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SEC Football: Ranking The League's Defensive Backs

A Sea of Blue ranks the SEC's defensive back units top to bottom.

Andy Lyons

SB Nation's SEC blogs are ranking the units of each football team via the SEC Power Poll. The comprehensive results will be published over at For Whom The Cowbell Tolls in the near future. Below are the rankings submitted by A Sea of Blue. The conference lost a lot of defensive back talent to the NFL last season: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Jaylen Watkins, Marcus Roberson, and EJ Gaines to name but a few, and for many teams the next generation of talent is poised to ascend. Other teams will have a harder time reloading.

How did UK fare? Well, you'll have to read to find out. Needless to say, UK plays five defensive backs most of the time, and their play will go a long way to determining the fortunes of the defense. Mark Stoops is an ole' defensive back coach, and a piece of his soul will always be with the secondary. I'm sure he'd say the improvement of every position is important, but this unit may be the closest to his heart.

TIER 1

1. Ole Miss. The Rebels return talent and experience. Cody Prewitt  and Tony Conner are two of the best six or seven safeties in the league, and Prewitt lead the league in interceptions last season. Mike Hilton and Senquez Golden were aggressive cornerbacks last season that should have even stronger seasons this year. The rest of the back-ups return with the sole exception being a back-up nickel back.

2. LSU. This squad is also loaded with talent. Jalen Collins looks to build on his excellent freshmen season at corner along with Rashard Robinson and Tre'Davious White. Ronald Martin returns at safety, and if Corey Thompson is healthy they'll be good in the back as well. If not, LSU can throw one of their inexperienced blue chips onto the field and coach them up. I'm sure they'd be fine by midseason.

3. Florida. This unit lost a lot of personnel to the NFL draft last season, but it's a testament to their depth for how good they'll be again this season. Led by arguably the best corner in the  SEC Vernon Hargreaves III, the Gators will also return Brian Poole and Jabari Gorman. What UF needs is for another corner to emerge from one of its young, talented players. I'm betting that happens by midseason.

4.  Mississippi State. This unit returns 8 of its top 11 contributors. Ridiculous. They were already second best in the country last season on passing downs despite being 78th Passing Downs Sack Rate. If Florida's youth doesn't pan out this unit jumps ahead in my mind.

5. Alabama.  Cornerback was the team's weakness last season, and they lost their pair of starting safeties to the NFL. At most schools that's a harbinger of doom, but this is Alabama and they'll just reload and probably improve.

Tier 2

6. Arkansas Returns seven contributors from last season and the unit was pretty decent last season, according to F/+ ratings. I suspect they'll be even better this season. Safety Allan Turner could make an All-SEC team.

7. Tennessee.  The secondary returns almost everyone including two year starters Justin Coleman and LaDarrel McNeal, and the other two starters also return. Coleman may not even end up starting if Moseley has indeed taken his spot. In any case, this unit has experience coupled with talent all backed up by even more talent. The back-ups will be young, but should be fine by midseason.

8. South Carolina. Two really great safeties but this unit lost three of its cornerbacks. No doubt the roster has talented individuals to back-fill, but they will be inexperienced and may be forced to start early. That issue may be compounded with the loss of three starting defensive linemen including Mr. Clowney.

9. Georgia. Can a team that lost three secondary players to dismissals or transfers actually be better? I'm going to say they can. Damian Swann, Quincy Mauger, and Corey Moore all return to provide experience, and they'll be backed up by talented youth. I also tend to think Jeremy Pruitt is a better coach than Todd Grantham, and will coach this group up. 

Tier 3

10. Auburn. Auburn's secondary had a lot of issues last season (though, weirdly did alright against Florida State's number one offense last season), and lost three contributors from last season. That could be good or bad in the end. Auburn has two JUCO transfers coming in along with some highly-rated freshmen. Turnover could be good? Maybe? 

11. Kentucky. The pass defense was solid the first two thirds of the season, but then fell apart as injuries accumulated and UK faced better pass offenses. Luckily, every starter and his back-up return along with JUCO transfer AJ Stamps who will probably start at safety in Week One. Meanwhile, UK's best defensive back two seasons ago, JD Harmon, will be coming off his redshirt season. The loss of four star freshmen Mike Edwards (grey shirt) and Darius West (injury) will hurt the depth this season, but freshman Kendall Randolph has turned heads in camp and will see some playing time.

12. Texas A&M. Like UK, A&M returns a lot of experience but performed poorly last season. Deshazor Everett is a player for the non-A&M fans to watch out for.

13. Missouri. Lost three starters in the secondary, but their replacements will all be upperclassmen. This unit could easily move up the board, but is unproven as of now.

14. Vanderbilt. The loss of four talented starters is not easy to overcome for the majority of schools, and Vandy is among commoners in this regard. The good news is that last season's back-ups saw some game action last season, according to CFBStats. It also looks like several freshmen defensive backs were redshirted as well. This secondary will be young, and young secondaries often have breakdowns. It feels unfair to rank this team last because I don't think this secondary will be bad come mid- to late-season.