Off-field issues aside, Roby is without a doubt the best player at his position in the Big Ten and, arguably, the best in the nation. A first-team All-American, Roby led the country in passes defended with 19 while collecting a career-high 63 tackles with two interceptions. Travis Howard, who started alongside Roby at cornerback, led the Big Ten in interceptions which is indicative of how effective Roby is in the eyes of opposing quarterbacks. Being one of the nation’s premier corners, Big Ten quarterbacks will often look to the other side of the field and force a throw that isn’t there, which in turn results in turnovers.
The unfortunate controversy that surrounds Roby, however, could impact his 2013 season. Head coach Urban Meyer came out and said Roby’s on a short lease and that some sort of suspension is likely. He has all the talent in the world and is already regarded as one of the top 20 players in the upcoming NFL Draft, but if Roby wants to help lead Ohio State to its second straight undefeated season and a potential berth in the BCS National Championship Game, he’ll need to cement his focus on being the best student-athlete he can possibly be.
Since becoming a starter his sophomore season, Dennard has matured into one of the top cornerbacks in the nation and has all the makings of being a future first-round draft pick. In his junior campaign, the 5-foot-11 defensive back led the team with three interceptions and 10 passes defended, while registering a career-high 52 tackles. He was voted by the Big Ten coaches to the All-Conference first team.
He broke out onto the scene last year after his teammate, Johnny Adams, drew all the preseason attention. After 13 games, it was clear who was in charge of the Spartans’ secondary. Dennard finally took the long-awaited step forward that Michigan State fans hoped for after seeing glimpses of it his sophomore season. As a senior, opposing quarterbacks will be fully aware of him and there won’t be any surprise factor this time around. This is always the struggle with being a top-tier corner. Quarterbacks can always attack Dennard’s opposite side and without Adams manning the other half of the field, he may very well see fewer balls coming his way. Nonetheless, when it comes down to it, great corners get creative and have a knack for making plays. This is what Dennard will have to do his final season.
A four-year starter, Allen is the undoubted leader of the Purdue defense. After starting in all 13 games as a junior, the Mainland, Florida native garnered postseason All-Conference honors for the third time with 45 tackles and one interception. Additionally, Allen set the school-record with four interceptions returned for a touchdown. All of this was prior to suffering a season-ending injury.
Said to be 100 percent now, Allen will yet again be one of the cornerstones on the Boilermakers’ defense. He won’t have the luxury of having an All-Big Ten defensive tackle getting pressure up the middle, however, with Kawaan Short off to the NFL. Then as is the case with all premier cornerbacks, quarterbacks are learning to look the other way. Sophomore Frankie Williams will be opposite Allen and will most likely see much more action than Allen will on his side. So between a weaker front four and quarterbacks hesitant of attacking him, Allen will have limited opportunities to make a play on the ball but as he has done his entire career, expect him to continue making quarterbacks pay and maintaining his shutdown corner status.
The undeniable leader of the Blackshirts’ secondary, Evans never received the recognition he deserved last season after coaches and media failed to name him to any of the postseason All-Big Ten teams. He was, however, noticed by a few media outlets such as CBS Sports who selected him to the All-Conference first-team. His ability to fly-under-the-radar is a result of playing multiple positions on the field. A versatile player, Evans lines up on the outside when Nebraska uses their base 4-3 formation but spends the majority of his time in the nickel position.
In his junior campaign, the 5-foot-11 cornerback recorded 56 tackles and eight passes defended, including an interception he returned for a touchdown early in the season. Evans, who was placed on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list, will be relied upon even more in his final season with Nebraska losing eight starters from 2012.
Perhaps a bit under the radar in Northwestern, VanHoose is developing into one of the most effective corners in the conference. As a redshirt freshman, VanHoose started 10 games before suffering an injury. In that timeframe, the 6-foot cornerback recorded a team-high three interceptions with seven breakups and 33 tackles.
Now a sophomore, VanHoose will have all eyes on him after showing glimpses of being a shutdown corner last season. Northwestern is counting on his development to stabilize a secondary that surrendered numerous big plays in 2012. Yet, one year later, between VanHoose, Traveon Henry, Ibraheim Campbell and Daniel Jones, the Wildcats may surprisingly boast one of the top secondaries in the conference.
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