Projecting SEC stat leaders: Defensive Backs
Will Vernon Hargreaves continue to elevate his game into the elite realm? Can Damian Swann shoulder the burden of being the only veteran in an inexperienced Georgia secondary? What’s it going to take for Deshazor Everett and the Texas A&M secondary to shake off last season’s struggles?
Another exciting SEC season is upon us and this week, we’ll try and guess the numbers for the league’s top talent at several positions.
To projected stat leaders for 2014:
Let’s break down the SEC’s top defensive backs by class before moving into statistical projections:
NO FLY ZONE
Vernon Hargreaves, Florida: There’s no debate: Hargreaves is the SEC’s top cover corner and it’s not really close. This ballhawk’s been an impact player since his first college start and coaches are expecting him to be even better with a year under his belt. He hasn’t yet reached his potential which is a terrifying thought for opposing offenses.
Landon Collins, Alabama: Collins emerged as one of the nation’s premiere safeties in 2013, showcasing what he had learned from his time in a situational role as a freshman to make a flawless transition after earning a starting position. A hard-hitter with a nose for the football, Collins welcomes contact and if he’s greedy, could lead the conference in picks.
Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss: The SEC’s leader in interceptions last season with six, Prewitt is the league’s third legitimate All-American candidate from his post as a freelance safety. Highly productive with 13 pass deflections and 71 tackles as a junior, Prewitt’s on the Thorpe, Camp and Bednarik watch lists heading into his final campaign.
Tony Conner, Ole Miss: One of the gems in the Rebels’ seismic 2013 signing class, Conner made 12 starts as a true freshman with impressive numbers. Despite instant scrutiny as a five-star prospect, Conner handled the pressure and finished second among SEC freshmen in tackles with 66 stops.
Tre’Davious White, LSU: Another former five-star signee out West, White took over as a starter at corner his third collegiate game and never relinquished his spot. Productive in coverage, White is one of LSU’s fastest players and picked off two passes to go along with 55 tackles as a freshman.
SENIORS OF IMPORTANCE
Damian Swann, Georgia: This gray-haired veteran in the Bulldogs’ secondary has four times as many starts (28) as Georgia’s next closest defensive back. A transfer and two dismissals has forced first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s hand to lean on Swann more than he expected this season. He’ll act as an extension of the coaching staff on the field. Swann notched a career-high four picks as a sophomore but didn’t have any last fall.
Brison Williams, South Carolina: One of the lone returning players in an inexperienced secondary, Williams could shift from safety to corner this season if the transition proves too difficult for first-year starters. Williams doesn’t handle the majority of the tackles like most roaming safeties, but has made several impact plays during his 24 career starts including an acrobatic interception to open last year’s Clemson win.
Deshazor Everett, Texas A&M: This athletic corner’s been a force for the Aggies the past two seasons, introducing himself nationally when he stepped in front of an A.J. McCarron pass at the goal line to save Texas A&M’s victory at Alabama in 2012. He followed that up last season with a career-high 73 tackles and scored two defensive touchdowns.
Tackle Leaders (minimum 55)
Prewitt 80; Collins 71; Everett 69; Conner 68; Swann 58
INT Leaders (minimum 3)
Prewitt 5; Hargreaves 5; Collins 4; White 3; Everett 3
Passes Defended Leaders (minimum 7)
Hargreaves 12; Prewitt 12; Everett 10; White 9; Collins 9; Swann 8; Conner 8