In the process of writing this article, coincidentally all five guys on this list have all been named to the Bednarik Watch List, which honors the top defensive player’s in the nation. All of these guys have become leaders of their respective defenses after strong performances last season.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU- I gave you two LSU players in the last edition, here’s the third of more to come. The Honey Badger is the leader of what will be the best defense in college football this season. Last season he had 77 total tackles, 2 INTs, 9 passes defensed, and 2 punt returns for TD’s. This guy comes up with big plays at the right moments and seems to be in on every play. With last years #1 corner, Morris Claiborne, in the NFL, Mathieu will take on a much bigger role as the team’s top corner. Look for him to once again be in the Heisman hunt this season.
Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State- Hankins is a massive 6’4, 330 pound nose tackle that will be entering his junior year at OSU. Last season Hankins was one of the top nose tackles racking up 67 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. Hankins is a beast against the run and always requires at least two blockers. Despite Ohio State not being bowl eligible, look for the space eating Hankins and the OSU defense to be upsetting a lot of their competition this season.
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas- The highly recruited Texas born defensive end put an end to the critics calling him a bust after having only 2.5 sacks through his first 14 games. In Jeffcoat’s last 7 games last season he amassed 36 tackles and 7.5 sacks. The emergence of the former top defensive end in high school was noteworthy. He will be a key in bringing the Longhorns back to their normal Big 12 dominance.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State- Rhodes is widely considered the best corner in college football. Yes, better than the Honey Badger. In Rhodes’ freshman season he had 58 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 INT’s, and an astonishing 16 passes defensed. After such a dominant season Rhodes was rarely thrown at, which is why his stats decreased to 42 tackles, 1 INT, and 5 passes defensed. Rhodes is a lock down corner, and much like Morris Claiborne last year, will see a quick rise in draft stock after he locks down every teams top wide out every week. Well, except for when he plays my Miami Hurricanes of course.
John Boyett, S, Oregon- For the past two seasons Boyett has emerged as one of the leaders of the Duck defense, and one of the best safeties in the nation. As a sophomore Boyett had 78 tackles and 5 INT’s (1 TD). He followed up his stellar sophomore season with an impressive 108 tackle and 1 INT junior season. Boyett is just 5’10 and around 200 pounds, but he is an extremely aggressive playmaker who is always swarming to the ball. This upcoming season Boyett will take charge of an Oregon defense that lost a few of its key playmakers to the NFL.