Three weeks, people. Three weeks! We’re just three short, glorious, measly Saturdays away from the start of college football season. And as we get closer, FOXSports.com will continue to be your one-stop shop, for every piece of relevant preview content you need as we get ready for Week 1. We’ve already hit on a number of different topics, including look-backs for each conference and a preview of the 30 biggest games of the season. This week we begin breaking down the best players at each major position in the country. After hitting running backs on Tuesday, pass rushers Wednesday, and quarterbacks Thursday, it’s time to look at the best defensive backs in college football. And man, what a list it is.
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10. Jamar Summers, CB, UConn
It’s amazing what a difference a year makes. A year ago, Summers was a virtual unknown -- not only on the national football scene, but to many UConn fans as well after starting just five games as a true freshman. Even worse, he was given the next-to-impossible task of replacing former Husky Byron Jones, who went on to be the Dallas Cowboys first round pick in the 2015 draft. Well, fast-forward one year, and it’s safe to say that Summers passed that test with flying colors. He finished last season tied for second in the country with eight interceptions, on his way to earning first-team All-AAC honors. More important (at least for Huskies’ fans), he also might be the only player on this list to nearly single-handedly win a game for his team. Summers' interception return for a touchdown against Tulane was UConn’s only score, in a 7-3 victory. That win helped UConn become bowl-eligible, which could lead to an even bigger 2016 season in Storrs.
Getty ImagesRich Schultz
9. Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M
Lost in all the Myles Garrett hype (a hype I personally have actively taken part in) is that it was actually the hard-hitting, ball-hawking Watts who may have been the single-most important player on the Aggies' defense last year. The junior-to-be finished second in the SEC with 126 total tackles last season and actually led the conference with 83 solo tackles. Granted, that might say more about A&M’s linebacker play than it does Watts, but those are still some staggering numbers. Add two forced fumbles, and there’s little doubt that Watts is one of the most impactful safeties not only in the SEC, but in the country.
Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY SportsErich Schlegel
8. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
Michigan’s defense was spectacular in the first year of the Jim Harbaugh era, and outside Jabrill Peppers (and maybe Chris Wormley) no one gets more credit for that success than Lewis. Lewis’ numbers individually don’t jump off the page (two interceptions, 52 tackles), but he was part of a larger defensive back unit that was one of the best in the country last season. The Wolverines finished first nationally in opposing completion percentage (allowing the opposition’s QBs to compete just 47.5 percent of passes), and they also allowed just 5.4 yards per completion, which also ranked first nationally (shout-out to Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman for the incredible stats). Add in 20 pass breakups and there’s a reason Lewis was named a first-team All-American by USA Today.
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7. Shawun Lurry, CB, Northern Illinois
Whether Lurry is the best cornerback in college football is debatable, but what isn’t is that he has the best story of any high-level DB in the sport. Three years ago, Lurry arrived at Northern Illinois as a lightly-recruited wide receiver before a teammate suggested he make the switch to defensive back. After a transition year in 2014, he blew up in 2015, leading all of college football with nine interceptions. He also tallied at least one in five straight games. Amazing! And you know what the best part is? He wasn’t satisfied. Following the MAC Championship game, Lurry told the Chicago Tribune “I really should have had [more interceptions]” during the 2015 season. Spoken like a true DB!
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
6. Adoree Jackson, CB, USC
Because Jackson gets the ball thrown his direction so little, it’s hard to fully quantify his impact on USC’s defensive backfield, but just know that it’s immense. Jackson has 84 total tackles over the last two years to go along with an interception, while virtually shutting down one entire side of the field. Add in two punt returns for touchdowns, a 25.9-yard average on kickoff returns, and the fact that he played a little offense last year (he won’t in 2016) makes Jackson arguably the most ‘valuable’ defensive back in college football.
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5. Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida
Tabor has played in the shadow of Vernon Hargreaves the past two years, keeping him somewhat out of the spotlight but allowing him to put up monster numbers. In addition to his 12 pass breakups, he also had four interceptions in 2016. Add in 40 total tackles and he’s a complete cornerback, and part of a spectacular Gators’ defensive backfield where hard-hitting safety Marcus Maye could join him on the All-SEC team by the end of the season.
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4. Jamal Adams, S, LSU
If Florida's Marcus Maye makes the All-SEC first team, he could very well be joined by one of the most dynamic players in all of college football: LSU’s Jamal Adams. Adams is a physical freak, a hard-hitter who is not only unafraid of contact but actively seeks it -- to the point that his LSU teammates say that his physical style of play gets them extra hyped-up. Over the course of his career, he has 129 tackles and four interceptions on his way to being named a Freshman All-American in 2014 and a second-team All-American last year.
Getty ImagesAndy Lyons
3. Derwin James, S, Florida State
If you’re looking a description of James, think of Jalen Ramsey when he played safety at Florida State a few years back. Before moving to corner, Ramsey was a ball-hawking safety who seemed to make plays all over the field, and that’s exactly what James was last year as a true freshman at Florida State. He finished with a staggering 91 tackles as well as 9.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. In the process, he was named a freshman All-American by virtually every major outlet and was added to the All-ACC third team. If James is even a bit under the radar entering this year, he won’t be by the time the season is done.
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2. Desmond King, CB, Iowa
Not only is King arguably the best cornerback in college football, he is arguably the nation’s most underrated player overall. King proved to be a shutdown corner last season for Iowa, finishing with eight interceptions (tied for second nationally) and adding 72 total tackles. Following the season, King stunned everyone when he elected to skip the NFL Draft and return for his senior year. It’s just one reason that the Hawkeyes should again win the Big Ten West title race, and potentially play for a national championship.
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1. Eddie Jackson, S, Alabama
With no clear-cut guy to top this list, Jackson gets the nod after a spectacular junior season. After moving from corner to safety, he blew up -- finishing the year with six interceptions and eight pass breakups. He’s also just another star on another loaded Alabama defense (which includes Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams and others). It's a group that is good enough to again lead the Tide to a national championship this season.