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Defensive Back

North Carolina

All four starters are back from the nation's 14th ranked passing defense. All four of them are seniors. Two of them, Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams, have started every game in their Carolina careers (38 each) and both are Preseason All-Americans. Burney and Williams have combined for 314 of Carolina's school record 508 interception return yards from a year ago. Williams ranks third at UNC with 12 career interceptions, while Burney has nine. Senior CB Charles Brown is a talented cover man who finished second on the team last year with 66 tackles. At strong safety is Da'Norris Searcy, who also doubles as the team's punt return specialist. His 14.9-yard return average was fifth best nationally. The back ups too are quite impressive. Sophomore cornerback Mywan Jackson had an incredible spring game hauling in two interceptions. Butch Davis is no stranger to coaching defense and getting the right recruits that he likes to fit his system. He has them across the entire defensive board but these cover men are tops.


The Big Ten’s best pass defense (4th nationally) from a year ago has three of its parts back. Their 21 interceptions were also 5th best nationally. This Hawkeye crew could have received our top billing had it not been for the loss of lockdown corner Amari Spievey who left early for the NFL. Senior All-Big Ten safety Brett Greenwood has been a starter since his freshman year and is extremely dependable. He has racked up 168 tackles in his career with 7 interceptions. Preseason All-American Tyler Sash is the best ballhawk in the league from the other safety position. He was also a semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe Defensive Back Award while picking off a team high six passes with 203 return yards (a school record). The lone starting returnee at corner is Shaun Prater who tied for second in the Big Ten in pass break-ups (league games). Anchoring the other corner will be Micah Hyde. The former Ohio Division IV Offensive Player of the Year as a senior and first team all-state QB was one of only three true freshmen to see action in 2009. This backfield could prove to be, once again, a key to Iowa’s continued success.


Not many teams can lose two early NFL Draft entrees in Joe Haden and Major Wright and come back the following season with such a highly ranked unit. Welcome to Gainesville where head coach Urban Meyer out recruits the best of them. According to coaches, the guys who are returning finished this spring every bit as good compared to the unit that lined up last fall, which is a pretty hefty statement seeing this was the nation's No. 2 rated pass defense. The safeties are Will Hill -- a USA Today First Team High School All-American out of New Jersey who enters his third year of starting and Ahmad Black -- a 2009 All-SEC performer who started all 14 games during the Gator's 2008 BCS National Championship run where he finished tied for the lead nationally with seven interceptions. If that were not enough enter early enrollee Matt Elam, a five-star prep player who was rated the No. 1 safety in the country by most recruiting services. Elam has already proven this spring that he is more than qualified to play right away. At one corner is Jelani Jenkins; another former high school Parade All-American while the other corner has upwards of four different players vying for first team duties. The Gators won't miss a step in this backfield. This may be the most athletically gifted bunch in these unit rankings. They may not be quite as experienced but by season's end they will be chomping the rest of the competition per usual.

West Virginia

Just two seasons ago Mountaineer fans were crying the blues about how poor this secondary was performing. But slowly, defensive back coach David Lockwood has molded this unit into one of the Big East's better coverage units. Sands and Hogan give WVU two Preseason All-Americans at Robert Sands may be the best defensive player in the entire conference. He will return for his third season as a starter at free safety. The 6'5, 221 pounder from the south Florida area led the Big East last fall in passes defended (13) and tied for the lead in interceptions (5). Brandon Hogan returns for his final season at corner with explosive speed and quickness. Moving the former slot receiver into this backfield has proven to be one of the best moves this coaching staff has made. Sports Illustrated named him an Honorable Mention All-American while starting all 13 games in '09. Hard-hitting Sidney Glover is a presence at safety in this 3-3-5 stack defense. He was a two-year starter at the spur safety position before moving to bandit this spring. He continues to be one of the team leaders. Keith Tandy returns for his second year as the starter at cornerback. The statistical numbers were not far off from being very good last fall (29th nationally in pass efficiency defense). Those numbers and accomplishments will get much better this fall. These starters are all third and fourth year veterans.

South Carolina

South Carolina had the eighth-best pass defense in the nation last season, allowing a meager 163.0 yards per game through the air. The Gamecocks are looking for even more considering everyone is returning to this backfield with the exception of safety Darian Stewart. These players are aware of their expectations despite there only being one senior in this lineup. Cornerback C.C. Whitlock even made the statement, "We're looking forward to being the top secondary in the nation." Those are some big words, but on paper they do have some truth behind them. The cornerback position also features Stephon Gilmore, one of the top freshmen last year in the SEC who started every game as a true frosh. All-SEC free safety Chris Culliver has switched positions and will be permanently playing cornerback for the first time in his career. Culliver has excellent speed and is the school’s all-time leader in kickoff returns (94) and kickoff return yards (2,215)...the 2,215 yards ranks fifth all-time in the SEC. Akeem Auguste will now move to free safety after being a starter at corner all of last fall. Two rising sophomores, D.J. Swearinger and DeVonte Holloman, are also in the mix.


Just Missed: BoiseState, Nebraska, TCU, Texas