Michigan State had a tremendous passing defense in 2012 ranking third in the country in passing efficiency. They lost three-year starter and three-time All-Big Ten selection Johnny Adams, but everyone else returns on what will be a loaded defensive backfield.
Senior Darqueze Dennard will enter his third season as a starter at cornerback and will be one of the best at the position in the conference. Last season, he played very well and emerged as a lock down cover corner picking up All-Big Ten honors. His numbers may drop this year, as opposing teams will likely throw away from him and challenge new starter Trae Waynes. But make no mistake, Dennard is a playmaker and will be an early-round NFL draft pick. The redshirt sophomore Waynes will get the first shot at filling Adams’ shoes at the other corner position and if reports out of spring practice hold true, he should be up to the task. At a lanky 6-foot-1, 178 pounds, he has great height and length to challenge taller receivers, but he needs to add strength to his slender frame as he’ll likely struggle to jam receivers at the line and be a liability in run support at his current weight. There’s a lot to like about his potential as a pure cover guy. However, providing depth will be redshirt sophomore Arjen Colquhoun who played in five games last year and redshirt junior Mylan Hicks who has appeared in nine career games.
At safety, senior Isaiah Lewis will enter his third season as the starter at strong safety. Lewis was an honorable mention All Big-Ten selection in 2012 and is at his best in run support as he finished second on the team with 80 tackles. Redshirt junior Kurtis Drummond will start at free safety where he started the final seven games last season. As another playmaker for the Spartans Defense, Drummond received the Tommy Love Award as the most improved player on defense in 2012. He will be pushed hard by redshirt freshman Demetrious Cox. As a former four star and top 200 recruit, Cox came in with a lot of hype and will look to make an impact on the field as he suits up in a Spartan uniform for the first time. Also providing depth at safety will be redshirt sophomore RJ Williamson who appeared in 11 games last season, earning Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors from both ESPN.com and BTN.com.
Despite the loss of Adams, Michigan State returns lots of experience and talent in their defensive backfield. Opposing quarterbacks will have a tough time completing passes on what will be one of the better pass defenses in the conference.