Prospect Preview: Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State

Kim Klement/USA Today Sports

By Draft Lead Writer Philip Arnold @Philip_PFC

Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State

5-11 197 lbs. Senior

52 Tackles, 3.5 TFL, 7 PBU, 3 INT. First Team All-Big 10 selection in 2012. Starter of 13 games in 2012 has 26 career starts for the Spartans.

Game Notes vs. Boise State 5 Tackles, 3 PBU

  • Dennard lines up as a cornerback close to the line of scrimmage. He plays 17 snaps to the field and 5 to the boundary. The Spartans play a mix of man, Cover 2,3 and 4. He tested and thrown at often in this game.
  • Technique: Dennard has a smooth backpedal and turns. In zone coverage, he has effective zone turns which allow him to keep deeper than the deepest. He has a smart mind, understanding route concepts and not biting on underneath, taking away deep looks from the quarterback. In man coverage, Dennard is great out of his breaks. He has great footwork both pressed up at the line of scrimmage, and out of his breaks. His burst out of his man breaks put him in positions to make plays and have a quick drive to the football. Dennard also has good strength to muscle receivers away from the football, but does hurt him at times. On vertical routes, he gets a bit too aggressive and physical, being called for a pass interference and could have been called for another a few plays later. At times Dennard showed the ability to change direction from short to vertical quickly, but at times also seemed stiff turning up field.
  • Ball skills: Dennard’s quick burst of his breaks allows him to step in front of passes. He doesn’t have the best hands, but is able to get his hands in the lane and at least break it up. He showed a great hook swat and the ability to get vertical on a high thrown slant route to poke the ball loose. Like stated earlier, he does get a bit too physical down field when the ball is in the air, looking back early, and gets called for a pass interference call.
  • Against the run: Darqueze is physical and not afraid to stick his nose in the play. He does a good job of using his hands on both Wide Receivers and pulling linemen to get off. He shows good reaction to notice run and come up on the play and deliver a blow.
  • Play that stood out: 3 down and 10 yards to go. Dennard is in single man coverage to the field of a doubles tight set. Boise State will run a deep out for WR Mitch Burroughs. Dennard shows good change of direction in a type of press. He is step for step with Burroughs and as Burroughs breaks down to go to his out route, Dennard recognizes it quickly. Dennard is able to plant quickly with good footwork and burst out of his stance. This allows Dennard to step in front of the ball. Though he isn’t able to haul in the interception, Dennard is able to get his team off the field after a great display of burst and change in direction.

Game Notes vs. Nebraska 4 Tackles, 2 INT

  • Dennard plays 12 snaps to the boundary and 9 to the field. Once again he plays a mix of man and mainly cover 2 but with a bit of 3 mixed in. Dennard is matched up with Senior WR, Quincy Enunwa, and 2014 NFL Draft Senior ProspectKenny Bell. 
  • Technique: Dennard’s footwork was his high point of this game, as far as technique goes. He has quick, active feet both early in press and coming out of his breaks. He shows good burst out of his breaks which allows him to drive routes quickly. Dennard has very loose hips in both his man and zone turns. In man turns he is able to change directly quickly to adjust to the Wide Receiver. Dennard may lack the initial over the top speed with his first step, but shows good recovery speed after to be able to run step for step with Enunwa and Bell, to fight back over top. In zone, Dennard understands route concepts easily and reads Quarterback Taylor Martinez. He does a great job at reading the shoulder, high for a deeper pass and low for a quicker route, to break and get to his target.
  • Ball Skills: I questioned Dennard’s hands a bit after the Boise State game. He proved me wrong in this game, recording two Interceptions. He showed the ability to run after the catch, returning one of the interceptions 97 yards for a touchdown, though it was called back. Dennard got called for a pass interference call, very questionable, but was able to fight his arm through Bells hands to knock loose a potential game winning touchdown.
  • Agains the run: Once again, Dennard is not afraid to stick his nose into action. He showed the ability to open field tackle, taking out the legs of Martinez. Dennard also showed good speed and backside pursuit running down Martinez from the opposite field to save a tocuhdown. Dennard had trouble reading the blocks of the receiver at times. He followed a bit too far down on crack back blocks, allowing ball carriers to get the edge.
  • Play that stood out: 2 down and goal from the from the 5 yard line. Dennard is to the boundary of a tight doubles formation and Nebraska runs a slant, arrow pattern with the Tight End and Wide Receiver. Dennard sees the release of the tight end and immediately reads Martinez. As Martinez shows the low shoulder and is looking for the release route, Dennard plants and drives it. As Martinez releases the ball, Dennard is able to step in front of the release route and intercept the pass. He then shows his ability to make a play with the ball in his hands, returning it for a touchdown.

What Dennard does well

Dennard is a versatile corner with the ability to play both man and zone coverage. Out of breaks, Dennard has good footwork, giving him good burst and the ability to drive routes quickly. Dennard also has loose,flexible hips and is able to change direction quickly in both man and zone coverage. Dennard has great recovery speed to be able to run step for step with receivers on vertical routes, after he may lose a bit in his initial step. One of the bright spots of Dennard’s game is Dennard’s bright mind. He understands route concepts, especially in zone, and reads the quarterback well. He picks up indicators quickly, which a lot goes back to the film room, showing the type of student of the game he is. At this point I would say Dennard has above average ball skills. He is able to get his hands into passing lanes and make interceptions and Pass Break Ups, but he also is a bit too physical with receivers and get called for pass interference often.

What Dennard needs to improve

Though Dennard has good burst downhill out of his stance and good recovery speed, up field on vertical routes Dennard seems to lack that quick first step. Receivers often get an initial few steps on Dennard in their vertical breaks and he is then forced to use his recovery speed to fight back over top the receiver. Liked stated above, Dennard is a bit physical and “handsy” when the ball is around the receiver, getting called for pass interference a bit too often. Dennard also needs to improve his ability to read the blocks of a receiver. He often follows receivers too far inside, losing contain and giving the ball carrier a chance to get to the edge.

Top Matchups

9/07 vs. South Florida

9/21 at Notre Dame

11/02 vs. Michigan

11/16 at Nebraska

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