August 12, 2022

College Football’s 20 best returning cornerbacks

College Football's top corners

USC cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart leaves game after a 35-31 win over Colorado Friday October 25, 2019 at Folsom Field. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

They are the most trusted defenders on defense.

Corners are put out on an island and have the sole responsibility of covering a team’s top receiver. Some are aggressive ball hawks out of the secondary, with speed and instincts to shutdown their entire side of the field. Opposing quarterbacks are apprehensive about throwing the ball or targeting their direction.

These corners continue to show why they excel in both man-to-man and zone coverage and poised for greatness this fall.

20. Olaijah Griffin, USC: The former five-star prospect is the son of rap legend Warren G and led the Trojans in pass break-ups last season. Griffin started 10 games, and tallied 37 tackles, including 24 solo. The Long Beach native was hit by the injury bug and missed three games because of complications with his back. Not to mention USC is loaded at the corner position and no one will be guaranteed a starting role this fall.

19. Shaun Wade, Ohio State: The Jacksonville native is the new product brewing at the midwest Defensive Back U. Wade only generated 26 tackles and had one interception last season, but he earned third-team All-Big Ten honors. Now he’s poised to continue the position’s great legacy at Ohio State. The six-foot-one, 190-pounder has 57 total stops and four interceptions over the past two seasons for the Buckeyes.

18. D.J. Ivey, Miami: The former four-star prospect had a solid true sophomore campaign and made six starts with the Hurricanes. Ivey tallied 25 tackles and intercepted three passes, including two in the win over Pittsburgh. The Florida native also had four solo tackles in the win over Central Michigan and five solo stops in the win over Virginia. The six-foot-one, 187-pounder had four stops and his third interception of the season in the win over Louisville.

17. Isaac Taylor-Stuart, USC: He’s another Trojan corner who was a five-star prospect out of high school. Taylor-Stuart tallied 36 tackles, including 27 solo stops, broke up four passes and picked off a pass. The six-foot-two, 195-pounder has great size and range for a corner and he uses it to his advantage on receivers out in man to man and bump and run coverage. Taylor-Stuart suffered a knee injury in the Holiday Bowl and had surgery, but should be back fully healthy by fall camp.

16. Kaiir Elam, Florida: He was one of the Gators’ top recruits last season and he made an immediate impact, with five starts. Despite the fact that Elam only generated 11 tackles, he still broke up four passes and had three interceptions. The six-foot-two, 187-pounder picked off two passes in back-to-back weeks against Tennessee-Martin and Kentucky, plus he added another in the Orange Bowl win over Virginia. Not to mention Elam earned the freshman All-SEC team. Now he’s poised to carry the torch of another program dubbed Defensive Back U.

15. A.J. Parker, Kansas State: The Oklahoma native has been a consistent corner for the Wildcats and started eight games last year. However, Parker’s season was cut short by an injury. Still, he led Kansas State in interceptions, with a pick in wins over Nicholls, Mississippi State and Oklahoma. He had six tackles apiece against Oklahoma State and Baylor. Over the last two seasons the 5-foot-11, 178-pounder has tallied 81 tackles, five interceptions and will be one of the most experienced corners in the Big 12 this fall. Not too shabby for a former two-star prospect.

14. Bryce Thompson, Tennessee: He started 10 games for the Volunteers last season and finished second on the team in interceptions. All three of Thompson’s interceptions came in the first half against UAB, which tied for a school-best. The South Carolina native also had a career-high, seven tackles against Florida and five stops apiece against Missouri and Georgia. Over the last two seasons with Tennessee Thompson has 66 stops, 6.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions and broke up 15 passes. With the loss of Nigel Warrior, Ivey will be one of the leaders in the Volunteers’ secondary this fall.

13. Ambry Thomas, Michigan: The former four-star prospect tied for first on the team with three interceptions last season, including two in conference games. Thomas generated two tackles, recovered a fumble and picked of a pass in the win over Iowa. He also had a career-high, six stops and an interception in the win over Michigan State. Not to mention the six-foot, 182-pounder had five solo stops in the win over Indiana. The Detroit native is also a special teams demon, with a 99-yard kickoff return in the 2018 season-opener against Notre Dame. Thomas production and success earned him third-team All-Big Ten.

12. D’Shawn Jamison, Texas: The Houston native is a two-way athlete for the Longhorns, with experience on both sides of the ball. Jamison started nine games last season and led the team in interceptions, including two in the win over West Virginia. He also had a career-high, eight solo tackles and picked off a pass at Iowa State. The former four-star prospect returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the win over Rice. Jamison had five tackles against TCU to go along with four stop and stops and a fumble in the Red River Rivalry.

11. Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State: The former four star prospect started all 12 games he played in, tallied 48 tackles, an interception and led the Seminoles with 14 passes defended. Samuel had a career-high, eight tackles against Clemson and Virginia, including the first interception of his career at the Cavaliers. He also had six stops and broke up two passes in the win over North Carolina State. The Florida native had five or more stops in six games on his way to earning third-team All-ACC honors.

10. Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech: The former four-star prospect had a breakout season, despite only making 20 tackles. Farley tied for second in the ACC with four interceptions, including two in the win over Miami. He also led the league in passes defended, with 16, including four in the win over North Carolina. The six-foot-two, 206-pounder has great size and range, making Farley one of the most versatile defensive backs in the conference. Not to mention he returned an interception for a 17-yard touchdown in the win at Georgia Tech and earned first-team All-ACC honors.

9. Lorenzo Burns, Arizona: The California native has three years worth of starting experience, making him one of the most seasoned corners in the Pac-12. He led the Wildcats in interceptions and passes defended last season. Burns had an interception in three of the Arizona’s first four games. He recorded six tackles apiece against Texas Tech and Arizona State. The three star prospect had a season-high, 10 tackles against Oregon State and was also named the team’s Defensive MVP. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder has nine career interceptions and has broke up 25 passes.

8. Tariq Castro-Fields, Penn State: The former four star prospect was recruited as a safety, but has made a name for himself as a shutdown corner. Castro-Fields started 12 games last season and had eight tackles apiece in wins over Buffalo, Michigan and Indiana. Not to mention the Maryland native picked off a pass against the Wolverines and Terrapins. He also had six stops in the road win over Iowa and five in the victory over Pittsburgh. Castro-Fields has 94 career tackles and earned third-team All-Big Ten honors.

7. Paulson Adebo, Stanford: He has been one of the best cover corners in the Pac-12 the past two seasons. Adebo led the Cardinal in interceptions and passes defended through nine games before suffering a season-ending injury. The six-foot-one, 190-pounder had an interception in the season-opening win over Northwestern, another against UCLA and two in the win over Arizona. The Texas native also had five solo tackles against USC and Colorado. Over the last two seasons with Stanford Adebo has 97 tackles, eight interceptions, broke up a jaw-dropping, 38 passes and earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors.

6. Damarcus Fields, Texas Tech: The former three-star prospect is one of the most experienced and productive corners in the Big 12. Fields tallied 54 total stops, six tackles for loss, a sack and three interceptions last season. He also broke up five passes, which led the Red Raiders. The six-foot, 200-pounder picked off a pass against Oklahoma State, Iowa State and West Virginia. The Texas native had a career-high, 13 tackles, including 11 solo against Texas. Not to mention Fields had nine solo stops against the Jayhawks and eight against the Mountaineers. Fields has 193 career stops, 8.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions and 27 pass breakups.

5. Camryn Bynum, California: The California native has been one of the most productive corners in the Pac-12 and started 12 games last season. Bynum finished third on the team in tackles, with 63 and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors. The former three-star prospect had a career-high, 12 tackles against Stanford. Not to mention he generated nine stops in the win over North Texas, eight in the victory over Washington State and six in the upset at Ole Miss. In three seasons with the Golden Bears Bynum has 169 career tackles, five interceptions and broke up 32 passes.

4. Derion Kendrick, Clemson: Brent Venables continues to field elite corners and Kendrick is arguably one of the best in the ACC. The former five-star prospect is a converted wide receiver, who changed to cornerback last spring. It was a bright move for the Tigers’ secondary and Kendrick had a solid true sophomore campaign and earned second-team All-ACC. He finished with 51 tackles and intercepted two passes, including one he returned 38 yards for a touchdown in the win over Florida State. The South Carolina native showed he was the real deal on the biggest stage, with a career-high, nine tackles apiece in the Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State and the National Championship Game against LSU.

3. Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina: The former three-star prospect was recruited as a cornerback and safety, which means he’s very versatile. Will Muschamp is a defensive-minded coach, who has an eye for talented defenders and Mukuamu is one of those individuals. The Louisiana native has tremendous size and range, standing six foot-four and weighing 205 pounds. Mukuamu tied for second in the SEC with four interceptions and tied for third in the league in with 13 passes defended. He became a household name in the SEC after he hauled three interceptions and had seven solo tackles in the upset overtime win on the road over Georgia.

2. Elijah Molden, Washington: He was a ball hawk for a solid Husky secondary and earned first-team All-Pac-12 last season. Molden started all 13 games and had an interception against USC, Washington State, Oregon State and Boise State. The Oregon native had a career-high, 14 tackles in the win over Washington State in the Apple Cup. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder also had nine stops against Stanford and seven tackles apiece against Oregon and Utah. The former four-star prospect finished the year with 79 stops, 5.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions and broke up 17 passes. Molden has the skill set and talent to shutdown half the field.

1. Derek, Stingley Jr., LSU: He was the Bayou Bengals’ No. 1 recruit last season and the former five-star prospect had a monster true freshman campaign. Stingley became the first true freshman to start for LSU’s defense in 34 years and he did that 14 games at corner. The Baton Rouge native led the almighty SEC with six interceptions, which also ranked fifth nationally. Not to mention he broke up a jaw-dropping, 21 passes. The six-foot-one, 190-pounder is a reminder to the College Football world why LSU has pipeline for elite corners and is considered Defensive Back U. Getting thrown to the wolves was nothing for Stingley and he earned first-team All-America and first-team All-SEC honors.  The hometown golden boy also serves as the Tigers’ punt returner.

Honorable Mention

Kary Vincent Jr., LSU: He tallied 47 tackles, tied for second on the team with four interceptions and broke up nine passes.