June 16, 2024
College football's 20 best safeties of 2023

Kansas State safety Kobe Savage (2) celebrates after tackling Texas running back Bijan Robinson during the second quarter Saturday November 5, 2022 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

There’s a ton of responsibility that comes with being the last line of defense.

The safeties are the enforcers of the secondary. It’s a position that requires stealth, physicality and leadership, because there’s really no margin for error. Being a field general that excels in run support, as well as pass coverage is ideal, and the elite ones have the ability to cover half of a field.

These 20 defenders displayed all of those qualities last season, and now they’re poised to build on their legacies this fall.

20. Chris Edmonds, Arizona State: The Alabama native led the Sun Devils in interceptions, and ranked fifth on the team in tackles last season. Edmonds picked off a pass in the opener against Northern Arizona. He tallied six stops, including four solo against Oklahoma State. Edmonds recorded six tackles apiece against Oklahoma State and Eastern Michigan. Not to mention he stockpiled a season-high, nine tackles, including six solo at Stanford. Edmonds posted three stops, and hauled in an interception in the victory over Colorado. The six-foot-two, 215-pounder also picked off a pass against UCLA. Edmonds even registered five tackles apiece against Oregon State and Washington.

19. Andrew Mubuka, Clemson: The Texas native has been a general in the Tigers’ secondary over the past two seasons. Mubuka even earned third-team, All-ACC honors in 2021. He finished fifth on the team with 54 tackles last year. Mukuba generated five stops, and picked off a pass in the opener at Georgia Tech. Not to mention he recorded five tackles apiece against Boston College, Louisville and North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game. Mubuka tallied six stops in the victory over Florida State. The six-foot, 185-pounder left a lasting impression with posted four stops at Notre Dame. Mubuka left a lasting impression with a season-high, seven tackles in in the Orange Bowl.

18. Marques Buford, Nebraska: The former three-star prospect finished fifth on the Blackshirts in tackles last season. Buford got off to a hot start with seven stops, including four solo, and forced a fumble in the opener against Northwestern. He tallied five tackles, including one for loss, and broke up a pass in the victory over North Dakota. Not to mention he posted five tackles, and picked off two passes against Georgia Southern. The following week Burford recorded seven tackles, including six solo against Oklahoma. Buford registered six stops at Rutgers and 13 against Illinois. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder racked up a season-high, eight tackles, and broke up a pass against Minnesota.

17. Yamarus Banks, South Alabama: The Mississippi native led the Jaguars with six interceptions, and finished fifth on the team in tackles last season. Banks also capped off the year with first-team, All-Sun Belt honors for his heroics. He tallied four solo tackles apiece against UCLA and Texas State. Banks picked off two passes, and recovered a fumble in the victory over Louisiana Tech. The six-foot-one, 208-pounder also hauled in an interception against Louisiana-Monroe. Banks posted six solo stops, including one for loss and an interception against Troy. His seven tackles against Old Dominion were a season-high. Banks made five stops and picked off a pass in the bowl game.

16. Tamarion McDonald, Tennessee: The former three-star prospect is a versatile defender, who finished fourth on the Volunteers in tackles last season. McDonald picked off a pass in the opener against Ball State. He tallied eight stops, including one for loss and broke up two passes against Vanderbilt. McDonald posted six tackles apiece at Georgia and South Carolina. The Memphis native stockpiled a season-high, nine stops, including six solo, and one for loss in the victory over Alabama. McDonald left a lasting impression with five tackles, including four solo and an interception in the Orange Bowl win over Clemson. With his production, McDonald is poised for an All-SEC caliber campaign this fall.

15. Tyler Nubin, Minnesota: The Illinois native led the Golden Gophers in interceptions, and finished fourth on the team in tackles last year. Nubin posted five tackles, including four solo and picked off a pass against Purdue. He tallied seven stops apiece in victories at Michigan State and Nebraska. Not to mention Nubin hauled in two interceptions in the shutout win over Rutgers. The former four-star prospect also recorded an interception, to go along with five tackles against Northwestern. Nubin generated eight stops, including six solo against Iowa. His 13 tackles, including nine solo were both season-highs. Nubin along with Justin Walley will make Minnesota’s secondary one of the Big Ten’s best.

14. Miles Brooks, Georgia Tech: The former four-star prospect led the Yellow Jackets in interceptions, and finished fourth on the team in tackles last season. Brooks posted five tackles apiece against Ole Miss, Florida State and Georgia. He tallied four tackles, and picked off a pass at Central Florida. Brooks also recorded four stops, and hauled in an interception in the victory at North Carolina. Not to mention he registered six tackles, including five solo against Miami. Brooks had recorded a season-high, nine tackles, and returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown against Virginia. The six-foot-two, 192-pounder is one of the most underrated defensive backs in the country.

13. Jay Stanley, Southern Miss: The former three-star prospect made plays all over the field for the Golden Eagles last season. So much so, that Stanley capped off his stellar campaign with third-team, All-Sun Belt honors. After all, he led the team in interceptions, and ranked fourth in tackles. Stanley recorded eight tackles, including six solo, and put the quarterback to the turf in the victory over Arkansas State. He posted five stops, and picked off a pass against South Alabama. The Mississippi native recorded an interception against Northwestern State and Coastal Carolina. Stanley had a season-high, nine stops, and an interception against Troy. He even picked off a pass in the bowl win over Rice.

12. Kendal Daniels, Oklahoma State: The former four-star prospect finished fourth on the Pokes with 71 tackles last year. Daniels also capped off the season with second-team, All-Big 12 honors for his heroics. He generated five tackles apiece against Texas Tech, TCU, West Virginia and Kansas State. Daniels posted 11 stops, including one for loss and an interception in the victory over Central Michigan. The Oklahoma native also picked off a pass against Texas. Daniels racked up 11 stops, including a season-high, eight solo against Kansas. Not to mention he delivered 10 tackles, forced a fumble and hauled in an interception in the win over Iowa State. Daniels made seven stops against Oklahoma.

11. Trevor Woods, Colorado: The Texas native finished second on the team with 79 tackles in 2022. Woods averaged 6.5 solo stops per game, which ranked second in the FBS. He racked up eight tackles apiece against TCU, Air Force and California. The former three-star prospect tallied seven solo stops, and an interception against Arizona State. Woods had a jaw-dropping, 10 tackles apiece against Oregon State and Oregon. Not to mention he recorded a season-high, 13 stops, including 12 solo at Arizona. Woods registered seven tackles against UCLA and five against Minnesota. Now he’ll be one of Coach Prime’s most experienced defenders, and a leader in Colorado’s secondary this fall.

10. Marcus Fuqua, Buffalo: The Michigan native is coming off a spectacular campaign, in which he generated in a jaw-dropping, six interceptions. Fuqua also generated 65 tackles and earned first-team, All-MAC honors. He stockpiled five tackles apiece against Holy Cross, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and Georgia Southern. Not to mention Fuqua posted seven stops and picked off two passes against Akron. The former three-star prospect racked up a season-high, nine tackles, including one for loss against Kent State. Fuqua tallied six stops, an interception and recovered a fumble against Bowling Green. The six-foot, 195-pounder had a season-high, three interceptions in the win over Toledo.

9. Kobe Savage, Kansas State: The former Juco finished fourth on the team in tackles last season. Savage also capped off his stellar campaign with second-team, All-Big 12 honors. He had three stops apiece and picked off a pass in the victory over Missouri and Baylor. Savage generated seve solo tackles, and hauled in an interception against Tulane. Not to mention he tallied eight tackles, including one for loss against Texas. The 5-foot-11, 206-pounder recorded nine tackles, including eight solo, and forced a fumble against Texas Tech. Savage stockpiled a season-high, 11 tackles, including eight solo against Oklahoma. With Julius Brents off to the NFL, Savage will be the general of the secondary.

8. Rod Moore, Michigan: The Ohio native led the Wolverines in interceptions, and finished third on the team in tackles last season. Moore tallied four tackles and picked off a pass in the opener against Colorado State. He generated six tackles, including five solo and picked off a pass against Indiana. Not to mention he hauled in an interception against Michigan State. Moore racked up a season-high, 14 tackles, including nine solo against Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game. The former three-star prospect left a lasting impression with 12 stops, including nine solo and an interception against TCU. Moore, along with Mike Sainristil and Will Johnson will form the Big Ten’s best secondary.

7. Bud Clark, TCU: The former four-star prospect led the Horned Frogs in interceptions last season. Clark recorded a season-high, eight stops, including six solo against Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship. Not to mention Clark posted five tackles, recovered a fumble, and returned an interception 41 yards to the house in the victory over Michigan. The Louisiana native generated five stops and broke up a pass against Georgia. Clark used his instincts and athleticism to haul in an interception against Oklahoma State, Kansas, West Virginia and Baylor. With Thorpe Award winner Trevius Hodges-Tomlinson off to the NFL, Clark will take over as the leader of the Horned Frogs’ secondary.

6. Greg Brooks, LSU: The former four-star prospect finished fourth on the Bayou Bengals in tackles, and tied for second on the team in interceptions. Brooks generated eight tackles, including five solo at Texas A&M. He posted four stops and put the quarterback to the turf in the victory over New Mexico. Brooks stacked up a season-high, 10 tackles, including six solo against Tennessee. The Louisiana native recorded seven tackles against Georgia in the SEC Championship. Not to mention he had five stops and an interception in the bowl win over Purdue. Brooks also picked off a pass against Auburn, and had four tackles apiece against Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama and Arkansas.

5. Calen Bullock, USC: The Californian made a name for himself in the Pac-12, and led the Trojans in interceptions last season. Bullock got off to a hot start, with six tackles, including four solo, and returned an interception 93 yards for a score in the opener against Rice. He tallied five stops, and hauled in an interception in the victory over Notre Dame. Not to mention Bullock also picked off a pass in victories over Arizona State, California and Colorado. The former four-star prospect posted a season-high, seven stops, and broke up two passes against Arizona. Bullock also recorded seven tackles, including five solo in the win over UCLA. With Mekhi Blackmon off to the NFL, Bullock will lead the secondary.

4. Malaki Starks, Georgia: The former five-star prospect lived up to his billing as a true freshman last season, and became a staple defender in the almighty SEC. Starks finished third on the Bulldogs in tackles, and tied for second in interceptions. He was thrown to the wolves and tallied eight tackles, plus an interception in the opener against Oregon. Starks also picked off a pass at South Carolina. The Georgia native posted six tackles apiece against Kent State and Missouri. Not to mention Starks recorded eight stops apiece in road victories over Mississippi State and Kentucky. Malaki registered a season-high, 10 tackles, including six solo against Tennessee. No doubt he’s the real deal.

3. John Torchio, Wisconsin: The Californian led the Badgers in interceptions and finished fourth on the team in tackles last season. Torchio molded himself into one of the best ballhawks in the FBS, and capped off the year with first-team, All-Big Ten honors. He recorded four tackles, a sack, and took an interception 100 yards to the house in the opener against Illinois State. Not to mention he posted eight stops and broke up a pass against Washington State. Torchio registered seven stops, including six solo, and picked off a pass against Ohio State. The six-foot-one, 211-pounder had a season-high, 10 tackles, and two interceptions, including one he returned 31 yards for a score against Purdue.

2. Kenny Logan, Kansas: The Florida native is a tackling machine, with 100-plus stops in each of the past two seasons. Logan is always around the football and never afraid to get his knees dirty. Last year he ranked 10th in the FBS in solo tackles per game. Logan recorded 11 tackles, including eight solo at Texas Tech. The former three-star prospect tallied 10 stops in the victory at West Virginia. He racked up 12 tackles, including eight solo against TCU. Logan stockpiled a season-high, 14 stops, including seven solo, and picked off a pass at Oklahoma. Not to mention he left a lasting impression, with 10 tackles in the bowl game against Arkansas. Logan is currently recovering from shoulder surgery.

1. Kamren Kinchens, Miami: The former four-star prospect led the Hurricanes in tackles and interceptions last year. Kinchens is a true ballhawk, who capped off his stellar campaign with first-team, All-ACC honors. He recorded three tackles and hauled in an interception against Bethune-Cookman. The Miami native tallied six stops, including five solo, and picked off a pass against North Carolina. Kinchens also had an interception against Middle Tennessee. His 13 tackles, including nine solo at Clemson were a season-high. Kinchen put on a spectacular performance in the victory over Georgia Tech, with eight stops, and three interceptions, including one he returned 99 yards for a score.