Big Ten rankings: No. 10, Darqueze Dennard

We're counting down our rankings of the Top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2013 season. This list is based on past performance and potential for the upcoming season only. We do not consider NFL potential for purposes of these rankings.

We've reached the exclusive company of the Top 10 in our rankings. Kicking it off is a guy toward whom you don't want to throw many passes, unless you want to see a possession change ...

No. 10: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State, senior, 5-foot-11, 197 pounds

2012 postseason ranking: No. 19

2012 numbers: Had 52 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, along with three interceptions and seven passes defended.

Why he's here: Dennard had operated in the shadow teammate Johnny Adams for a couple of seasons, but he announced himself in 2012 as not only the best cornerback on the Spartans, but also one of the best in the nation.

He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and ESPN.com. He'll challenge fellow Georgia native and Ohio State junior Bradley Roby for the title of best corner in the league and possibly the country this season.

Dennard was hard to miss in 2012. He had two interceptions against Nebraska, including one that would have gone for a touchdown and perhaps sealed the game if not for a controversial penalty on Adams during the return. And he got flagged for interference in the end zone to help Nebraska win the game, a call that still rankles Michigan State fans. Dennard also dropped a potential interception in the overtime loss to Iowa.

Some of those missed plays still haunt him and motivate him to be even better in 2013. The truth is, however, he made a whole lot of great plays last season. We expect him to do the same this fall.

The countdown

No. 25: Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois

No. 24: Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa

No. 23: James White, RB, Wisconsin

No. 22: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

No. 21: John Urschel, G, Penn State

No. 20: Tyler Scott, DE, Northwestern

No. 19: Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State

No. 18: Deion Barnes, DE, Penn State

No. 17: Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska

No. 16: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin

No. 15: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

No. 14: Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern

No. 13: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska

No. 12: Spencer Long, G, Nebraska

No. 11: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan