There are NFL quality defensive linemen to deal with, linebackers faster than some running backs, and playmakers in the secondary ready to take advantage of a signal-caller’s mistakes.
And those defensive backs can make the difference in a tight championship game.
Look at the coverage provided by Alabama’s secondary in last year’s BCS title game. LSU would have struggled to win an SEC championship without Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid.
Most of those players are gone from the SEC, but more are on the way.
Here are the top five true freshman defensive backs in the SEC.
1. Landon Collins – Alabama
He arrived in Tuscaloosa looking like he was ready to play in the SEC. Collins has plenty of work to do on the mental side, but he appears to have the natural instincts of an SEC safety. Collins (6-0, 202) has great speed to go with his impressive size. He will wait his turn in Alabama’s talented seconday, but expect Collins to contribute right away for the Crimson Tide. He also has new competition in his own class as talented freshman Eddie Williams recently moved from wide receiver to safety.
2. De’Vante Harris – Texas A&M
The Aggies gave Harris a jersey number (No. 1) that will bring plenty of attention to him. Offenses will be paying attention to him, too. The top freshman cornerback in the SEC, Harris has already shown this fall why he was so highly-touted as a recruit. Harris (5-10, 160) needs to add weight to play in the physical SEC, but his athletic ability is undeniable. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin will need strong defensive play in the SEC. Harris should be a nice start.
3. Joshua Holsey – Auburn
This freshman cornerback is confident. Holsey has let everyone know he and his classmates will be playing early and often for Auburn this fall. Holsey has seen time at both cornerback spots – as well as the return positions – during fall camp. Holsey (5-11, 188) has good size for a freshman and has shown good awareness for a player only a few weeks into his college career. Expect big things from Holsey as he learns from new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
4. Geno Smith – Alabama
Smith is in line to be the next great Alabama cornerback. He has already received praise from coach Nick Saban, which could be a sign that Smith will be counted on this fall. Smith (6-0, 182) has good size at corner and has shown a nice level of maturity for a freshman in college. Alabama is talented but unproven at cornerback. If the Tide’s returning players struggle early, don’t be surprised to see Smith receiver extra playing time.
5. Brian Poole – Florida
A cornerback prospect as a recruit, Poole recently moved to safety in Florida’s fall camp. Why? Florida is deep at corner and coach Will Muschamp believes Poole is ready to help the Gators now. Poole (5-10, 206) should add versatility to the safety position. He’s physical enough to go make a tackle and solid enough in coverage to line up on a receiver in the slot. Will Poole be a safety his entire career? Maybe. But he’ll likely be making plays no matter where he is.
Be sure to keep up with recruiting from across the SEC on MrSEC.com’s Recruiting Page.