Southwest Round-Up Unit Rankings: Defensive Backs

NCAA football is pass happy. No doubt. It’s also tempo happy. If you want to compete with the big boys you’d better have defensive backs that can cover and a lot of them. Gone are the days when everyone had a 6’2 220 pound strong safety who was essentially a linebacker with a smaller uniform number. Everyone has to cover, including those lumbering linebackers.

To rank our defensive back units we looked at a couple of things, first over all Success Rate, this is a key defensive stat that analyzes the percentage of plays where an offense or defense had “success” or limited the other side while accomplishing its goal. We can then breakdown Success Rate by situations including passing, passes on passing downs, passes on running downs, passes on first down, second down, etc. As always our friends at Football Outsiders did all the leg-work. We just misinterpreted it for them for free.

Returning starters also play a role, but then if your starters sucked, not so much.

Let’s get to it.

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Take a gander at TCU’s depth chart: Two of the top three linemen were freshmen. Four of the top five linebackers were sophomores. Five of the top seven defensive backs were freshmen or sophomores. All this and they were a top 12 defense in the country last year. We love their secondary. Heck we love the whole TCU defensive movement.

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Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom might be the best 1-2 cover punch in the Big 12. Sure Texas lost Kenny Vaccaro, but while he was very good, he’s not irreplaceable. You can trace a lot of Texas’ defensive issues to the front seven and getting gashed on the run. That will improve. The scary thing could be that a back four that was consistently in the top 30 in the defensive stats could improve as well.

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Hurd, Matthews, Everett, and Harris all played a ton last year on a unit that was in the top 20 pass defense squad. Everett and Floyd Raven need to sort out some off the field issues (a running theme at A&M) but the problem won’t be the back end if A&M’s defense falters.

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Corners Zach McMillian and Thomas Bates are good and experienced and Freshman All-American Safety Trevon Stewart was everywhere for the Cougars last year. They also return a lot of quality depth with guys like Colton Valencia and Adrian McDonald. The Cougars for this year are set in the secondary.

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A little high for UNT? Not really, the Mean Green were above average from an efficiency standpoint, and in all, passing and passing downs were clear strengths for this defense. Their top 5 return from last year and will be bolstered by experienced transfers including Zedd Evans. That experience can only help a young but talented group.

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Kenneth Acker and Christ Parks, both seniors, combined for 22 passes defensed in 2012 and both return to form a pretty potent coverage pair. The ‘Stangs have depth as well with Jay Scott, Hayden Greenbauer and big Shakiel Randolph. Add a solid recruiting class and redshirt freshman and the Ponies will be stout on the back end.

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Baylor got better as the year went in 2012 but September was an utter disaster. The Bruins allowed 52 points a game, half a hundred. Their DBs didn’t get much help up front. We like Ahmad Dixon at safety, he had 80 plus tackles last year to go along 2 picks.

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Last year was allegedly Tech’s year for secondary play with experienced safeties Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson plus three senior corners. You know what that got ‘em? Not much. Just about average. Now all those guys are gone and Tech is starting over. In the Big 12, starting over in the secondary is not advised.

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From here we’re picking over scraps and Rice returns a lot of them. Every defensive back is returning, seemingly as penance for last year’s efforts. With all that, corner Phillips Gaines is the Pre-Season C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. He’s suspended to start 2012, so it seems suspensions aren’t just TCU and A&M’s problem.

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UTEP lost everyone which may not be a bad thing considering how bad their secondary played in 2012. The biggest addition for 2013, Richard Spencer has been recovering from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of 2012. Spencer could be special but I doubt he’ll be enough.

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Coach Fran went out and signed a ton of DBs in the spring. Fully a third of his class are defensive backs and given last season, the new bodies can’t get here fast enough. Texas State ranked in the 90’s in most passing categories.

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UTSA dismissed a number of players in the spring for off the field issues among those dismissed were a number of DBs. Perhaps some of those dismissals were influenced by play related factors. UTSA couldn’t cover a peep hole in 2012. Coach Fran and Coach Coker must have communicated in the off-season because Coach Coker saw Fran’s 33% DB class and raised him by signing a class with 40% DBs. Lot of needed new faces in San Antonio and San Marcos.