Wide receivers were the target of our look at some of the top players Notre Dame will see on its upcoming 2013 schedule. The shift goes to the guys who cover the receivers now - the cornerbacks. In Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell, the Irish have a couple of top corners of their own, but Irish receivers will see their share of top cornerbacks covering them this fall.
Aaron Colvin - Oklahoma
If the NFL draft was held today Colvin would be a first-round pick. Colvin is considered by most to be the second best cornerback in the country heading into the 2013 season (TCU's Jason Verrett hold the top spot, while Notre Dame's Bennett Jackson is ranked fifth by nfldraftscout.com). Colvin could have bolted for the NFL after his junior season in 2012, but opted to return for another year in Norman.
The 6-foot, 181 pound senior has played both corner and safety during his career. He was a reserve cornerback as a true freshman in 2010, but moved to strong safety in 2011 only to move back to corner last season.
Colvin led the Sooners with 11 pass breakups and finished second in the Big 12 and on his team with four interceptions. His efforts earned him First Team All-Big 12 honors for the season. Colvin is one of just a handful of defensive starters returning for Oklahoma in 2013. The only interceptions of his career came in 2012, but Colvin owns 179 career tackles (an average of nearly 60) in his first three seasons.
Darqueze Dennard - Michigan State
Dennard is another highly regarded NFL cornerback prospect. The Michigan State senior is ranked fourth out of more than 240 potential NFL eligible corners for next year's draft. Dennard brought just a two-star recruiting ranking coming out of Dry Branch, Ga., but he had a first-round NFL draft grade this year before deciding to return for his fifth year at MSU.
The 5-foot-11, 188 pounder had his most productive college season last year. He had 52 tackles (34 solo) with 10 passes defended and a team-high three interceptions. Dennard was a First Team All-Big Ten pick by the league's coaches and a second team selection in on the media ballot.
Dennard was not completely healthy during the 2012. He had surgery after season's end to repair a sports hernia. He went through light drills during Michigan State's spring practice season, but is expected to be at full speed once fall camp opens next month.
Ricardo Allen - Purdue
Allen once proclaimed himself the "best cornerback in the Big Ten". He was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten performer according to the media in 2012 and a Second Team All-Conference pick in the vote of the league's coaches.
The 5-foot-9, 186 pound senior has returned at least one interception for a touchdown in each of his first three seasons in a Boilermaker uniform, including one last year against Marshall (his only interception of the season). Allen holds the school record with four interceptions returned for TDs in a career. He needs one more to set the FBS all-time record for interceptions returned for touchdowns.
Allen has started all 38 games of his career. Forty two of Allen's 45 tackles last year were solo. He had four pass breakups and five pass deflections last season.
Blake Countess - Michigan
Countess was considered one of the better cornerbacks in the Big Ten heading into the 2012 season after earning Big Ten All-Freshman team honors in 2011. His sophomore season did not last long though. Countess tore his ACL in Michigan's season-opening 41-14 loss to Alabama in Dallas and watched the rest of the season from the sidelines.
The 5-foot-10, 181 pound junior with three seasons of remaining eligibility made seven starts at cornerback as a freshman while helping the Wolverines to a Sugar Bowl win in 2011. He made 44 tackles (30 solo) with six pass deflections that season.
Jordan Johnson - BYU
Johnson is not nearly as highly regarded as the top corners on this list heading into the season, but he is someone who could be by the time the Cougars visit Notre Dame Stadium on Nov. 23. Johnson went from primarily a special teams performer as a freshman in 2011 to a full-time starter at cornerback last year.
The 5-foot-10, 185 pound Springfield, Mass native led BYU with 15 pass breakups in 2012 while also registering 48 tackles (35 solo)with an interception and a forced fumble. He had a relatively quiet day in Notre Dame's 17-14 win last season, with five tackles and one pass breakup against the Fighting Irish.