Dennard earns Thorpe, All-America honors

Life is good for Michigan State star cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

Last Monday, he surprised no one by winning the Big Ten's Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year award. Five days later, Dennard and his Spartans teammates surprised a few people, especially those in Ohio, by beating Ohio State in the Big Ten championship to advance to their first Rose Bowl since the 1987 season.

The good news continued Thursday night as Dennard won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back. Dennard took home the honor at the Home Depot College Football Awards in Florida. Dennard has 59 tackles, four interceptions, 10 pass breakups, two forced fumbles and five quarterback hurries for the nation's No. 1 defense.

He's the first Big Ten player to win the Thorpe Award since Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins in 2008. Dennard was the only Big Ten player honored at the awards, as Purdue punter Cody Webster lost out to Memphis' Tom Hornsey for the Ray Guy Award.

Dennard also is the only Big Ten player to earn first-team All-America honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Four Big Ten standouts are second-team All-Americans: Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, Northwestern kicker Jeff Budzien, Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun and Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier.

Dennard is the first Michigan State cornerback to be named a first-team All-American since current Spartans secondary coach Harlon Barnett in 1989.

It's nice to see Shazier, who was largely overlooked for awards this season despite monster numbers, be recognized for his play. But it's disappointing to see only one Big Ten linebacker receive first- or second-team honors. Wisconsin senior Chris Borland, the Big Ten defensive player of the year, is certainly among the nation's best six linebackers. Michigan State senior Max Bullough also is a worthy candidate.

Running backs Carlos Hyde (Ohio State) and Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) both had All-America type seasons but didn't make the list. It's also a surprise that neither Purdue's Webster nor Michigan State punter Mike Sadler were recognized.