SDS is getting into the Olympic spirit, and the ceremonies carry us just about right into the start of football season. We will be handing out SEC Podium Awards for the top three players at each position. Next up are the defensive backs.
With stars such as Dre Kirkpatrick, Morris Claiborne, Stephon Gilmore and Mark Barron now gone to the NFL, who are the likeliest candidates to fill their shoes? I’m not sure if this year’s class of defensive backs is as good as last year. The SEC sure has had a bumper crop of outstanding defensive backs who are game changers, and this group has all the athletic ability to fall right in line with their predecessors.
Gold: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
There is not another game changer in the country like Tyrann Mathieu. To say he’s not the best lockdown corner in college football, I’m okay with that. Maybe he isn’t. There are better corners in the country in coverage than Mathieu. But when you look at the overall body of work, Mathieu does serious work. I’m not sure we have witnessed another ball hawk like Mathieu in recent memory. This guy came out of the womb making plays and getting his nose to the football. He wasn’t a top recruit out of high school, but he exploded onto the scene as a freshman. And he actually got a lot better his sophomore year, forcing a league-leading six fumbles and recovering five of them. He won the Chuck Bednarik Award that is given annually to the nation’s defensive player of the year. He returns for another encore as a junior.
Silver: Bacarri Rambo, Georgia
Along with having quite possibly one of the best names in SEC history, Rambo made some serious plays in UGA’s secondary last year. Yes, I realize he’s suspended for four games to start the year. It’s unfortunate for him and the Georgia secondary, as there will be a gap in his absence. But don’t let that persuade you that he’s not a baller. Rambo is a top-10 player in this league. The thing I like the most about him is his flexibility as a defender. He can play on the line of scrimmage to help in the running game, and you can leave him in the secondary matched up one-on-one with a receiver. Last year alone, Rambo recorded 55 tackles and had an SEC-leading eight interceptions. Georgia will only need a fraction of that playmaking ability through the first four games until his return.
Bronze: Johnathan Banks, Mississippi State
If you haven’t heard of Johnthan Banks, you’re not the only one. He plays in Starkville and on a team that doesn’t compete for championships every year. But you can’t take discredit the impact he’s had on the field since his arrival. Banks is silky smooth in coverage, and he is a taller corner at 6-1, which all coaches covet. Banks is a very headsy player who has great ball awareness and underrated blitz skills. There is so much to appreciate in this type of player and so much to like in his game. And he has been nothing but consistent since stepping foot on MSU’s campus. Banks could prove to be the best cover corner in this league before this season expires.