College Football News Preview 2022 preseason unit rankings, looking at the top ten defensive back situations and rankings by conference.
The college football secondaries are getting better and better.
In response to all of the high-powered passing games, defenses are putting even more of a premium on the top pass rushers, and they’re getting more and more creative with their defensive backfields.
Now it’s the norm to have a hybrid safety who can be used like an extra linebacker, and as a pass rusher, and as a corner, and …
Versatility is important, and lots and lots and lots of options matter, because the offenses adjusted, too.
Putting more defensive backs on the field is fine, but if there’s one weak link, or if one of part goes down, the improved passers and offensive coordinators have figured out how to take advantage of that better than ever before.
With all of that in mind, here are the defensive back unit rankings with the ten best going into the season along with the rankings in each conference.
CFN Preview 2022 Preseason College Football Unit Rankings: Defensive Backs
The Crimson Tide secondary was already great, and then it brought in corner Eli Ricks from LSU – there’s a shot he’s the first defensive back off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft. Safeties Jordan Battle and Brian Branch will also work at the next level, Kool-Aid McKinstry and Khyree Jackson are terrific corners, and Malachi Moore is sure to be special at one of the safety spots if his back problems are over.
There’s a shot the secondary turns into the team’s biggest strength. Corners Clarence Lewis and Cam Hart can hit, the depth is – for the most part – there for all spots, the safeties are experienced, and on top of all of that, Northwestern transfer Brandon Joseph might be the best safety in college football.
The transfer portal taketh away, but it also giveth, and giveth some more. Losing star corner Eli Ricks to Alabama hurts, but LSU was able to load up with five excellent transfers – safeties Greg Brooks (Arkansas) and Joe Foucha (Arkansas), and corners Jarrick Bernard-Converse (Oklahoma State), Mekhi Garner (Louisiana), Sevyn Banks (Ohio State), and Quad Wilson (McNeese State) – who should work right away around veteran safety Jay Ward.
Like everywhere else on the Georgia defense, a slew of key starts are missing from last year’s national championship group. However, Kelee Ringo – the new legend whose pick six sealed the CFP title – is back at one corner, Christopher Smith is an NFL starting safety, and Tykee Smith is a special free safety if he can get past his injury issues.
The talent is there, and now the pass rush has to help the cause. Joey Porter might be the best corner in the Big Ten, safety JiAyir Brown is the leading returning tackler, and Kalen King is a strong corner on the other side of Porter. The latest recruiting class is strong enough to push for meaningful time.
The Texas A&M defense is loaded with superstar prospects, but it’s really, really young on the front six/seven. That goes for the key backups in the secondary, too, but the starting five is experienced and very, very good. Safeties Demani Richardson and Antonio Johnson are the best of the bunch, but they’re all going to have to hold off the new guys from finding their way in.
The Wolverine secondary loses some huge parts from last year’s group, but it has two likely all-stars in corner DJ Turner and safety RJ Moten, and there was enough of a rotation to have new starters ready to step up. The depth is very young, but very talented.
Start with all-star corner Clark Phillips and rock-solid safety Cole Bishop, throw in some good parts around them, and add in former Illinois State star Clayton Isbell at safety and great-looking freshman Sione Vaki, and this will once again be one of the Pac-12’s best defensive backfields.
The secondary that took the ball away in bunches should be every bit as dangerous with playmaking corner Riley Moss back from a knee injury. There’s experience across the board for what should be one of the most sound pass defenses in the country.
The SEC’s No. 1 pass defense – fine, so that’s partly because everyone ran the ball on the Gamecocks – not only gets back good veterans – starting with safety RJ Roderick and Nickel Cam Smith – but in comes one of the MAC’s best defensive players over the last few years. Devonni Reed is transferring in from Central Michigan to take over at free safety.