As Nebraska moves into the Big Ten Conference, HuskerOnline.com will get you ready with ranking analysis pieces breaking down each position in the league. Today we look at the top cornerbacks in the Big Ten heading into 2011.
1. Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska, 5-10, 205, Sr.
Early last season, opposing offenses tried to go with the strategy of throwing at Alfonzo Dennard to avoid throwing towards All-American Prince Amukamara. That strategy quickly proved to be a big mistake. With four interceptions and seven pass breakups, Dennard showed he was far from a weak link in the secondary and ended up earning second-team All-Big 12 honors for his efforts. This season, Dennard comes in regarded as one of the nation's best cornerbacks, and teams will likely do everything they can to avoid throwing the ball in his direction.
2. Shaun Prater, Iowa, 5-11, 180, Sr.
For Nebraska fans, Shaun Prater will always be looked at as the one who got away. Since the Omaha native left his home state to play at Iowa, Prater has emerged as one of the best cover corners in the country. He ranked second in the Big Ten Conference last year with four interceptions and six breakups, and he was named to the All-Big Ten first team. Now a senior, Prater should be at the top of his game when he comes back to Nebraska to play his first game at Memorial Stadium in the regular season finale.
3. Antonio Fenelus, Wisconsin, 5-9, 193, Sr.
Few cornerbacks in college football meant more to their defense last season than Antonio Fenelus meant to Wisconsin. In helping guide the Badgers to a Rose Bowl berth, Fenelus led his team in interceptions (4) and passes defended (11) and was second on the team in fumbles recovered (2). He's a veteran player with a great nose for the football, and he'll once again make it extremely difficult for teams to move the ball against the Badgers through the air.
4. Micah Hyde, Iowa, 6-1, 185, Jr.
As if having Prater on one side of the field wasn't enough, Iowa has the luxury of having another star corner in Micah Hyde manning the other side. Hyde came out with a huge sophomore season last year, snagging four interceptions along with seven breakups. Not only was he getting interceptions, he was turning out huge plays once he got the ball in his hands as well. With touchdown returns of 72 and 66 yards in 2010, Hyde set the eighth and 10th longest interception returns in school history.
5. Ricardo Allen, Purdue, 5-9, 184, So.
There might not have been a better true freshman defensive player in the Big Ten last year than Purdue's Ricardo Allen. After coming in as just a three-star recruit, Allen established himself as a mainstay on the Boilermaker defense with three interceptions (two of which he returned for touchdowns) and 73 tackles, which ranked third on the team. He earned second team Freshman All-American honors for his stellar debut, and if he keeps it up, that won't be his last All-American selection.