There’s no denying when you look at the recent success of the Michigan State football team, defense has played a major role, particularly at the cornerback position.
It started with guys like Johnny Adams, and transitioned into Darqueze Dennard and Trae Waynes, both All-Americans. Mark Dantonio is a defensive backs coach by trade, and he has put a heavy emphasis on finding big, physical corners to play in his defense.
Waynes is now heading off to the NFL, a likely first-round draft pick. Darian Hicks returns and was a starter a majority of last season, but lost his spot to senior wide receiver Tony Lippett for the last three games of the year.
For the first time in a long time, the entire position remains a bit of an unknown for Dantonio and his staff. But according to the coach, the competition is intense, and there are a few names standing out.
“Thus far, I think Jermaine Edmondson is playing well,” Dantonio said. “(Demetrious) Cox bounces out there, Arjen (Colquhoun) has played solid, very solid. I think both those guys are having a good spring.”
Along with those names, Dantonio mentioned former 4-star recruit and true freshman Vayante Copeland.
“Vayante Copeland is a guy who’s been playing very solid,” Dantonio said. “He’s got to get his weight down - and it’s coming. I think he has great things in store for him as a defensive back here at Michigan State. He’s a great tackler, he's’ got great ball skills, he’s very firm at the point of attack. He’s sudden, explosive.”
“Those are the four guys that are playing a lot in there, and they’re doing a nice job,” Dantonio said.”
While the cornerback position is still up for grabs, it looks as though the safety positions are set.
R.J. Williamson returns after being the starter last year, and Montae Nicholson is slotted as the other safety after starting a handful of games in 2014 as a true freshman. From the sounds of it, Dantonio has a good idea of how he wants the back four to look when the seasons arrives.“I think Cox, Day-Day, has played a lot of football ball for us this last year, and I think he’s a guy that has to be on the football field,” Dantonio said. “Monate Nicholson, Williamson, Cox, those three have to be out there. Arjen and Jermaine are probably vying for that other position, although, we can play guys around different positions.”
As for Darian Hicks, it remains to be seen how this upcoming season will play out for him. When originally asked about the corners at the press conference, Dantonio left out Hicks’ name from the discussion.
When asked again about why he left Hicks out of the conversation, he quickly offered some insight into the junior corner.
“He’s a guy that’s going to play for us. There’s no question he’s in the hunt to play for us. That was just a miscommunication on my part,” Dantonio said.
Dantonio said that between Hicks, Edmondson, and Colquhoun, the three can all play and switch out at any time, and Dantonio feels confident in the abilities of each player.
There’s still a lot of spring ball left for the players to battle, but it doesn’t sound like Dantonio is counting out Hicks just yet.
“Darian’s been solid,” Dantonio said. “Darian needs to play on. He needs to be able to play on. When you make a mistake, you have to be able to play on. Just like when I watched him out there today, he was very competitive and getting after people.”