Arjen Colquhoun, Mylan Hicks, Demetrious Cox*, Jermaine Edmondson*, Mark Meyers*, Ezra Robinson*
Both of Michigan State's starting cornerbacks received post-season accolades last season as Johnny Adams was named to the first-team All-Big Ten team and Darqueze Dennard received honorable mention. Adams had three interceptions last year, and is always a threat to turn a pick into six points. Dennard, a junior, started two games as a freshman and eleven games last year. He also had three interceptions last year. Isaiah Lewis was second-team All-Conference last year and is one of the headiest players in the conference. He finished with 74 tackles last year and shows a nose for the ball on just about every snap. Kurtis Drummond started once as a redshirt freshman last year, but played well as a reserve. He steps into the starting role this year and Mark Dantonio isn't expecting any drop off. The depth is better than it has ever been, and there are still battles going on. R.J. Williamson and true freshman Demetrious Cox are two names most often mentioned.
Starters: Blake Countess (CB), J.T. Floyd (CB), Jordan Kovacs (S), Thomas Gordon (S)
Backups: Courtney Avery, Marvin Robinson, Jarrod Wilson, Josh Furman, Delonte Hollowell, Floyd Simmons, Raymon Taylor, Jeremy Clark*, Allen Gant*, Terry Richardson*
The Wolverines return 45 starts from last year's secondary, but the most important return is that of the same defensive staff and philosophy that was on hand last season. While the defensive backs won't have to learn a new defense, the cornerbacks have been asked to play a little closer to the line of scrimmage this year. After watching Buckeye receivers running free against Michigan last year like children playing tag, being closer to the line of scrimmage might have its drawbacks. Brady Hoke has very good things to say about Blake Countess, as well as his safeties Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon. Countess played well as a freshman last year, and will be better this season. Kovacs and Gordon are solid against the run and are faster than they've ever been, per the UM coaching staff. J.T. Floyd has gotten better every year, but still has room to improve. Courtney Avery provides depth at corner, and Marvin Robinson does the same at safety.
Starters: Andrew Green (CB), Daimion Stafford (S), Ciante Evans (NB)
Possible Starters/Backups: P.J. Smith, Mohammed Seisay (JC), Courtney Osborne, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Corey Cooper, Antonio Bell, Josh Mitchell, Daniel Davie, Justin Blattchford, Will Richards, Harvey Jackson, Dijon Washington, Alonzo Moore*, Charles Jackson*
Nebraska's secondary was a very valid point of concern last season, and losing two starters isn't generally the way a team improves. However, despite having upwards of seven players competing for an open cornerback spot and three or so players battling for an open safety position, things seem to be relatively upbeat in Lincoln. Andrew Green will returns after starting ten games last year and defending nine passes. Ciante Evans, who started seven games last season, will be the team's nickelback, which will see him starting generally against spread teams. Daimion Stafford is one of the biggest hitters in the conference, and is expected to make even more plays this season. The two open positions may be won several times over between now and November. There is a ton of depth, but how talented that depth is will have to be determined during Big Ten play.
Starters: Micah Hyde (CB), Tanner Miller (S), B.J. Lowery (CB)
Possible Starters/Backups: Nico Law, Jordan Lomax, Greg Castillo, Tom Donatell, Johnny Lowdermilk, Torrey Campbell, Raymond Hammond, Brian Kroll, Jamal Overton, Collin Sleeper, Jack Swanson, Devin Buford*, Sean Draper*, Maurice Fleming*, Anthony Gair*, Ruben Lile*
Currently, there is only one spot in the secondary still up for grabs as Nico Law and Tom Donatell battle for the strong safety position. Donatell has been better in pass coverage and Law is a bigger hitter. For the team's sake, this competition needs to be settled soon. Micah Hyde was a second-team All-Conference cornerback last season, breaking up eleven passes for the year. B.J. Lowery replaces Shaun Prater at the other cornerback spot, and has solidified his position. Tanner Miller started eleven games last season and finished fourth on the team in tackles (76). He is solid and continues to be an interesting guy to watch. Jordan Lomax and Greg Castillo are the backups at corner, though Lomax is dealing with a knee sprain. Overall, the staff may not be entirely comfortable with what they have, but at least they have a pretty good idea of what this secondary is capable of.
Starters: Troy Stoudermire (CB), Brock Vereen (S)
Possible Starters/Backups: Michael Carter, Derrick Wells, Martez Shabazz (JC), Jeremy Baltazar (JC), Cedric Thompson, Grayson Levine, Briean Boddy (JC), Steven Montgomery, Nathan Tow-Arnett, Kenny Watkins, Antonio Johnson*, Eric Murray*, Damarius Travis*
There are a lot of questions in the Minnesota secondary, but the answers may not be all that unappealing. Troy Stoudermire played in four games last season before being lost for the year due to injury and still came away with two of his team's four interceptions on the year. He likely won't be able to keep up that type of pace in 2012, but he at least has shown big-play ability. The other corner is senior Michael Carter, who has had more ups and downs than a scissor lift. Cursed with a questionable attitude the last couple of seasons, an apparent 180 has been seen in Carter and good things are expected of him this year. There will be a pair of junior college transfers backing them up. Sophomores Derrick Wells and Cedric Thompson are sitting atop the depth chart at safety currently, but they have competition from Brock Vereen and Grayson Levine. Vereen started twelve games at cornerback last year.
Starters: Ibraheim Campbell (S)
Possible Starters/Backups: Nick VanHoose, Daniel Jones, Demetrius Dugar, C.J. Bryant, Hunter Bates, Jared Carpenter, Jimmy Hall, Joe Cannon, Matt Carpenter, Mike Eshun, Davion Fleming, Jarrell Williams, Terrance Brown*, Traveon Henry*, Joseph Jones*, Dwight White*
Safety Ibraheim Campbell is the lone returning starter from last season and big things are expected of him this year. He led the team with 100 tackles last year, which means the defensive line and linebackers weren't involved enough. That probably won't change this year. The only other known starter right now is redshirt freshman cornerback Nick VanHoose. VanHoose has impressed everybody throughout fall camp, so much so that he's even being held out of scrimmages with other starters. The other safety and cornerback spots, however, are all up for grabs. Senior cornerback Demetrius Dugar has shown some things, but sophomore Daniel Jones is right there as well. Seniors Hunter Bates and Jared Carpenter both have starting experience at safety, but both have also been replaced a time or two throughout their careers. Overall, Campbell has the potential to be a star, and VanHoose could be something as well. But other than there, there are questions galore here.
Big Ten Secondaries
1. Ohio State
2. Michigan State
9. Penn State
Ranking the Big Ten
Quarterback Leaders Legends
Running Back Leaders Legends
Receiver Legends Leaders
Offensive Line Leaders Legends
Defensive Line Leaders, Legends
Linebacker Legends Leaders
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