The “No Fly Zone” will have several new members in 2014 following the departure of Jim Thorpe Award winner Darqueze Dennard and safety Isaiah Lewis. It will be nearly impossible to replicate the success of the 2013 secondary, but this years defensive backfield still features some talented players.
The most decorated returning member of the Spartan secondary is safety Kurtis Drummond. In 2013 Drummond was voted to the All-B1G first team by the coaches and recorded a team-high four interceptions. He was second on the team with 86 tackles last season, showing the ability to play in the box against the run.
Drummond also has elite ball skills, tallying eight career interceptions including a ridiculous one-handed pick in the 2013 season opener against Western Michigan. As a senior with three years of playing experience at MSU, Drummond will be looked at as the leader of the “No Fly Zone”, a role he is more than prepared to take on.
The other sure-thing in the Michigan State secondary is junior cornerback Trae Waynes. Waynes won the competition to be the replacement for Johnny Adams before the 2013 season and he exceeded all expectations.
Playing opposite Darqueze Dennard, Waynes was targeted often last year and he came through with three interceptions and five pass break-ups to earn himself honorable mention All-B1G honors by the coaches and media. Waynes will have to adjust to covering number one receivers week in and week out, but with another year of experience under his belt there is no reason to believe he will have anything less than a fantastic season.
The front-runner to take over for Isaiah Lewis at safety is junior RJ Williamson. Williamson has appeared in 25 career games, serving as the primary backup to Lewis last season. He filled in admirably for Lewis following his ejection in the first quarter against Northwestern recording seven tackles and a pass break-up.
Williamson has experience playing alongside Kurtis Drummond so there shouldn’t be much of a learning curve next year. He probably won’t be an impact type player for the Spartan defense in 2014, but as long as he has a solid season and continues to improve he will become a staple in the “No Fly Zone”.
The other starting spot up for grabs is the cornerback position opposite Trae Waynes. The Spartans will be hard pressed to find someone who can fill Darqueze Dennard’s shoes, but Darian Hicks seems to be up to the challenge.
As a true freshman in 2013 Hicks appeared in all 14 games, mostly on special teams but impressed coaches in the Green and White Spring Game, leading the White Team with six tackles. He also intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter to clinch the victory for the White Team. With that impressive spring performance Hicks has put himself in the drivers seat to earn the starting job, and if he does he will be in for a long and prosperous career at MSU.
Another name worth mentioning as far as the secondary is concerned is Jalyn Powell. A redshirt freshman going into 2014, Powell was the first safety selected by the seniors in the spring game draft. He had coaches raving about his physicality and toughness after he dominated in the spring scrimmages. Powell could challenge Williamson for the starting safety job if he can translate his spring success into fall practices.
The “No Fly Zone” has lost two key members in Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis, but stars Kurtis Drummond and Trae Waynes, along with some talented youngsters, will make sure the secondary continues to live up to it’s name.
For more Michigan State Football news and opinion check out the isportsweb team page here