Ranking college football’s top 10 defensive backs for 2024

Mar 29, 2024, 07:00 AM ET As we continue our leading 10 rankings at various positions around college football, it appears our citizens had as much trouble discovering separation among the prospects at protective back as receivers do when going against the protectors themselves.This was the tightest contest up until now, with a tie at the top that was broken based upon the number of first-place votes each of the 2 contenders gotten from our ESPN press reporters. That left Georgia’s Malaki Starks at No. 1, edging Colorado two-way star Travis Hunter, who likewise made our top 10 receivers list.The bunched results did not end there. In fact, the player with the most first-place votes was Michigan’s Will Johnson, who was 3rd overall, and five players were No. 1 on a minimum of one ballot.Points were designated based upon our reporters’votes: 10 points for first place, 9 for second place and down to one point for 10th place.Here are the results.Previous leading 10 lists: Receivers|Running backs|Quarterbacks|Pass-rushers 2023 statistics: 3 interceptions, 7 passes safeguarded, 52 takes on Points: 67(two first-place votes )From the really first time Starks stepped on the field for the Bulldogs, there was a feeling that the luxury safety was various. In the very first quarter of his very first collegiate game Sept. 3,

2022, Starks intercepted a deep pass from Oregon quarterback Bo Nix. He high-pointed the ball and carried it in while falling backwards in Georgia’s 49-3 triumph. Starks was called a freshman All-American while assisting lead the Bulldogs to their 2nd straight CFP national championship.Last season, Starks was even better. He was named a consensus All-American after totaling 52 tackles, 3 interceptions and 7 pass separations, which was sixth amongst all Power 5 securities, according to Pro Football Focus. With securities Tykee Smith and Javon Bullard leaving for the NFL draft, Starks will have a lot more crucial role on the back end of Georgia’s defense this season. He might end up being the Bulldogs’first two-time All-American safety since John Little in 1985-86. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound junior is projected to be a first-round selection in the 2025 NFL draft.– Mark Schlabach AP Photo/David Zalubowski 2023 stats: 3 interceptions, 5 passes safeguarded, 31 takes on Points: 67(no first-place votes )When Deion Sanders mentioned the Louis Vuitton he was bringing to Colorado, Hunter was one of the players he was referencing, and truly so. While he was the best player in the nation who was getting snaps on both offense and defense, Hunter’s finest plays from 2023 stick out on the defensive side, such as his spectacular interception in the opener against TCU.He regularly followed the opponent’s

best receiver and had 3 interceptions on the season, second most among Pac-12 corners. He likewise had 31 overall tackles, two for a loss, in addition to 5 passes defended. If Colorado takes another leap in 2024, Hunter will be a huge factor.– Harry Lyles Jr. 2023 stats: 4 interceptions,

4 passes safeguarded, 27 tackles Points: 60( 3 first-place votes )Among Jim Harbaugh’s more decorated recent recruits, Johnson immediately lived up to blue-chip hype, enabling simply a 44%conclusion rate and an 11.9 QBR in coverage and playing a significant function for the Wolverines’ 2022 CFP team.

In 2023, both Michigan and Johnson raised their respective games

. He permitted simply a 42 %completion rate and a 4.3 QBR as the Wolverines won a nationwide title with the No. 1 defense per SP+. Almost everything is altering for Michigan in 2024– Sherrone Moore changes Harbaugh as head coach, Wink Martindale replaces Jesse Minter as defensive coordinator, and only about five overall offensive and protective beginners return. However any secondary with Johnson in it will instantly be among the country’s finest, specifically with the veteran security

aid he need to receive. So that is something the Wolverines can bank on.– Bill Connelly 2023 stats: 2 interceptions, 3 passes protected, 107 takes on Points: 53 (2 first-place votes)Editor’s Picks 2 Related There is a reason Downs received more than 100 call after he announced he was going to transfer from Alabama. Downs was the best freshman safety in the nation a year earlier, a first-class hire in the Class of 2023 who measured up to the advance billing in his only season with the Tide. Downs became the very first freshman to lead the group in deals with

, tallying 107, and included two interceptions en path to freshman All-America honors.He chose to

move after Nick Saban retired and said he selected Ohio State over Georgia since it was the”best choice for me. “Downs signs up with a veteran defense that includes returning beginners Jack Sawyer, JT Tuimoloau, Denzel Burke and Lathan Ransom. Ohio State currently ranked in the top 10 in the nation in pass defense without him. His arrival just reinforces an already stout group.– Andrea Adelson 2023 statistics: 3 interceptions, 10 passes safeguarded, 31 deals with Points: 48 (one first-place vote)Morrison shares a protective backfield with the 2023 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner in security Xavier Watts, however he may have a greater ceiling, both in college and with his NFL draft outlook. He had a breakout season as a freshman in 2022, tape-recording 6 interceptions, which ranked seventh nationally and were the most for a Notre Dame players because Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o in 2012. Although Watts had the glitzier interceptions numbers last season, Morrison had an extremely strong encore, leading the group with 10 pass separations. He also included three more interceptions as well as 3.5 tackles for loss, showing enhancement versus the run.A noise tackler who can mark a challenger’s leading receiver, Morrison was a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award. The son of previous NFL security Darryl Morrison might be one of the first protective players chosen in the 2025 draft if he keeps his trajectory as a ball-hawking cornerback.– Adam Rittenberg 2023 statistics: 1 interception, 8 passes defended, 24 tackles Points: 37 Burke was a freshman All-American in 2021 before actioning in as Ohio State’s full-time starter a year later.

He has actually begun 24 straight games at corner for the Buckeyes and has actually been extraordinary at the job.As a junior in 2023, he completed seventh in the Big 10 in completion portion permitted(38.5%), gave up simply.88 backyards per snap in protection, enabled only one touchdown toss and broke up 9 passes to opt for one interception.– David Hale

Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire 2023 stats: 7 interceptions, 4 passes protected, 52 tackles Points: 34(one first-place vote) Fact be told, Watts may be a little low on this list considering all he achieved last season– and the capacity for more in 2024. The reigning Bronko Nagurski Award winner as the best defensive player in the country, Watts was a consentaneous All-American in 2023, leading the nation with 7 interceptions while likewise completing with 52 tackles, 4 pass breaks up,

11 passes defended and a forced fumble returned for a touchdown.Watts could have turned professional but chose to go back to school for

another season, returning

to a veteran group that has styles on a playoff berth. His increase to becoming the very best security in the nation has been fast. Watts began his profession as a wide receiver, but changed positions and became a beginning security at the end of 2022.– Adelson 2023 stats: 3 interceptions, 8 passes protected, 67 takes on Points: 22 When your offense has a hard time to crack double digits in scoring, it is excellent to have a shutdown corner on the other side of the ball. Iowa was lucky adequate to have two. While Cooper DeJean was the more recognized star in 2023, Sebastian Castro progressed into a real star, doing a bit of everything along the way to assist the Hawkeyes’defense.In coverage,

he was among the nation’s best, enabling just 0.41 yards per protection

snap, which

ranks as the third-best mark among returning cornerbacks for 2024. He permitted opposing QBs to finish simply 37.5%of their passes versus him, permitted just 3.3 backyards per target and picked off one pass with eight PBUs. However he was also one of the most consistent tacklers at the position, racking up 67 takedowns, and he disrupted backfields routinely, racking up eight deals with for loss.

— Hale 2023 stats: 0 interceptions, 6 passes protected, 42 takes on Points: 16 After years of relying on a dominant defensive front, Clemson’s defense took an odd turn in 2023. The Tigers’run defense was merely good, not terrific, however the pass defense was almost undisputable. Mukuba was the No. 1 factor for that. He eliminated half the field on any provided play: In 10 games, his guy was targeted only

27 times and caught just eight balls for 85 yards. That’s a paltry 0.27 yards permitted

per coverage snap. He quit one 20-yard completion all year, and it was a mere 21-yarder. Now he moves back to his home town of Austin, where, along with Jahdae Barron and Terrance Brooks, he ought to form among the most physical and oppressive cornerback tandems in the country. He can play out large or in the slot, and he could be an enormous difference-maker for the Texas defense.– Connelly 2023 statistics: 3 interceptions, 14 passes protected, 46 tackles Points: 16 One of the most sought after cornerbacks in the transfer portal, Muhammad offers Dan Lanning’s defense another weapon. He began his profession at Oklahoma State before investing last season at Washington, where he started all 15 games and had 46

tackles, 5 takes on for loss, 2 sacks, 16 passes defended and 3 interceptions. This was good enough to make Muhammad second-team All-Pac-12 honors.The addition of Muhammad, a respectable mention All-Big 12 pick in 2022, is huge for Oregon, which revamped its secondary this offseason. What may be even bigger is taking him from Washington after Kalen DeBoer’s departure to Alabama, as both the Ducks and Huskies get ready for a shift into the Big 10 in 2024.– Lyles Likewise getting votes: Billy Bowman Jr., Oklahoma (14 ); Fentrell Cypress II, Florida State(14); Quincy Riley, Louisville (8); Tyreek Chappell, Texas A&M (8); Dorian Strong, Virginia Tech (6); Hunter Wohler, Wisconsin(6); Beau Freyler, Iowa State(5); Jordan Hancock, Ohio State (4 ); Deshawn Pace, UCF (3); Rod Moore, Michigan(3); Jahdae Barron, Texas (2); Kevin Winston Jr., Penn State(2)

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