Initial comments ...
"We're so excited to be able to sit here and pick Darqueze Dennard there at our pick at 24. We went into the draft really feeling like we could get some new life and really improve our football team in a couple of areas with young players, and in the secondary was one option, and we were able to get that on the head here with this pick. We really feel good about him, the style of play that he has demonstrated at Michigan State. Secondly, the quality he shows as a person and how he carries himself. He's been a leader there, so he fits the mold we were looking for."
Were you kind of surprised he was there at 24?
"Well the good thing is we had a couple of options at 24. I think the quarterback going (Johnny Manziel at 22) was helpful to us. So that was good."
What do you like about his style of play?
"In their scheme, they were a big time pressure defense over the last year or so. He's been out there by himself quite a bit. He's got a great feel around receivers. He's not afraid, because part of that job back there at cornerback is that you can't be scared. He has a great feel around him, he can run and cover, and gets his hands on guys, and that's what you've got to have at cornerback. Now he's got to learn and transition to play the football in the air."
He's coming from a program that won big last season. Does that matter to you?
"All of the cornerbacks this year were on teams that have been successful. Partly because of their play, that's part of it. With Coach (Mark) Dantonio there, we feel good about guys just like you do with the other schools around here. We have good relationships with the coaches and we feel good about their style of play and how they've been coached and mentored."
Did Mark Dantonio say anything about what sets him apart as a leader?
"Nothing that I want to share here."
He seems to be kind of like one of your guys, a guy that would fit in with a Leon Hall ...
"The people that spent the most time around him when he was here in Cincinnati really felt good about him in that way. I've had exposure to him a couple times in person, and you're impressed with him and how he carries himself and handles himself. Now he's got to step in here, and he's coming into a room that's a very talented room. He's got to go in there and he's got to compete for playing time. All he does is make our football team better. We've got some guys who have played great football and they're not willing to give up their spots. He's going to have to come in here and work his tail off, and I think he can do that. I also think he can contribute on special teams. He's a guy that really has a chance to enhance what we do on Sundays."
Does getting a player like this who either fills a need or is the best player available give you more flexibility tomorrow to do some things?
"It gives us the ability to move forward and take a look at some other spots where the draft might be a little deeper and get us in the right spots."
Was there any temptation to try and move up when he was still there?
"There's always the banter in the room. There were a couple of teams as you saw that wanted to slide back a little bit. I think we valued keeping the picks we have and it kind of worked out for us. There were teams interested in coming up into that spot, but we felt good because we were really hitting an area we wanted to address with players available that we felt were good enough for that spot."
Defensive backs coach
Was it stressful because you wanted this kid and were worried he would get taken between No. 21 and 23?
Guenther: "Corner was one of our spots in the draft that we wanted to look at. When you do the process, you try to look at some of the teams that have corner needs. As we went down the list, it was this team, and guys were trading in and out of spots right before us, which we had a feeling was going to happen. This particular young man — I thought he would probably be going in the middle of the draft, and he happened to fall to 24 to us. It was a no-brainer at that point for us."
You had to be stunned that he was there at No. 24 ...
Guenther: "Being patient on those things and just following your draft order is what we've done here for a long time, and it worked out again this year in our favor, so I'm really happy with it."
It's always nice when a first-year defensive coordinator gets to draft a defensive player in the first round ...
Guenther: "Hell yeah it is."
Coach Joseph, you've been around a league a little bit with other clubs. Is there anyone he reminds you of?
Joseph: "Well, I would say Leon Hall. That's a pretty good comparison. He's a solid player. He's smart, he's physical, he's competitive. He does things right. In this league as a corner, if you're a technique sound corner and you play smart, you can play a long time. There are guys that don't make a bunch of plays, but don't give up big plays. That's the key in this league — to be consistent and smart, and be tough and competitive. He's that, he's that."
Does he fit into the scheme of being able to play man-to-man?
Guenther: "That's what this guy did in college. He was a three-year starter there. In their system, he plays up close to the receiver almost every play, and their safeties are about eight yards off the ball. He literally had no help, and teams that played against Michigan State knew that, 'Hey this guy's out there on an island one on one.' And he was tremendous. I think he had 10 career interceptions — a really, really good senior year. He's just an all-football kind of guy. He's not real flashy, but he'll do the dirty work. He'll tackle. He'll play special teams if he needs to. But he's definitely the guy in this draft that really fit us."
Do you share Vance's assessment or his comparison that he's a Leon Hall type?
Guenther: "No question. We went to the workout together. We worked him out. When we worked him out, Vance and I said, 'That's Leon Hall.' He's technique-sound; he does what he's asked to do. All the coaches at Michigan State rave about the guy. He always takes the extra step to do things the right way. That's the kind of guy we want around here."
You said today was stressful. Are you looking forward to tomorrow night?
Guenther: "Not really. No, I am. I'm looking forward to adding new players — getting better in certain areas. I'm not a huge fan of it being this late in the season here. Just hoping that your guy was there, that was the stressful part. Do you move up? Do you not? Do you stay put? What do you do? We stayed true to our board, and there he was. Hopefully the next couple days work out the same way."
Is there any hesitation to start a rookie cornerback?
Joseph: "It depends on the person. He's a very mature person. He's an achiever also. From high school to college, he's been a winner. His personality, his skill set, I will feel fine starting him. But he's got to earn it. We've got Leon (Hall) here. We've got Terence (Newman) here. We've got Dre (Kirkpatrick) here. We've got Adam (Jones) here. He's got to earn it."
He's a man-to-man player?
Guenther: "Yep, man-to-man. But again, as a young player coming in, being behind those guys — Terrence, Leon and Adam, and those guys that have been around the league — it's going to tremendous for him. Maybe if he went to a different team, he would be forced into a role to start, and that's where guys struggle a little bit. Here, we can wean the kid a little bit. Maybe he can play some of the nickel. We'll have a chance to see what he can do in the preseason, obviously. Again, just to go off what Vance said, this guy's an overachiever. He really wasn't highly recruited coming out of high school. I think Michigan State found him late at a track meet. He goes in there and plays. All of the reports that we got on this kid was that he does everything you want him to do and he does it well. So hopefully he can come here and help us as well."
He's obviously not going to start, but could he play the slot?
Guenther: "Sure, for us, yes in our system. That's the added value with the guy. I think he's tough, he tackles, he's a physical guy. For us, our nickel spot has got to do those things — be a good blitzer, a good tackler. You've got to fit into the run game. It's just not, 'Hey, lock up the slot and let's go.' Certainly with the amount of corners that we have in the stable now, it's a nice little problem to have, really."
If someone told you this morning that you were going to draft this kid, what would you have said?
Guenther: " 'Hell yeah, let's go. Absolutely.' I wouldn't blink."
You didn't expect him to be there ...
Guenther: "No, I did not. I thought he'd be long gone, to be quite honest with you. Sometimes it works in your favor, and sometimes it doesn't."
Joseph: "It worked good this time."