Top Returning Big Ten Cornerbacks For 2017


Now that Desmond King, Jourdan Lewis and Marshon Lattimore are gone, who’ll step up to become the best Big Ten cornerbacks of 2017?


There’s an opening to become this year’s top cornerback in the Big Ten, since so many of the league’s elite pass defenders either graduated or left school early in January. Sure, there are solid veterans, like Nebraska’s Chris Jones, Indiana’s Rashard Fant and Wisconsin’s Derrick Tindal, returning for their senior seasons. But the final outlook on the position will hinge squarely on the evolution of the conference’s younger corners, namely Penn State’s John Reid, Ohio State’s Denzel Ward and Northwestern’s Montre Hartage.

Top Returning Big Ten Cornerbacks

5. Montre Hartage, Northwestern

The pieces are in place for the Wildcat secondary to be unusually stingy in 2017. The safeties, Godwin Igwebuike and Kyle Queiro, are outstanding, and Hartage is an emerging star at cornerback. As a true sophomore in 2016, Hartage copped honorable mention All-Big Ten after picking off nine passes and breaking up nine. He has room for growth, but also the time and the physical tools to get there as early as this season.

4. Denzel Ward, Ohio State

Ward shared a position last season with Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore, who’ll be drafted this spring, yet he still worked his way into the rotation. He was just too good to keep off the field. And now that there are vacancies at corner, Ward is poised to become one of the new stars on the back end in Columbus. He broke up nine passes to earn honorable mention All-Big Ten, and he might have the best wheels on a very fast roster.

3. John Reid, Penn State

Reid is the type of student-athlete who becomes the face of a program. He’s the total package of smarts, maturity and ability, and he’s still just a junior this season. The computer science major, who consumes more film than a critic, began to blossom on defense and special teams in 2016. Reid copped honorable mention All-Big Ten as a sophomore, breaking up a team-high nine passes. He also contributed on punt returns and is generally emblematic of what James Franklin is trying to do in Happy Valley.

2. Chris Jones, Nebraska

With 20 career starts, Jones will be one of the experienced senior leaders of the Husker D in 2017. He has steadily improved, both on the field and in the weight room, culminating in last season’s 37 tackles, three picks and 10 pass breakups to pick up honorable mention All-Big Ten. At 6-feet and 185 pounds, Jones has good size and instincts in coverage, and his open field tackling skills will also benefit the Nebraska run defense this fall.

1. Rashard Fant, Indiana

The league’s premier pass defender resides in Bloomington? Yup. Fant has exceeded all expectations as a Hoosier, and then he surprised some folks by returning to school following a Second Team All-Big Ten junior year. He breaks on balls about as quickly as anyone in the country, defending 39 passes over the last two seasons. The only knock on Fant, who does play bigger than his size, is that his 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame makes him prone to getting outmuscled by thicker receivers.

MORE: Top Returning Cornerbacks In College Football For 2017