Oct. 28, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard has been named one of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is awarded annually by the Jim Thorpe Association to the nation's best defensive back.
Dennard leads the Spartans in pass break-ups (7) and passes defended (9) and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He also ranks fifth on the team with 33 tackles, including two for losses (4 yards). The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Dennard ranks third on the team in production points with 132. In addition, he ranks tied for seventh in the Big Ten in passes defended (1.1 per game).
Dennard was named a Midseason All-American by CBSSports.com (second team) and Phil Steele (third team), and also was a first-team All-Big Ten Midseason selection by ESPN.com, Phil Steele and BTN.com.
"Darqueze is in my opinion the best defensive back in the country," said Michigan State assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. "Not only has he led the number one defense in the country as a lock-down press corner, he has the toughness as a great blitzer and tackler."
"Darqueze is the ultimate competitor," added Spartan secondary coach Harlon Barnett. "He plays with great focus and attention to detail."
Dennard produced seven tackles in Michigan State's 14-0 victory over Purdue, including a half tackle for loss (1 yard). MSU's defense recorded its first shutout since 2011 (44-0 over Florida Atlantic) and its first against a Big Ten opponent since 1999 (34-0 at Northwestern).
He totaled five tackles, a quarterback hurry and a pass break-up in MSU's 42-28 Homecoming win over Indiana, as the Spartans limited IU to season lows in passing offense (259 yards) and total offense (351). The Hoosiers entered the game ranked ninth in the nation in total offense (535.0 ypg.) and 10th in passing offense (346.0 ypg).
Dennard was selected Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after recording career highs in tackles (8) and interceptions (2) in MSU's 26-14 win at Iowa. The Spartan defense limited the Hawkeyes to 264 total yards - 183 yards below their season average. In addition, MSU held Iowa to 23 yards rushing (1.4 yards per carry) - 221 yards below its season average. Michigan State shut out the Hawkeyes in the second half, as Iowa managed just six first downs, 6 rushing yards and 104 total yards in the final two quarters. Dennard's second interception at the 5:25 mark in the fourth quarter helped ice the game, and it marked the third multi-interception game of his career (2012 Outback Bowl vs. Georgia, 2012 vs. Nebraska).
The Dry Branch, Ga., native was credited with five tackles, including a half tackle for loss (2 yards), a QB hurry and two pass break-ups in MSU's 21-6 victory over South Florida. In the season opener, Dennard matched his career-high with three pass break-ups in MSU's 26-13 win over Western Michigan.
Dennard is in his third season as a starting cornerback for the Spartans. He has collected 138 tackles and 25 passes defended (17 pass break-ups, eight interceptions) in 38 career games, including 34 starts (23 consecutive).
JIM THORPE AWARD SEMIFINALISTS
C.J. Barnett, Sr., Ohio State
Deone Bucannon, Sr., Washington State
Landon Collins, So., Alabama
Aaron Colvin, Sr., Oklahoma
Darqueze Dennard, Sr., Michigan State
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr., Oregon
Kyle Fuller, Sr., Virginia Tech
Vernon Hargreaves, Fr., Florida
Lamarcus Joyner, Sr., Florida State
Steven Nelson, Jr., Oregon State
Cody Prewitt, Jr., Ole Miss
Calvin Pryor, Jr., Louisville
Jason Verrett, Sr., TCU
Jimmie Ward, Sr., Northern Illinois
Ty Zimmerman, Sr. Kansas State