College Football

The Best Defender In The Nation

June 25, 2020

Urban Meyer, Joel Klatt, Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Brady Quinn, and Rob Stone are back, ranking the Top 5 defenders in college football.

And No. 1 already has a national championship under his belt.

The FOX College Football Big Noon Kickoff crew Wednesday dubbed LSU rising sophomore cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. the best defender in college football for the 2020 season, coming off a 2019 campaign in which the freshman turned heads.

Meyer, Bush, Klatt and Quinn all slotted Stingley Jr. atop their top five lists, as did the fans in our Twitter vote.

Coming into college, Stingley was one of the top-rated recruits in the country and won Gatorade State Player of the Year in Louisiana as a high school senior. He then started as a true freshman for national champion LSU.

His 6 INTs led both the Tigers and the SEC, and were tied for 4th most in college football last season.

In addition, his 15 pass deflections led the SEC and were tied for 2nd most in college football. He was also named First Team All-SEC and a consensus First Team All-American.

Klatt lauded the young CB for his all-around ability on Wednesday.

"He's one of the best young corners I've seen in college football, and there's been some good ones ... He's got great ball skills, he's patient for a young player, he's good at the line of scrimmage, he's got the length, and then that ball skill translates into big plays, and that's exactly what you want ... What I love most about his game though is for a corner, I think one of the most underrated traits you can have is to be a long and smooth strider. What that does is, it allows you not to panic. He can catch up, he can chase, he can be in front. He can do all the different things you need to do on the outside ... He can shut down basically an entire side of the field."

Not only is there huge hype around Stingley coming into his sophomore year, there are huge expectations – many of which he seems to be placing on himself.

Stingley might have been a resounding No. 1, but there's a ton of talent on this Top 5. Here is how the rest of the list shapes up.

No. 2: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

Second behind Stingley is Oregon Ducks rising sophomore superstar Kayvon Thibodeaux.

As a freshman, Thibodeaux led the Ducks in sacks (9), good for 4th in the Pac-12. And that was enough for Leinart to anticipate big things on the horizon.

"The fact that he was just a freshman – he's gonna get bigger and he's gonna get stronger ... He's only gonna get better. He's gonna continue to learn the different traits that you need to be a defensive end. His ceiling – I think he's a future No. 1 draft pick if he continues to go this way."

And as few questions as there are about his game, there are even fewer about his swag.

No. 3: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

One name that landed on each of our analysts' lists was Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, a rising junior.

After leading the Nittany Lions in tackles (82) during his freshman year, Parsons was named First Team All-American and First Team All-Big Ten as a sophomore, after leading Penn State with 109 tackles and 4 forced fumbles.

In fact, Leinart slotted Parsons at No. 1 on his list, mainly due to the fact that the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner thinks Parsons hasn't come close to reaching his full potential.

"He's really versatile. And if you look at a couple college football players last year that just got drafted – you look at Isaiah Simmons at Clemson ... That's what Parsons is ... This guy is unbelievable. He finished the season last year against Memphis in the Cotton Bowl with 14 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. I talked to [Penn State head coach] James Franklin about him and he said the scary thing about Micah Parsons is he's only been playing linebacker for a couple years and he hasn't even scratched the surface of his talent."

Meyer also revealed Wednesday that when he was still head coach at Ohio State, he recruited Parsons out of Harrisburg High School in Harrisburg, PA.

At the time, Meyer didn't believe that Parsons' size would allow him to move from defensive end to linebacker in college, a belief that he's since seen debunked.

"I was actually knee-deep in recruiting Micah Parsons. When I first heard Penn State was going to use him at linebacker, I thought he'd get too big. We recruited him as a defensive end ... You're looking at a big man now ... I think by the end of the year, he can be the No. 1 player in America on defense."

If history tells us anything, Parsons could challenge for college football's most prestigious defensive award this upcoming season.

No. 4: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama

Would the list be complete without an Alabama defender?

Crimson Tide linebacker Dylan Moses was forced out of the 2019 season after suffering a knee injury in training camp, so unlike the other top defenders, he has no incredible stats to build off of from last year.

But now, he's back from injury and the redshirt junior will serve as the quarterback for the Alabama defense.

Leinart got some inside information from the Alabama coaching staff regarding Moses heading into this season, which he shared on Wednesday.

"I talked to Steve Sarkisian, my former quarterback coach at USC, and we talked about Dylan Moses. I just said, 'How much did you miss him last year?' He said, 'Oh my gosh.' There was a reason why they struggled defensively for Alabama's standards ... What they do defensively, they put a lot on their middle linebacker, just like the quarterback has a lot of pressure in the complexities of an offense ... They played a freshman [at that position] last year ... I'm really excited he's healthy, he's back. He's a tremendous football player. And watch, Alabama's defense will greatly improve."

As a sophomore, Moses recorded 86 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks for Alabama, and heading into last season, he was a Preseason All-American.

No. 5: Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami

Rounding out the Top 5 is Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau, whose redshirt freshman campaign was one for the ages.

His 15.5 sacks led the Hurricanes and were the 2nd most in all of college football last season, a mere one sack behind former Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, who went No. 2 in the 2020 NFL Draft to the Washington Redskins.

So, whose list do you agree with most?

Let us know!

And if you missed Wednesday's show, you can enjoy it in its entirety below!


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