The Big Ten returns one of its interception leaders (Blake Countess, 6) and five of its runner-ups (4). The interception race figures to be a close one, but who will finish the season on top? Tom Dienhart, Sean Merriman and Brent Yarina offer their picks in this post.
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2013 leader: Ricardo Allen, Purdue & Blake Countess, Michigan – 6
2014 returning leader: Blake Countess, Michigan – 6
Tom Dienhart: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State. With Darqueze Dennard gone, the junior is now considered to be the Spartans’ top corner. And he’ll likely be tested. Waynes will benefit from the pressure generated by the front and seize on mistakes with his aggressive play.
Sean Merriman: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State. This is going to be close, but with Darqueze Dennard off to the NFL, I think Waynes steps up as a big-time playmaker. Remember, MSU has two exceptional defensive ends in Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush, who are going to put constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That could lead to arid throws, and I believe Waynes will be a guy who takes advantage. Waynes recorded three interceptions and five pass-breakups last season. Look for those numbers to double in 2014.
Brent Yarina: Kurtis Drummond, S, Michigan State. Drummond enters his final season with eight career interceptions. Fresh off a season in which he picked off a career-high four balls, including one of the best picks of the season (watch video above), he’s also the new leader of the stingy “No Fly Zone.” Drummond is a playmaker, and he’ll benefit from another strong defensive line rushing the quarterback’s throws.