August 9, 2022

College Football’s 20 best cornerbacks of 2022

College Football's 20 best cornerbacks of 2022

Texas A&M cornerback Jaylon Jones runs drills with teammates before game against Colorado Saturday September 11, 2021 inside Empower Field at Mile High Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/staylaiveinpower5)

They sit out on an island, waiting for action to come their way.

It’s a position that requires a ton of trust and responsibility. Speed, instincts and vision become vital on the gridiron. The elite cornerbacks have the ability to blanket their entire side of the field, and dare for quarterbacks to throw their way. It’s all about reading the signal-caller’s eyes, and locking down the opposing offenses’ No. 1 receiver.

These 20 defenders all had success last season, and are looking to generate more with spring ball in full effect for most teams.

20. Carrington Valentine, Kentucky: The Cincinnati native finished fourth on the Wildcats in tackles last season. Valentine is a veteran in Kentucky’s secondary, who plays like a strong safety. The former three-star prospect generated four solo stops and broke up a pass in the win over Missouri. He racked up a season-high, seven solo tackles against Chattanooga. Valentine made the quarterback eat grass at South Carolina. Not to mention he stockpiled six solo stops apiece in back-to-back victories over Florida and LSU. The six-foot, 200-pounder had four solo tackles and broke up a pass at Vanderbilt. Valentine took down the ball carrier five times, and broke up a pass against rival Louisville.

19. Arquon Bush, Cincinnati: The former three-star prospect was a staple in the Bearcats’ secondary last year. Bush put the quarterback to the turf in the season-opener against Miami (Ohio). The following week he generated three solo tackles and picked off a pass against Murray State. He also had three solo tackles apiece, plus hauled in an interception against Indiana and Navy. Not to mention Bush blocked a field goal kick against SMU and East Carolina. The six-foot, 190-pounder stockpiled four solo tackles in the AAC Championship Game against Houston. Bush left a lasting impression with the AAC Champs, when he tallied three solo stops in the Playoffs against Alabama.

18. DJ Turner, Michigan: The Georgia native broke up seven passes last season, which ranked second on the team. Turner tallied three solo tackles and broke up a pass against Washington. He generated a tackle for loss and hauled in an interception against Northwestern. The former three-star prospect returned an interception for a touchdown in the win at Maryland. Not to mention Turner stockpiled a season-high, seven solo tackles, and broke up two passes in the victory over Ohio State. The six-foot, 181-pounder had four solo stops against Georgia in the Playoffs. Over Michigan’s final four games, Turner racked up 14 solo tackles. Now he’s poised for a breakout campaign in 2022.

17. Jaylon Jones, Texas A&M: The former five-star prospect blossomed in his second year with the program, and tied for fourth on the team in tackles last season. Jones helped the Aggies finish third in the SEC and 17th in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game. He tallied four solo stops against Arkansas in Jerry’s World. Jones had for solo tackles, an interception and broke up two passes in the victory over Auburn. The six-foot-two, 205-pounder also picked off a pass and tallied three solo stops in the win at Missouri. Jones left a lasting impression when he took down the ball carrier four times and broke up two passes in the regular season finale against LSU.

16. Jermari Harris, Iowa: The Chicago native tied for second on the Hawkeyes in interceptions last season. Harris helped Iowa pick off 25 passes, which ranked first in the FBS. He amplified his game midway through 2021. Harris tallied three solo tackles in wins over Maryland and Illinois. Not to mention Harris racked up a season-high, six solo stops at Wisconsin. The former three-star prospect had three solo stops and picked off a pass in the victory at Northwestern. Harris also hauled in an interception on the road at Nebraska. Over the Hawkeyes’ final two games against Michigan and Kentucky, the six-foot-one, 185-pounder combined for six solo tackles and two interceptions.

15. Kris Abrams-Draine, Missouri: The former three-star prospect has great cover skills and is a special teams demon. Abrams-Draine tallied four solo tackles at Boston College. The following week he returned 100-yard kickoff for a touchdown against Tennessee. He had two solo stops, an interception and forced a fumble in the victory over North Texas. The Alabama native also picked off a pass in wins over Southeast Missouri State and South Carolina. Abrams-Draine racked up a season-high, seven solo tackles, including one for loss and broke up a pass against Vanderbilt. In the regular season finale at Arkansas, Abrams-Draine took down the ball carrier five times.

14. C.J. Coldon, Oklahoma: The Illinois native stockpiled 67 tackles and broke up 10 passes at Wyoming last year. Not to mention Coldon earned second-team, All-Mountain West honors. He generated four solo stops in the season-opening win over Montana State. The following week Coldon tallied a season-high, six solo tackles in the victory at Northern Illinois. The former three-star prospect racked up five solo stops and put the quarterback to the turf at Air Force. Coldon also had five solo tackles at Utah State and six against Hawaii. The six-foot-one, 180-pounder brings instant credibility to Oklahoma’s defense, which finished 110th in the FBS in passing yards allowed in 2021.

13. Quincy Riley, Louisville: He finished first in Conference-USA, and fourth in the FBS in interceptions at Middle Tennessee last season. Riley also earned first-team, All-C-USA honors. The former three-star prospect stockpiled four solo tackles, including two for loss and broke up a pass against Charlotte. Riley generated three solo stops and broke up three passes in the bowl win over Toledo. The six-foot, 181-pounder picked off two passes at UTSA. Not to mention Riley returned an interception for a touchdown in the victory over Florida International. Riley also hauled in an interception against Connecticut and Southern Miss, plus he sacked the quarterback against Old Dominion.

12. Jarrick Bernard-Converse, LSU: The former four-star prospect finished fourth on Oklahoma State in tackles last season. Bernard-Converse also earned first-team, All-Big 12 honors. He generated four solo tackles apiece against Missouri State, Boise State and Baylor. Not to mention he broke up three passes against Kansas State. Bernard-Converse racked up a season-high, six solo tackles, and broke up two passes in the win over Oklahoma. The six-foot-one, 200-pounder had three solo stops, and broke up a pass in the bowl victory over Notre Dame. Bernard-Converse will immediately upgrade the Bayou Bengals’ defense, which finished 80th nationally in passing yards allowed.

11. Tarheeb Still, Maryland: The New Jersey native tied for fourth on the team in tackles last year. Still generated four solo stops, including a tackle for loss and a sack in the season-opening win over West Virginia. He also had four solo tackles, plus forced a fumble and broke up a pass against Kent State. The former three-star prospect tallied five solo stops, and broke up a pass at Ohio State. Still racked up a season-high, six solo tackles, broke up a pass and recovered a fumble against Michigan State. The six-foot, 185-pounder put the quarterback to the turf in the victory over Indiana. Still will be a force to be reckoned with in the the Terrapins’ secondary, and poised for a monster campaign this fall.

10. Kei’Trel Clark, Louisville: The Virginia native had no stars behind his name out of high school, but stockpiled 40 tackles at Liberty in 2019. Clark transferred to Louisville the following July, and earned second-team, All-ACC honors last year. He tallied four solo tackles in the season-opener against Ole Miss. Clark stockpiled five solo stops, including two for loss and two interceptions in the win over Eastern Kentucky the following game. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder also had five solo tackles apiece against Wake Forest and Virginia. Clark broke up four passes at NC State, plus hauled in an interception, to go along with four solo stops in the road victory over Florida State.

9. Darian Chestnut Syracuse: The former four-star prospect led the Orangemen in interceptions and pass breakups as a true freshman last season. Not to mention Chestnut earned third-team, All-ACC honors. He stockpiled five solo tackles and hauled in an interception in the season-opening win at Ohio. Chestnut also had five solo stops and broke up a pass in the victory over Liberty. The New Jersey native picked off a pass at Florida State. In back-to-back victories over Virginia Tech and Boston College, Chestnut combined for seven solo tackles. Chestnut left a lasting impression when he tallied two tackles for loss and hauled in a interception against Pittsburgh.

8. Elias Ricks, Alabama: The former five-star prospect stockpiled five interceptions over the past two years at LSU. Ricks earned second-team, AP All-SEC, and third-team, All-America honors in 2020. Not to mention he returned two interceptions for a touchdown that year. He picked off a pass in the season-opener at UCLA last season. The California native generated four solo tackles in the win over Mississippi State. Ricks tallied two solo stops apiece against McNeese State and Auburn. The six-foot-two, 195-pound Ricks transferred to Alabama last December, and is poised to make an immediate impact on a defense that finished 50th in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game.

7. Josh Deberry, Boston College: The Michigan native led the Eagles in tackles for loss and finished fourth on the team in stops last season. Not to mention the Eagles’ defense ranked first in the ACC and third in the FBS in passing yards allowed. Deberry picked off a pass at Massachusetts. He also hauled in an interception in the win over Missouri. The former three-star prospect stockpiled four solo stops apiece against Temple and Clemson. In back-to-back games against NC State and Louisville, Deberry combined for 14 solo tackles. The 5-foot-11, 177-pounder had five solo stops in the victory at Georgia Tech. Deberry finished the year with second-team, All-ACC honors.

6. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU: The Texas native is a two-time, first-team, All-Big 12 performer, who led the Horned Frogs in pass breakups in 2021. Hodges-Tomlinson hauled in an interception in the season-opener against Duquesne. He tallied five solo tackles and broke up a pass in the win over California. Over the next three games against SMU, Texas and Texas Tech, Hodges-Tomlinson combined for 16 solo tackles, including two for loss, forced a fumble and picked of a pass. The former two star prospect generated three solo stops, forced a fumble and broke up a pass against Oklahoma State. Not to mention Hodges-Tomlinson racked up six solo tackles in victory over Kansas.

5. Steven Jones Jr., Appalachian State: The former two-star prospect is a true ballhawk, who put together a monster campaign in 2021. Not to mention Jones earned first-team, All-Sun Belt honors. He tallied five solo tackles in the season-opening win over East Carolina. The following week Jones generated six solo stops against Miami. The North Carolina native stockpiled five solo tackles, and broke up two passes in the victory over Marshall. Jones also had five solo stops and picked off a pass at Louisiana. In back-to-back games against Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas State, Jones returned a jaw-dropping, three interceptions for touchdowns. Jones has four career pick-sixes.

4. Denzel Burke, Ohio State: The Arizona native led the Buckeyes in pass breakups as a true freshman last season. Burke also earned third-team, All-Big Ten honors. He generated four solo tackles against Tulsa. The former four-star prospect racked up a season-high, 10 solo stops in the victory over Purdue. Not to mention Burke returned an interception for a touchdown in the win at Rutgers. The six-foot-one, 190-pounder tallied three solo tackles apiece against Michigan and Utah in the Rose Bowl. Burke, along with the return of Ronnie Hickman should elevate Ohio State’s secondary this fall, after the defense finished 97th in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game.

3. Clark Phillips, Utah: He led the Utes in pass breakups and tied for third on the team in tackles last season. Phillips also earned second-team, All-Pac-12 honors. The California native generated five solo stops in the season-opener against Weber State. Phillips tallied three solo tackles apiece against BYU, Oregon State, Oregon and Colorado. The former four-star prospect stockpiled a season-high, eight solo tackles in the victory at USC. Not to mention he had four solo stops, and returned an interception for a touchdown in the win over Washington State. The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder racked up five solo stops in the victory over UCLA, plus he picked off a pass against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

2. Riley Moss, Iowa: The former two-star prospect is arguably the best ball hawk in College Football. Moss earned third-team, AP All-America honors last season. Not to mention he was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Back of the Year. He returned two interceptions for scores in the season-opener against Indiana. The following week Moss tallied seven solo tackles in the win at Iowa State. Moss followed up that performance with six solo stops against Kent State. The Iowa native picked off a pass at Maryland, and hauled in an interception in the victory over Penn State. Moss had five stops in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan. The six-foot-one, 194-pounder also has 10 career interceptions.

1. Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State: His production is off the charts. Forbes led the Bulldogs in interceptions, and finished fourth on the team in tackles last season. He also earned second-team, All-SEC honors. Not to mention he has eight interceptions over the past two years. Forbes racked up a season-high, nine solo tackles, including one for loss and a sack in the win over NC State. The following week he picked off a pass at Memphis. The former four-star prospect also hauled in interceptions against LSU and Vanderbilt. Forbes generated five solo stops against Texas A&M and Kentucky. The six-foot, 180-pounder stockpiled 10 solo stops over the Bulldogs’ final two games.

Honorable Mention

Montre Miller, Kent State: The former two-star prospect stockpiled 47 tackles for the Golden Flashes last season. Miller had a jaw-dropping, three interceptions in the victory over VMI. He had four solo stops, including two for loss and forced a fumble at Iowa. Miller broke up three passes and hauled in and interception in the victory over Miami (Ohio).