They are the last line of defense.
Safeties have to clean up the mistakes made by the defensive front seven. The elite ones know how to read the quarterback’s eyes. It’s all about blanketing half of a field and flying from sideline to sideline to bring down ball carriers. The position requires extreme physicality and great vision.
There’s nothing like having a defender that excels against the run and in pass coverage. These 20 defenders displayed all of those skills last season, and now they’re looking to build on their legacies in 2022.
20. Xavion Alford, USC: The former four-star prospect made four tackles in two games with Texas in 2020, and transferred to USC after that season. However, it turned out to be a great move and Alford is coming off a solid campaign with the Trojans. The Texas native generated six solo tackles in the win at Washington State. Alford tallied five solo stops against BYU and four against Notre Dame. The six-foot, 190-pounder picked off two passes at Arizona State. Not to mention Alford had an interception against UCLA. Now Alford is poised for a stellar season this fall, and Lincoln Riley’s coaching staff is expecting him to be a leader in the secondary.
19. Macon Clark, Tulane: The Louisiana native led the Green Wave in tackles and interceptions last season. Clark tallied five solo stops and picked off a pass against Oklahoma. He racked up eight solo tackles at Ole Miss. Not to mention Clark had eight additional solo stops, and an interception against Tulsa. The former three-star prospect stockpiled a season-high, nine solo tackles and made the quarterback eat grass against Houston. Clark also hauled in an interception against Cincinnati and South Florida. Despite all of Clark’s success, he only received Honorable Mention consideration. Bottom line, expect Clark to leave no doubt in 2022.
18. Isheem Young, Ole Miss: The former four-star prospect stockpiled 56 tackes at Iowa State in 2021. Young also earned second-team, All-Big 12 honors. He generated four solo tackles and picked off a pass in the season-opening win over Northern Iowa. The following week he racked up a season-high, five solo stops against Iowa. The next game Young had three solo stops and an interception in the victory over UNLV. Not to mention he tallied three solo tackles against Texas, plus four apiece at Kansas State and Texas Tech. Young brings instant credibility to the Rebels’ defense, which finished 68th in the FBS in passing yards allowed.
17. Andrew Mubuka, Clemson: With Andrew Booth Jr. and Mario Goodrich off to the NFL, he’s poised to lead the Tigers’ secondary in 2022. Mubuka showed promise and earned third-team, All-ACC honors as a true freshman last season. Not to mention he had 47 tackles and broke up seven passes. The former four-star prospect generated three solo tackles apiece against Georgia, Syracuse and Louisville. Mubuka also put the quarterback to the turf against the Cardinals. He stockpiled six solo stops in the win over Wake Forest. The Texas native racked up a season-high, seven solo tackles at NC State. Mubuka has the ability to reach All-America status this fall.
16. Brandon Hill, Pittsburgh: The Florida native tied for second on the Panthers in tackles last season. Hill also earned second-team, All-ACC honors. He stockpiled a season-high, seven solo tackles, and picked off a pass in the win at Tennessee. Hill tallied three solo stops apiece against Western Michigan and Duke. Not to mention he generated five solo tackles apiece in victories over Clemson and Virginia. The former three-star prospect left a lasting impression in the bowl game against Michigan State, with three solo tackles and an interception. Hill will need to amplify his game though, considering Pittsburgh’s defense finished 115th in the FBS in passing yards allowed.
15. Cam Allen, Purdue: The former three-star prospect made a name for himself in the Boilermakers’ secondary last year. Allen generated five solo tackles and picked off a pass in the season-opening win over Oregon State. He racked up seven solo stops at Notre Dame. The Virginia native had a season-high, two interceptions in the victory at Iowa. The following week Allen tallied four solo tackles, and forced a fumble against Wisconsin. The next game Allen snagged an interception in the win at Nebraska. The six-foot, 195-pounder stockpiled another season-high, eight solo tackles, including one for loss against Ohio State.
14. Cam’Ron Kelly, North Carolina: The former four-star prospect originally signed with Auburn in 2019, but transferred before the start of the season. However, Kelly earned third-team, All-ACC honors with the Tar Heels last year. He generated four solo tackles in the victory over Georgia State. Kelly also had four stops, plus an interception in the victory over Duke. A week later he stockpiled five solo tackles against Florida State. The next game Kelly tallied three stops and picked off a pass in the win over Miami. The Virginia native racked up a season-high, 11 solo tackles at Notre Dame. Kelly followed up that performance with two interceptions against Wake Forest.
13. Jaylon Carlies, Missouri: The Florida native is a very underrated SEC defender, who put up solid number last season. Carlies finished first on the team in interceptions and third in tackles. He stockpiled seven solo tackles and picked off a pass in the season-opening win over Central Michigan. Carlies generated seven solo stops apiece against Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. Not to mention he had three solo tackles, hauled in an interception and forced a fumble at Kentucky. The former three-star prospect also picked off a pass against Texas A&M. Carlies racked up a season-high, seven solo tackles, in the victory over Vanderbilt.
12. Tanner Ingle, NC State: The former three-star prospect finished second on the team in tackles last season. Not to mention Ingle earned first-team, All-ACC honors. Ingle picked off a pass in the season-opening win over South Florida. He generated six solo tackles apiece against Louisiana Tech and Wake Forest. Ingle tallied five solo stops in the victory over Louisville, and four at Boston College. The 5-foot-10, 186-pounder racked up a season-high, eight solo tackles at Florida State. The Wolfpack’s defense finished third in the ACC in passing yards allowed. With the return of a veteran like Ingle, expect those number to improve in 2022.
11. Patrick McMorris, San Diego State: The California native is one of the best returning defenders from the Group of Five. McMorris led the Aztecs in tackles and interceptions last season. Not to mention he broke up nine passes and earned first-team, All-Mountain West honors. McMorris tallied five solo stops apiece in victories over New Mexico State and Towson. The former two-star prospect generated six solo tackles apiece at San Jose State, Air Force and Fresno State and UNLV. The six-foot, 210-pounder had a season-high, two interceptions in the win over Boise State. McMorris also picked off a pass against Arizona and Utah State.
10. Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M: The St. Louis native finished second on the Aggies in tackles last season. Johnson also earned second-team, AP All-SEC honors. He tallied six solo tackles, including one for loss in the opener against Kent State. The next game Johnson racked up a season-high, nine solo stops, and broke up two passes in the victory over Colorado. Not to mention Johnson had nine additional solo tackles against Mississippi State. The six-foot-three, 200-pounder hauled in an interception in the win at Missouri. Johnson generated eight solo stops against LSU and five more, including two for loss against Ole Miss.
9. Xavier Henderson, Michigan State: The former four-star prospect finished second on the Spartans in tackles last season. Henderson stockpiled seven solo tackles, including two for loss and a sack in the Big Ten opener at Northwestern. The next game he generated a tackle for loss, a sack and an interception against Youngstown State. The following week Henderson racked up eight solo stops in the victory at Miami. Henderson had a season-high, 10 solo tackles in the overtime win against Nebraska. The Ohio native tallied five solo stops apiece against, Indiana, Ohio State and Purdue. He also earned third-team, All-Big Ten honors.
8. Antavious Lane, Georgia State: The former three-star prospect led the Panthers in interceptions and finished third on the team in tackles last season. Lane racked up a season-high, nine solo tackles in the win at Georgia Southern. He stockpiled eight solo stops and returned an interception for a touchdown in the victory over Ball State. The Florida native also tallied eight solo tackles and picked off a pass against Louisiana. Not to mention had an interception against Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas State and Troy, plus eight additional tackles against Auburn. The cherry on top to Lane’s stellar year, was capping it off with first-team, All-Sun Belt honors.
7. Ji’Ayir Brown, Penn State: The former Juco led the Nittany Lions in interceptions and finished third on the team in tackles. Brown was a flat-out ball-hawk, with interceptions in four different contests, including two in the bowl game against Arkansas. He generated eight solo stops apiece against Maryland and Michigan State. Not to mention Brown racked up a season-high, 11 solo tackles against Illinois. Brown forced and recovered a fumble, and had six solo stops at Ohio State. Not to mention Brown tallied five solo tackles at Iowa. The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder earned third-team, All-Big Ten honors for his performance on the field.
6. Khoury Bethley, Arizona State: He led Hawaii in sacks, plus finished second in stops and tackles for loss last season. Bethley also earned first-team, All-Mountain West honors. The California native stockpiled six solo tackles, a sack and picked off two passes in the victory over Fresno State. Bethley also had six solo stops, a sack and an interception in the win over Colorado State. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder returned an interception for a touchdown against New Mexico State. Bethley had a season-high, 11 solo tackles at Nevada, and eight others at Wyoming. Now he’s on Arizona State’s defense, which finished 21st in the FBS in passing yards allowed in 2021.
5. Kenny Logan, Kansas: The Florida native led the Jayhawks in tackles last season. Not to mention Logan was No. 2 in the FBS in solo tackles per game. He stockpiled a jaw-dropping, 10 solo stops apiece against Oklahoma and West Virginia. Logan racked up a season-high, 11 solo stops in the victory at Texas. The former three-star prospect tallied six solo tackles and picked off a pass against Texas Tech. Logan also had seven solo stops at Baylor, plus five apiece against Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Not only was Logan the lone bright spot for Kansas’ defense, but he also finished the season with second-team, All-Big 12 honors.
4. Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame: He’s a two-time, All-Big Ten performer, with nine interceptions, and 126 tackles over the past two years at Northwestern. Joseph stockpiled seven solo tackles in the season-opener against Michigan State. The Texas native also had seven solo stops, including a sack at Michigan. In a three-game span against Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, Joseph combined for 16 solo tackles and two interceptions. The former three-star prospect picked off a pass in the victory over Ohio. Not to mention Joseph rumbled for 111 kick return yards against Duke. With Kyle Hamilton off to the NFL, Joseph will be the playmaker in Notre Dame’s secondary.
3. Ronnie Hickman, Ohio State: The former four-star prospect led the Buckeyes in tackles last season. Hickman has the speed and athleticism to cover half of a field. Not to mention he earned second-team, All-Big Ten honors. Hickman stockpiled seven solo tackles and picked off a pass against Tulsa. The following week he generated seven additional solo stops, and returned an interception for a touchdown against Akron. The New Jersey native also tallied seven solo stops in the win over Rutgers. Hickman made the quarterback eat grass in the win at Nebraska. The six-foot-one, 205-pounder had six solo tackles apiece against Oregon and Penn State.
2. Jordan Battle, Alabama: He has blazing speed and keen instincts, making him arguably the best ball hawk in the country. Battle finished fourth on the team in tackles and earned first-team, All-SEC honors last season. The Florida native tallied seven solo stops in the victory over Ole Miss. Battle generated six solo stops in the win over Cincinnati. The six-foot-one, 206-pounder picked off two passes and returned one for a touchdown against Mississippi State. Not to mention Battle returned another interception for a score in the SEC Championship Game. Battle took down the ball carrier four times apiece against LSU, Auburn and Georgia in the National Championship.
1. Jammie Robinson, Florida State: The former four-star played two seasons at South Carolina, and racked up 135 tackles and two interceptions during that span. Robinson transferred to Florida State last year, and led the team in tackles and interceptions. The Georgia native had a season-high, nine solo stops at North Carolina. Robinson generated seven solo tackles and picked off a pass against NC State. He tallied six solo stops against Wake Forest. Not to mention he stockpiled six additional solo tackles, plus an interception against Florida. The 5-foot-11, 203-pound Robinson also hauled in interceptions in victories over Massachusetts and Miami.