Spring Wrap Up: Defensive Backs

Michigan State has a pair of standouts to replace, but is looking for the next man up at cornerback in replacing Darqueze Dennard and safety to replace Isaiah Lewis. Could it be Darian Hicks and R.J. Williamson, respectively?

The comforting: The way Michigan State's secondary has played in recent years has been the key to everything the Spartans defense does. As defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has continued to have press corners in his system – and secondary coach Harlon Barnett has developed them – the defense has only gotten better and better.

After the pair of Darqueze Dennard and Johnny Adams was potent for a couple years, Trae Waynes stepped in to pair with Dennard and proved to be even better as a combination.

Now, Waynes is set to continue his rise and be "the guy" at cornerback. Kurtis Drummond, who is one of the top safeties in the conference and figures to take a big step into a leadership role this season, joins Waynes to form a solid duo of returning starters.

Michigan State also has a lot of experience returning at the other safety spot, as R.J. Williamson has played plenty in his career.

The concerning: Replacing a pair of players to the caliber of a first-round draft pick and a multi-year starter in Dennard and Isaiah Lewis isn't easily done. The Spartans have to be confident in the depth of the secondary, especially at safety as they seek to replace Lewis. Not only did Williams and probably backup Demetrious Cox have big springs, but redshirt freshman Jalyn Powell had a huge spring and put his name in the mix.

But at the other cornerback spot opposite Waynes, the Spartans are a little less settled. It appears sophomore Darian Hicks will be the guy after coming in and playing as a true freshman. Hicks entered spring as the No. 1 on the depth chart and seemingly did nothing to lose that spot in the spring. Still, you don't know what you're going to get, but you expect a dropoff from the play of Dennard – it would be very hard not to have a dropoff from the Jim Thorpe Award winner, after all.

The conclusion: How Hicks – or Jermaine Edmondson or Ezra Robinson or Arjen Colquhoun – play as the second cornerback will dictate a lot about the play of the secondary early this season. With Waynes and Drummond, the Spartans have a pair of very strong players to continue building around.

Similar to other spots on the defense, this is a time for the depth to step in and show that player development remains a strength for the Spartans.

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