Lincoln, NE - Wisconsin’s Nick Toon was good. Michigan State’s B.J. Cunningham even better. But as Nebraska prepares for Iowa receiver Marvin McNutt, the consensus is the senior could be the best at his position in the Big Ten.
“He’s a great player. I think he’s one of the best receivers in the nation,” said Husker senior cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, often considered the nation’s best corner. “He’s big and can make plays. It will be fun.”
Dennard will not solely match-up on McNutt - it will be dictated by formations according to defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, but it’s safe to say the two should lineup on each other early and often.
“As much as possible,” said Pelini. “Different coverages, different ways to approach it. The kid is a great receiver, maybe the best we have faced to this point.”
New Nebraska secondary coach Corey Raymond concurs.
“Great receiver,” said Raymond. “He can stress you physically, he gets every ball and is a big guy…he’s easily one of the top guys we have faced this year.”
Dennard has not been dedicated to one receiver since last year, when the junior squared off against Texas A&M’s Jeff Fuller – holding him to just one catch, his lowest output of the 2010 season.
Dennard, who put the NFL on hold and came back for his senior season, will be playing his final home game at Memorial Stadium on Friday.
“It’s going to be special. I’m not ready to leave,” said Dennard. “I enjoy the fans, I thank them for the support, it’s going to be a very emotional game.”
After getting hurt early in the season and Nebraska’s defensive struggles at times throughout the year, did Dennard have regrets coming back?
“No,” said the Georgia product. “We have Coach Raymond now and he’s a technique guy. So I learned a lot from him – more than I did with Coach (Marvin) Sanders. It’s a not a knock on Coach Sanders, he’s was a very good coach. But Coach Raymond as taught me a lot about my technique… I’m trying to get ready for the next level. At the next level, if you don’t have good technique, you are going to get beat all the time.”
For Raymond, the pleasure has been mostly his.
“He’s such a competitor, it helps him a lot,” said the first year secondary coach.
But even as a competitor, how does Dennard defend a receiver like McNutt, giving up five inches and nearly 15 pounds.
“I just go in there and play my own game, trying to be physical against him,” said Dennard, who is accused of being too physical at times by receivers “I know he’s a physical player. If I’m soft with him, he’s going to make big plays.”