As Nebraska moves into its second season in 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 cornerback position in the Big Ten heading into 2012.
1. Johnny Adams, Michigan State, 5-11, 175, Sr.
A two-time All-Big Ten selection, including earning first-team honors in 2011, Michigan State senior Johnny Adams could very well be one of the top NFL cornerback prospects in the entire country this year. After making 51 tackles, including four for loss and three sacks, and breaking up six passes with three interceptions as a junior at the boundary corner slot position, Adams takes over as the Spartans' No. 1 corner this season and is a front-runner for the Thorpe Award.
2. Ricardo Allen, Purdue, 5-9, 176, Jr.
Few cornerbacks feature the kind of versatility at the position as Purdue junior Ricardo Allen. As just a sophomore last season, Allen was not only the Boilermakers' top coverage player, he also played far bigger against the run than his size would suggest. Allen made 81 tackles, including three for loss, broke up four passes with three picks, forced one fumble and blocked a kick, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors.
3. Micah Hyde, Iowa, 6-1, 190, Sr.
Iowa senior Micah Hyde flourished after moving from free safety to cornerback last season, as he saw time at both corner spots and ended up being one of the Hawkeyes' top defenders. Along with racking up 72 tackles in 2011, Hyde was one of the best playmakers in the conference, tying for first in the Big Ten with 11 pass breakups and three interceptions. His size and athleticism makes him a very intriguing NFL prospect.
4. Terry Hawthorne, Illinois, 6-0, 190, Sr.
Entering his fourth year as a starter for Illinois, senior Terry Hawthorne will once again be the anchor for the Fighting Illini secondary this season. Coming off a junior campaign where he posted 60 tackles and a team-high three interceptions with eight pass breakups to earn honorable mention all-conference honors, Hawthorne will definitely contend for a spot on the first team this season.
5. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State, 5-11, 190, Jr.
In his debut as a starter as a sophomore last season, Darqueze Dennard quickly emerged as a budding star by the end of the year. That was only confirmed when he had the best outing of his career in Michigan State's win over Georgia in the Outback Bowl, when he picked off two passes and took one back for a touchdown. Now playing the No. 1 field corner spot across from Adams, the Spartans feature arguably the best secondary in the Big Ten and maybe even all of college football.