Ranking the Top 10 SEC cornerbacks entering the season
Individual Position Rankings
- Running Backs
- Wide Receivers
- Tight Ends
- Offensive Tackles
- Interior Offensive Linemen
- Defensive ends
- Defensive tackles
- Kick/Punt Returners
Not as star-studded from top to bottom as some years, many SEC cornerbacks have much to prove this fall as the league tries to repair its defense-first mentality that’s taken quite a few lumps since winning its last national championship in 2012.
That’s not to say the league isn’t capable of dominance on the outside, but cornerback is a spotlighted position of interest considering only four of the SEC’s 14 teams were ranked inside the Top 25 nationally last fall in pass defense.
Onto the SEC’s Top 10 …
Others considered: Tony Shepard, Ole Miss; Torren McGaster, Vanderbilt; Tony Brown, Alabama; Tony Bridges, Ole Miss; Aarion Penton, Mizzou; Josh Hosley, Auburn
10. Fred Tiller, Kentucky: This multi-year starter rarely receives the credit he deserves at the back end for the Wildcats, a steady corner who often plays second-best to safety A.J. Stamps. He has started 23 games over the last two seasons with stellar results — 95 total tackles, 13 pass breakups and two interceptions. One interesting note about Tiller is that he wears No. 3 for former UK quarterback Andre Woodson, his favorite player.
9. Jared Collins, Arkansas: Collins assumes a leadership role as a junior after posting a solid sophomore campaign as a first-year starter in the Razorbacks’ secondary. One of the SEC’s smaller corners at 5-foot-11, 172 pounds, Collins doesn’t lack strength despite his size and is an above-average tackler on the perimeter.
8. Will Redmond, Mississippi State: Redmond picked off a team-best three passes last season despite playing in a reserve role at corner and the nickelback in Geoff Collins’ scheme. The senior from Memphis becomes the face of Mississippi State’s secondary as a senior and will be tasked with matching up against the opposition’s No. 1 wideout. He’ll handle the pressure as a cover corner and future early-round pick in 2016.
7. Brian Poole, Florida: A natural ballhawk who takes chances near the boundary, Poole recorded a team-leading four interceptions last fall and enters his senior season with 16 career starts. He ranked fifth in the SEC in passes defended per game (1.17) and was one of the Gators’ most reliable defenders on third down. Vernon Hargreaves is the headliner at Florida and deservedly so as a player who controls one side of the field, but Poole made the most of his opportunities last season when passes were thrown in his direction.
6. Kenya Dennis, Mizzou: For a player without a single Division I offer coming out of high school, Dennis has made the most of his journey to the SEC. The more complete player in one of the SEC’s best cornerback tandems alongside Aarion Penton, Dennis became a near instant starter upon his arrival with the Tigers and contributed 61 tackles along with nine pass breakups last fall. Rarely beaten 1-on-1, Dennis gives Mizzou stability on the outside.
5. Cyrus Jones, Alabama: Excluded on the Jim Thorpe watch list in July, this Crimson Tide senior defensive back and preseason first team All-SEC player has made it a point to make a name for himself in his final campaign. The leader in an oft-criticized secondary, Jones has five interceptions in 36 career games (19 starts) and is considered one of the Western Division’s best in man coverage. He overcame a disappointing sophomore campaign in 2013 (including a blown coverage in the Iron Bowl vs. Sammie Coates) to post a much-improved junior season. His 13 pass breakups was a team-best.
4. Jonathan Jones, Auburn: Jones shared the team lead with six picks last fall, a result of a struggling secondary often being tested down the field. The rising senior’s 11 pass breakups was a personal-best during a breakout campaign. Bothered by nagging injuries throughout his career, when Jones is healthy, he is one of the nation’s best when the ball’s in the air.
3. Tre’Davious White, LSU: Wednesday’s recipient of the prestigious No. 18 jersey, White exemplifies leadership both on and off the field as a shutdown corner and above-average student in the classroom. He has started 24 consecutive games in the secondary and owns 88 career tackles, 13 pass breakups and four interceptions. The junior corner is known for his speed in coverage and ability to make up ground in an instant. White was arguably the best player on the SEC’s best defense last fall, one that ranked third nationally against the pass.
— Michael Bonnette (@LSUBonnette) August 6, 2015
2. Cam Sutton, Tennessee: It’s not often cornerbacks jump from the prep level to the SEC without challenges, but Sutton’s made it look easy over his first two years in Knoxville. He has started 25 consecutive games in the secondary for the Vols and has moonlighted as a special teams playmaker. Sutton’s recorded five interceptions and 25 passes-defended over that stretch, team highs in both categories. One of the SEC’s most versatile players, Sutton could play at any position at the back end and excel.
1. Vernon Hargreaves, Florida: College football’s best coverman has been on the radar of NFL scouts since his freshman season as a five-star prospect whose made a seamless transition into the SEC with consecutive all-league performances. His 24 pass breakups since the start of the 2013 season is a team-best over that span. Shown up for the first time in his dominant career by Biletnikoff winner Amari Cooper at Alabama last season, Hargreaves is focused on erasing any perceived weaknesses in his game (and there aren’t many, if any) before bolting to the NFL as a potential Top 5 pick in 2016. He’ll play with a chip on his shoulder this fall, he says, which is quite terrifying for opposing offenses.
McElwain says DB Vernon Hargreaves arguably best defensive player in country. Likes his junior cover man.
— Scott Carter (@GatorsScott) August 5, 2015