Dec. 12, 2013
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard was named the winner of the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award Thursday night, as announced on the Home Depot College Football Awards Show on ESPN from the Atlantic Dance Hall on Disney's BoardWalk. Dennard is the first Spartan to win the award, which has been awarded annually since 1986 to the nation's best defensive back.
Dennard, who leads the 12-1 Spartans in passes defended (14), pass break-ups (10) and interceptions (4), also was named first-team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, as selected by NCAA Football Subdivision head coaches and sports information directors. Sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun, who leads the team in sacks (7.5 for 45 yards), quarterback hurries (18) and QB hits (32), earned Walter Camp All-America second-team honors.
The Walter Camp All-America Team, the nation's oldest all-star lineup, was introduced live on the Home Depot College Football Awards Show.
Dennard (first team) and Calhoun (second team) recently were named to USA TODAY's All-America Team.
Dennard is the first cornerback at MSU to earn first-team All-America honors since Harlon Barnett in 1989.
The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Dennard previously was selected recipient of the 2013 Jack Tatum Award, presented to college football's best defensive back by The Touchdown Club of Columbus. He was named one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award (presented to the nation's top defensive back) and one of five finalists the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (presented to the nation's top defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America). He also was named the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second year in a row. A unanimous first-team pick by the coaches, Dennard recently was ranked the No. 3 defensive player in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision by CBSSports.com.
He ranks fourth on the team in tackles (59) and fifth in production points (189). Dennard has been credited with 2.5 tackles for losses (6 yards) and ranks among the Big Ten leaders in interceptions (tied for third) and passes defended (tied for seventh at 1.08 per game).
Dennard helps anchor a defensive unit that ranks among the NCAA FBS Top 10 in seven different stat categories: rushing defense (first at 80.8 yards per game), total defense (first at 248.2 ypg.), opponent third-down conversions (first at .277; 53-of-191), passing efficiency defense (second with 91.5 rating), scoring defense (fourth at 12.7 points per game), turnover margin (seventh at +1.1 per game) and passing defense (sixth at 167.4 ypg.). The Spartans have been ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense for 13 consecutive weeks.
"Darqueze Dennard is a complete corner," MSU head coach Dantonio said. "He's an extremely competitive and gifted athlete. Darqueze has great ball skills, outstanding tackling ability, remarkable change of direction and plays the deep very well. He really has been a cornerstone of our defense for the last three years."
"I'm awfully proud of the way Darqueze Dennard has played not only this season but throughout his entire career," MSU assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. "He is coached by the best defensive backs coach in the country, in Harlon Barnett, and without a doubt, Darqueze has turned out to be the best defensive back in the country. The best way to describe him is fast, physical and smart. Plus, he has the ability to make big, game-changing plays."
He recorded three tackles, two pass break-ups and forced a fumble in Michigan State's 34-24 win over No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans limited the Buckeyes to 25 total yards in the fourth quarter, including zero passing yards, as MSU rallied from a 24-20 deficit to claim a BCS berth in the Rose Bowl.
On Senior Day against Minnesota in his last appearance at Spartan Stadium, Dennard tied his career high with nine tackles and also broke up a pass.
He recorded a career-best nine tackles and an interception in Michigan State's 30-6 victory at Northwestern, as the Spartans claimed the Big Ten Legends Division title for the second time in three seasons. It marked Dennard's personal best fourth interception of the season and 10th of his career. MSU's defense pitched a shutout in the second half against the Wildcats while allowing just seven first downs and 95 total yards.
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.
He posted 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).
Dennard 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 eight tackles and a career-high two interceptions 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 164 tackles and 30 passes defended (20 pass break-ups, 10 interceptions) in 43 career games, including 39 starts (28 consecutive). Dennard has accepted an invitation to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl.
For more information on the Jim Thorpe Award, please visit JimThorpeAssoc.org/.
Calhoun was named the Smith-Brown Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year. A first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media, Calhoun ranks second on the defense in tackles for loss (14 for 75 yards) and production points (227). He also ranks tied for second in the NCAA FBS with four fumble recoveries, which is tied for fifth most in an MSU single-season. Calhoun has produced a tackle for loss in 10 of his last 12 games; he ranks fifth in the Big Ten in sacks and eighth in tackles for loss.
Calhoun also was named one of six finalists for the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given annually to the nation's top defensive end. He was added to the 2013 Paul Hornung Award Watch List after Week 3, which is awarded to the nation's most versatile player.
"Shilique Calhoun had a breakout year from his defensive end position," Dantonio said. "He's a high-motor guy, who has the knack for making big plays. Shilique has played at a consistently high level all year, not only pressuring the quarterback but playing versus the run as well."
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Calhoun totaled four tackles, including half a sack (3 yards), and a QB hurry in MSU's victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
He produced a career-high seven tackles, including 2.5 for losses (12 yards) and a half sack (1 yard), in MSU's home finale against Minnesota, as the Spartans held the Gophers to a season-low three points.
Calhoun recorded career highs in tackles (6), tackles for loss (3 for 19 yards) and sacks (2.5 for 17) in MSU's 29-6 win over No. 23 Michigan. He also was credited with two QB hurries and a career-best seven QB hits.
The Middletown, N.J., native produced three tackles, including 1.5 for losses (8 yards), and forced a fumble in MSU's 42-3 victory at Illinois. Early in the second quarter, he disrupted a reverse in the backfield, tackling Ryan Lankford for a 7-yard loss and forcing a fumble that Marcus Rush recovered at the Illini 23. Four plays later, Jeremy Langford scored on a 1-yard run to give the Spartans the lead for good at 7-3.
Calhoun contributed two tackles, including a 3-yard sack, two QB hurries and three QB hits in MSU's 14-0 win over Purdue. 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). The Spartans limited Purdue to three first downs, 7 rushing yards (10 carries) and 113 total yards in the second half.
He was credited with three tackles, including a half tackle for loss, four QB hurries and a career-best six QB hits in MSU's 26-14 victory at Iowa.
Calhoun collected several weekly honors after scoring two touchdowns and recording two tackles for loss, including a 9-yard sack, in MSU's 21-6 win over South Florida on Sept. 7 at Spartan Stadium. He totaled 43.5 production points against the Bulls.
Calhoun was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week, Chuck Bednarik Award National Defensive Player of the Week, FWAA/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week, CBSSports.com National Defensive Player of the Week and College Football Performance Awards National Defensive Performer of the Week. He also was selected CFPA National Defensive Lineman of the Week and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. In addition, Calhoun was listed on the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll for Week 2.
Calhoun scored two touchdowns against USF, returning a fumble 4 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and his first career interception 56 yards for another score in the third quarter. He was credited with three solo tackles against the Bulls, with two resulting in losses (12 yards) including a 9-yard sack, and two quarterback hurries. Michigan State's defense allowed 12 first downs, 89 rushing yards (2.5 yards per carry), 66 passing yards and 155 total yards against South Florida.
In 12 games, Calhoun has scored three defensive TDs, as he also returned a fumble 16 yards against Western Michigan. His three defensive TDs tie a modern-day Michigan State single-season record (games dating back to 1946), and he became the first Spartan to accomplish the feat in the first two games of the season. Calhoun is the first Spartan defensive player to score three TDs in one season since linebacker T.J. Turner accounted for three in 12 games in 1999 (88-yard interception return at Purdue; 26-yard fumble return at Northwestern; and 24-yard fumble return vs. Florida in 2000 Florida Citrus Bowl).
Calhoun is one of only two defensive players in the NCAA FBS this season to score three touchdowns this season.