|Matt York/Associated Press|
|Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard will be in for a true test this weekend vs. Notre Dame.|
Notre Dame has one of the most productive receiving duos in the nation in senior TJ Jones and sophomore DaVaris Daniels. Michigan State has one of the best cornerbacks in the nation in senior Darqueze Dennard. And that makes for an intriguing game-within-a-game for Saturday's Irish-Spartans contest.
Jones (5-feet-11, 195 pounds) has 19 receptions for 289 yards (15.2 yards per catch) and a touchdown. Daniels (6-1, 203) has 17 receptions for 299 yards (17.6 ypc) and four scores. Not only are they a productive duo, they are cousins.
It'll be up to Dennard (and his secondary mates) to make sure neither Irish receiver takes over the game. Unlike the Notre Dame receivers, both of whom were highly recruited out of high school, Dennard (5-11, 197) was an unheralded high school recruit; he chose the Spartans over Middle Tennessee State and Utah State. Dennard quickly made a name for himself, though, starting twice as a true freshman before a knee injury sidelined him midway through that season.
Dennard is in his third season as a fulltime starter and generally considered one of the top three senior corners in the nation. He is comfortable in press coverage, has good speed (a consistent 4.5 in the 40) and is physical. Dennard already has five pass breakups this season, giving him 20 for his career. He had three picks and seven pass breakups last season, when he played through a sports hernia suffered in September; he required surgery after the season.
Coach Mark Dantonio has been effusive with his praise of Dennard's ball skills, and Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has called Dennard "probably the best corner we've coached." Narduzzi and Dantonio have been together since 2004, when Dantonio became coach at Cincinnati.
Michigan State is allowing just 126.7 passing yards per game. One reason is an experienced secondary; another is that the schedule hasn't included any offense-minded teams. That changes Saturday.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.