Top 25 College Football Safeties of 2019

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Joe Broback

Contributor at Champion Insiders
Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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The finale of our Preseason Position Previews is here. Sad, I know. We wrap up this series with the Top 25 Safeties in college football. A lot of these guys know how to play multiple positions in the secondary, and some of them have the ability to play near the line of scrimmage. So let’s finish this series with a great position. Stay tuned for the summary of all of the position later this week.

OTHER POSITIONS: QB, RB, WR, TE, C, G, OT, DE, DT, LB, CB

25. Jaylinn Hawkins, Cal

2018 Stats: 32 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 6 INT, 4 PD

Hawkins and fellow safety Ashtyn Davis combined for 10 interceptions in 2018. All four starters in the secondary return, giving Cal one of the best groups in the country.

24. Brandon Jones, Texas

2018 Stats: 70 tackles, 5.5 TFL

Senior leader of a secondary full of sophomores. Texas finished 110th in passing yards allowed per game, so there’s definitely room for improvement.

23. Jalen Elliott, Notre Dame

2018 Stats: 67 tackles, 4 INT, 7 PD

Elliott took over at strong safety last year and hit the ground running. Notre Dame’s defense needs new starters up front, but their secondary will be solid. Free safety Alohi Gilman and cornerback Troy Pride Jr. return as elite players at their positions as well.

22. Josh Metellus, Michigan

2018 Stats: 47 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 3 INT, 5 PD

If Michigan’s secondary doesn’t improve this year, it will be a surprise. With cornerback Lavert Hill returning, Metellus give the Wolverines another experienced player at safety.

21. Joey Blount, Virginia

2018 Stats: 63 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 2 INT, 3 PD

Opposing offenses will avoid cornerback Bryce Hall this year, putting pressure on the other defensive backs. Blount should be able to handle that along with fellow safety Brenton Nelson.

20. K’Von Wallace, Clemson

2018 Stats: 52 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PD

Last year, it was all about the front four. Clemson’s defensive line was the talk of college football last year, and for good reason. However, they’re gone and the secondary becomes the most experienced group. Wallace returns along with Tanner Muse and cornerback AJ Terrell.

19. Jaiden Woodbey, Florida State

2018 Stats: 59 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 7 PD

He moved from linebacker (wow) to give the Seminoles a physical safety. The defense got torched through the air last year, so sending a message might help this group.

18. Innis Gaines, TCU

2018 Stats: 31 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 6 PD

Only played in six games, but made quite an impact in those games. Gaines is a hard hitter who sends a message anytime he’s near the ball. Give him a full year, and the leader of the Horned Frogs secondary will put up All-American numbers.

17. Jordan Fuller, Ohio State

2018 Stats: 81 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PD

Fuller almost went pro, but decided to return to the Buckeyes. He can play either safety spot, and tied for the team lead in tackles last year. He’s part of a loaded secondary this year, and it’s going to be tough for opposing offenses to find success against them.

16. Richard LeCounte III, Georgia

2018 Stats: 74 tackles, 1 INT, 3 PD

Played in all 14 games in his second year of college football. He’s not the best safety on the team, but no one will complain having him as a second best option.

15. JR Pace, Northwestern

2018 Stats: 82 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 4 INT, 7 PD

The linebackers get most of the praise, but Pace leads a secondary that will be solid as well. Northwestern appears to be headed back to the Big Ten Championship Game with this defense. If they don’t, it won’t be because of this group.

14. Caden Sterns, Texas

2018 Stats: 62 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 4 INT, 4 PD

Played all 13 games last year as a freshman, and you can see how productive he was in his first season. Texas needs the secondary to be better this year.

13. Shyheim Carter, Alabama

2018 Stats: 43 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 INT, 2 TD, 10 PD

He’ll play nickel back for the Tide this year, but we had to mention him. If he got his hands on the ball last year, he scored. Alabama’s secondary wants to redeem themselves after Clemson torched them in the national championship game. They have the pieces to do that.

12. James Wiggins, Cincinnati

2018 Stats: 54 tackles, 4 INT, 5 PD

Wiggins knows how to find the ball, and he’s clutch. His pick six against SMU last year won the game in overtime. Cincinnati’s defense has thrived under Luke Fickell, and that shouldn’t be different this year.

11. Greg Eisworth, Iowa State

2018 Stats: 87 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 5 PD

The former junior college transfer was named Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year last season. He helped improve the Cyclones secondary that still needs work. At least one of their guys will be reliable.

10. Jevon Holland, Oregon

2018 Stats: 42 tackles, 5 INT, 6 PD

Oregon’s secondary typically isn’t elite, but times are changing. Holland and corner Thomas Graham return, giving the Ducks two promising players. Oregon’s defense proved to be average once again, and needs to improve defending the pass.

9. Myles Bryant, Washington

2018 Stats: 61 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 5 PD

Don’t be surprised if Bryant moves all over the place this year. He played cornerback last year, but is moving to safety. His versatility gives the Huskies defense wiggle room while they find other starters.

8. Reggie Floyd, Virginia Tech

2018 Stats: 80 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 2 INT

All signs point towards the Hokies improving this year, and it’s becoming easier to see why. The offense is decent, but Bud Foster’s defense shows great potential. All four players in the secondary return and Floyd is the leader.

7. Richie Grant, UCF

2018 Stats: 108 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 6 INT

If your safety has over 100 tackles, it typically means things aren’t going well up front. That was the case with the Knights, but Grant’s still elite. UCF’s secondary has the potential to be great, and Grant can lead them there.

6. Andre Cisco, Syracuse

2018 Stats: 60 tackles, 7 INT, 9 PD

That’s a great way to start your college career. Cisco played in all 13 games last year, and it looks like the Orange won’t need a starting safety for a couple years.

5. Xaiver McKinney, Alabama

2018 Stats: 74 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 2 INT, 10 PD

Towards the end of the season, McKinney was the best defensive back on Alabama’s roster. NFL teams are going to love him, but they just have to wait one more year.

4. Julian Blackmon, Utah

2018 Stats: 48 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 10 PD

Blackmon dominated as a cornerback, and the Utes defensive staff decided to move him to safety. With Jaylon Johnson holding it down at corner, the move makes sense. Blackmon should make a smooth transition to safety, and the Utes defense won’t miss a beat.

3. JR Reed, Georgia

2018 Stats: 66 tackles, 2 INT, 2 PD

Tulsa fans are mad they let Reed get away. The former Golden Hurricane transferred to the Bulldogs, and started 29 games. There’s not much returning experience on this defense, but the secondary returns three of their four starters.

2. Alohi Gilman, Notre Dame

2018 Stats: 94 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 2 INT, 5 PD

AAC fans aren’t thrilled that two of the best safeties in the country were on their rosters at one point. Navy transfer Gilman is one of the best players in the country, and his NFL potential continues to rise.

1. Grant Delpit, LSU

2018 Stats: 74 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 5 INT, 9 PD

His stats are far above anyone else. Delpit received the honor of wearing number seven for the Tigers this year. The number brings added pressure, but Delpit already seems to be the next great defensive back to play for LSU.

Others to Watch

BJ Foster, Texas: He’s moving to nickel back, and played well last year for the Longhorns.

Aashari Crosswell, Arizona State: Exploded in his first year as a starter, picking off four passes.

David Dowell, Michigan State: With lots of stars on the Spartans defense, Dowell might be an underappreciated star.

Rodney Clemons, SMU: He’s not afraid to help in the run defense, but also solid at defending the pass.

Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota: Famous father who played in the NFL. Winfield needs to stay healthy, but he has NFL potential just like his old man.

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