Ranking the SEC's top returning players: CB
As we move deeper into the college football offseason, Saturday Down South is looking back to last season and ahead to next season all in one fell swoop by ranking the conference’s top returning players.
Here’s who we’ve ranked so far:
Today we’re ranking the top returning cornerbacks in the conference. The SEC may be loaded at the tailback position, but college football is still trending toward becoming a pass-heavy game, making those defenders that eliminate threats through the air a vital part of a successful team.
Here’s our list:
10. Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State: Calhoun and the Mississippi State secondary didn’t strike much fear into opponents last season, but Calhoun ranked in the top 10 in the conference in pass breakups nonetheless. Without Jameron Love on the other side of the field he’ll need to play more fundamentally sound in 2015, but he’s more than capable of doing so under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
9. Cyrus Jones, Alabama: Jones didn’t perform as well in late-season games against Auburn and Ohio State, but all in all he remains one of the more capable corners in the conference. He lacks tremendous size and must ensure he’s in the right position at all times to limit his opponent’s touches, but another offseason of development with Kirby Smart should help in those efforts.
8. Will Redmond, Mississippi State: Redmond was Mississippi State’s third cornerback last season as part of a secondary that struggled mightily to defend against the vertical passing game. He began to emerge in the second half of the season, making plays against more established receivers on the outside and across the middle, and as an expected starter in 2015 he should become more of a household name.
7. Jared Collins, Arkansas: Collins emerged as a playmaker in the Arkansas secondary as the 2014 season progressed, and although he never recorded an interception, his 53 tackles (4 for loss) and 13 pass breakups (seventh in the SEC) proved his upside. He’ll have more chances to play more aggressively in 2015, and the interceptions should start coming as a result.
6. Kenya Dennis, Missouri: Dennis was arguably the best member of the Missouri secondary last season despite not having the name recognition of teammates like Braylon Webb, and he will continue to shine in 2015 even with Webb graduated from school. He and Aarion Penton will help lock down the back-end of the defense as Missouri stands to piece together another terrifying defensive front.
5. Tre’Davious White, LSU: White is not only a sensational kick and punt returner, but also a pretty darn good cornerback. Without Jalen Collins playing opposite him next year we will see his true abilities in a better light, but his dynamic speed and athleticism should help him contain even the most explosive wideouts.
4. Cameron Sutton, Tennessee: Sutton was vastly underrated in 2014, leading the conference with 13 pass breakups in 13 games and finishing third in passes defended with 16. He’ll lose stellar teammate Justin Coleman in the secondary, which should add more responsibility to his plate but also more opportunities to make plays.
3. Brian Poole, Florida: Poole was greatly overshadowed on a national scale by Hargreaves’ superb play, but he’d be the top corner on most other teams in the conference. The tandem should make Florida a difficult team to throw on in 2015, and the addition of defensive coordinator Geoff Collins could provide new looks up front that give the secondary even more chances to shine.
2. Jonathan Jones, Auburn: Jones was one pass breakup shy of tying for the SEC high in 2014, excelling in an otherwise questionable Auburn secondary in 2014. With the addition of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and some dangerous pass rushers up front, he should have even more opportunities to make plays next year.
1. Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida: Hargreaves is not only the best returning corner in the conference, but he’s one of the best returning at the position in the entire nation. His numbers are good but not great, however that’s only due to how few opportunities he has to make plays as he eliminates his opponent from a given play time and time again.