Let’s count down the five best defensive backs in the SEC.
5) Jeremy Brown, CB, Florida
Playing behind Janoris Jenkins is pretty much going to assure you that you will not get nearly the cred that you could get elsewhere. Brown was fine with that, picking off 3 passes as part of a fantastic Gator secondary. But with Jenkins and safety Ahmad Black departing, Brown is the best left over from that group. He’s the number 1 CB now, meaning he’ll draw the top receiver. He’s got all the tools: great quickness, great instincts, and very strong for his size. He’s great in man coverage, and should do a great job on some of the best receivers in the SEC.
4) Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Claiborne was in a similar situation last year to what Brown faced: playing behind Patrick Peterson. While Brown was quietly very good, Claiborne was quietly fantastic, snagging five interceptions in 12 games. And just like Brown, he watches his better teammate depart. I publicly doubted Claiborne last year, but I saw him play three times, and he impressed me in all three. He is a fantastic athlete who will not give an inch in bump n run coverage and has good enough instincts to be a safety.
3) Janzen Jackson, SS, Tennessee
The physical traits are all there. Incredible vision, good speed, heavy hitter, and can play good enough man coverage to fool somebody into thinking that he’s actually a cornerback. It’s the mental side of him that causes problems. Off the field issues have plagued this star safety for his first two years at Tennessee. Here’s to betting that he is a good boy and puts those to bed and has a solid 2011 season. If something goes wrong, talent will not be the culprit.
2) Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Kirkpatrick had huge shoes to fill last year with the departure of star cornerback Javier Arenas, and did well, picking off three passes and batting down numerous others. He possesses exceptional talent in bump n run coverage, even with- no, especially with- the best receivers. He’s got great speed and great hand, and can match anybody’s route cuts within a tenth of a second. He is without a doubt the best cornerback in the SEC heading into 2011, until somebody unseats him.
1) Robert Lester, FS, Alabama
Here is why you don’t throw against the Crimson Tide if you do not absolutely need to: they’ve got the best corner and the best safety in the league. Lester is not exactly a heavy hitter, though do not be fooled, he can lay a big hit if need be. No, Lester excels in the art of ball hawking, hunting down errant passes and claiming them as his own. He picked off 8 passes last year, including two huge ones against Arkansas. He possesses unbelievable instincts and an uncanny knack of timing his jump just right. His first step to the ball is blinding. And the rest of them aren’t too bad, either.
6) Winston Guy, SS, Kentucky
7) Mark Barron, FS, Alabama
8) Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
9) Rudell Crim, SS, Arkansas
10) Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina