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Arrest of ex-Husker Dennard may hurt draft status

Arrest of ex-Husker Dennard may hurt draft status

Alfonzo Dennard may have done some damage to his draft status when he was arrested and accused of assaulting a Lincoln police officer as downtown bars closed early Saturday.

The incident comes within a week of the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday and figures to hear the former standout Husker cornerback's name called, though possibly later now than previously expected.

Lincoln police say Dennard had been involved in a disturbance on a sidewalk at 14th and O streets about 2:15 a.m. and hit another male before officers witnessing the incident could intervene.

As an officer tried to take Dennard into custody, the 22-year-old pushed the officer and punched him once on the left side of his ear and jaw, police said in a news release. The officer, whom a police report lists as Ben Kopsa, sustained minor injury but did not seek medical treatment.

Four officers struggled with Dennard before taking him into custody, police said.

He was lodged in Lancaster County jail on suspicion of third-degree assault on a police officer — a felony — and resisting arrest. He was also cited on suspicion of misdemeanor assault.

People jailed on felony charges during the weekend are typically held without bond until appearing before a judge the following Monday, at which point a bond would be assigned.

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Online court records did not yet list an attorney for Dennard.

Before the arrest, Russ Lande, NFL Draft scouting expert for GM Jr Scouting and The Sporting News, believed Dennard would be drafted in either the second or third round.

Now Lande wonders if Dennard might have to wait until at least the fourth round on Saturday, the final day of the draft.

"But he might even be in the fifth or sixth," Lande said. "I doubt he'll go in the first three rounds because of this.

"A lot of it is really going to depend on the research teams find. Teams are going to tell their scouts, 'Hey … go figure out what's going on because we've got this guy sitting on our board.'"

Gil Brandt, senior analyst for NFL.com, had Dennard ranked 67th on his most recent draft board, figuring him as an early third-round pick.

"Historically something like this costs a guy a round, probably," Brandt said. "One of the things that's hard to justify is … people will say, 'Well, why did we draft a guy that punched a cop at 2 o'clock in the morning?' And that's a hard part to get over."

Dropping a round could cost a player about $300,000, according to Brandt.

Lande said he was surprised to hear about the incident Saturday morning because "most of the people I had spoken with had expressed he's a pretty mature kid."

Dennard, of Rochelle, Ga., came back from an early-season hamstring injury last fall to be named Big Ten defensive back of the year, furthering his reputation as a lockdown corner by shutting down some of the league's top receivers like B.J. Cunningham and Marvin McNutt.

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Dennard chose to return to Nebraska for his senior year after considering jumping to the NFL following his junior year.

However, his 2011 season ended on a sour note, when he was ejected from the Capital One Bowl in the third quarter for throwing two punches during a scuffle with South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

Dennard appeared to have moved past that incident well enough. He apologized immediately after the game and seemed to have satisfied most with his explanation of a situation that came in the heat of competition.

As for Saturday's issue, Lande said it would not be as damaging if it were just a bar fight. But the fact that the incident involves the accusation of hitting an officer makes it more complicated for an NFL team interested in the corner.

It is also unusual because of how close it comes to the draft.

"There's really not a lot of history behind something like this," Lande said. "That's what makes it sort of tough to predict."

Lande guessed that every scout who focuses on the Midwest was on the phone most of Saturday morning trying to figure out the details to this situation.

"Teams are just trying to get all the homework done because when a guy gets arrested just five days before the draft, it's so hard to get the proper information."

Journal Star reporter Steven M. Sipple contributed to this story.

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