Options abound in new look "No Fly Zone"

With Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis in the NFL, the Spartans look to reload the secondary

Darqueze Dennard has moved on to the Cincinnati Bengals, but the “No Fly Zone” he coined last season lives on in East Lansing.

The secondary will take on a different look without the Jim Thorpe Award winner, but still Michigan State returns a pair of standouts in safety Kurtis Drummond and cornerback Trae Waynes.

The other two spots, those remains a little bit more of a question mark, but coach Mark Dantonio likes the talent he sees in replacing Dennard and safety Isaiah Lewis – also with the Bengals.

”(Cornerback) Darian Hicks is a guy that has got a lot of athletic ability,” Dantonio said. “He was our third corner last year and played some for us. It’s going to be a very important position.”

Hicks entered the spring topping the depth chart and still holds that spot heading into fall camp. Similarly, R.J. Williamson was in the No. 1 spot at strong safety this spring and continues to be the guy expected to take over for Lewis.

”I think R.J. Williamson is a guy that has gotta play well because he is at the position and has got experience,” Dantonio said.

Williamson was in competition with Demetrious Cox and Jalyn Powell this spring, with Powell being a surprise as the first player picked at the position in the spring game draft. It is Cox, however, that Dantonio spoke highly of Monday in Chicago at Big Ten Media Days.

”I think Demetrious Cox is a guy with a lot of ability and we will see where he plays,” he said. “Really, he has got a lot of skills to play outside, I think he’s got great ball skills, and needs experience and he should get that this year.”

Part of the intrigue with Cox is Dantonio sees the ability to play not only at safety, but as a cornerback as well – where he said he is the fifth guy, maybe even the fourth.

“I think that guy could play anywhere, personally,” he said. “We will find out as we move forward.”

As fall camp begins, it also will bring in some new faces to the competition to play. The Spartans brought in a handful of players in the 2014 signing class that will start their careers in the defensive backfield and Dantonio likes the early showings and said there could be some opportunities.

“I think in the secondary there are three guys, three or four guys in the secondary, especially at corner that will have an opportunity there,” he said. “It starts with Vayante Copeland and you move from there to Jalen Watts-Jackson and I think Montae Nicholson has the ability to go out there, he’s got great ball skills and he runs extremely well.

”Those three guys are going to flop in there a little bit and see what they can do.”

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