Nov. 21, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard has been named one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented annually to the nation's top defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and Charlotte (N.C.) Touchdown Club. Dennard becomes the first Spartan player in school history to be selected as a finalist for the award.
Other finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy include: Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley and Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. The winner will be announced and presented the trophy on Monday, Dec. 9 at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. The NFL Network will air the Charlotte Touchdown Club's Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 5:30 p.m. ET.
The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Dennard previously was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, presented annually to the nation's best defensive back. He also was recently named the No. 3 defensive player in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision by CBSSports.com.
Dennard, who has accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, leads the Spartans in passes defended (10), pass break-ups (7) and interceptions (3). He ranks fifth on the team in tackles (38) and production points (149). Dennard has been credited with two tackles for losses (4 yards) and ranks tied for seventh in the Big Ten in passes defended (1.0 per game).
He was a Midseason All-Big Ten (first-team) selection by ESPN.com, Phil Steele and BTN.com.
"Darqueze Dennard has been an outstanding player at Michigan State for the past four seasons," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said. "He is an extremely competitive and gifted athlete. Darqueze has great ball skills, outstanding tackling ability, plays the deep ball well and a remarkable change of direction. Our corners' ability to cover has a domino effect on our entire unit. He has been a cornerstone for our defense.
"In addition, he's an outstanding person, who is one of the most respected players in our football program. Players like him come around once in a head coach's career. We congratulate Darqueze on being named a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, and we look forward to his continued success both on and off the field."
"Darqueze Dennard is a phenomenal football player," MSU assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. "He's not only one of the best corners in the country; he's one of the top defensive players in the country. He allows us to play aggressively on defense. We wouldn't trade him for any other player in college football."
"Darqueze Dennard is what I call a `complete corner,'" secondary coach Harlon Barnett said. "He can cover and tackle. He's smart, tough, physical, and aggressive. He has really good ball skills, and he can fly. He's the best corner that I've ever coached and one of the best that I've ever been around. On top of all of that he's a better person. With all his success, he remains humble and hungry."
Dennard produced an impressive all-around effort in the win over No. 23 Michigan, as MSU held the Wolverines out of the end zone for the second consecutive season. He picked off a Devin Gardner pass at the 3-yard line in the fourth quarter, and the Spartans proceeded to march 97 yards on an eight-play touchdown drive to seal the 29-6 victory. Dennard also forced a fumble and collected four tackles against the Wolverines.
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 143 tackles and 26 passes defended (17 pass break-ups, nine interceptions) in 40 career games, including 36 starts (25 consecutive).
Michigan State (9-1, 6-0 Big Ten), ranked No. 13 in the latest Associated Press and USA TODAY Coaches Polls as well as the Bowl Championship Series standings, can claim its second Legends Division title in three years with a win at Northwestern on Saturday, Nov. 23 (12 p.m. ET kickoff on ESPN).
The FWAA's National Defensive Player of the Year Award is named after Bronko Nagurski, who dominated college football at Minnesota as a bruising fullback and defensive tackle from 1927-29. He could have been an All-American at any position and was the best player wherever the coaches placed him. The FWAA has presented a National Defensive Player of the Year Award since 1993 and in the name of Nagurski since 1995.
In 2007, Michigan State two-time All-American Charles "Bubba" Smith and Notre Dame defensive end Alan Page were named co-recipients of the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award (for the Class of 1966). Smith, who was selected Lineman of the Year by United Press International in 1966, became just the third player in Michigan State football history to have his jersey number (No. 95) retired, joining Don Coleman (No. 78, 1949-51) and George Webster (No. 90, 1964-66). Despite being regularly double- or triple-teamed or having opponent's run away from his side of the field, he still produced 10 tackles for losses in 1966 while helping the Spartans to a 9-0-1 record. Michigan State ranked third in the NCAA in rushing defense in 1966, allowing just 51.4 yards per game. Smith became the first selection overall in the 1967 National Football League Draft by the Baltimore Colts. In 1988, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.