What it takes to succeed as a college defensive back

The following is a breakdown of the six categories (size excluded) we use when evaluating college defensive backs. Also included in each category are, in my opinion, the top three examples from college football today.


Best three examples:
1. Justin King, CB, Penn State (Jr.)
2. Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State (Jr.)
3. Kenny Phillips, DS, Miami (Jr.)

Cornerbacks must be fast and fluid enough in the hips to turn and run with speedy wide receivers one-on-one. Their technique must be polished, as they can't afford to get turned around or to take false steps. Free safeties generally spend more time in deep zone coverage or matched up one-on-one versus the slot receiver, so instincts, angles, speed and change-of-direction skills are most important. Strong safeties generally spend more time in underneath zone coverage or matched up against tight ends one-on-one, so they can get away with just adequate speed, but they must be big enough to challenge tight ends physically. Confidence and "selective amnesia" are important qualities for all defensive backs.


Best three examples:
1. Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona (Sr.)
2. Kenny Phillips, DS, Miami (Jr.)
3. Jonathan Hefney, DS, Tennessee (Sr.)

Don't get caught peeking in the backfield on play-action. Be able to read opposing quarterbacks' eyes when facing them. Sense when the ball is in the air. Know opposing wide receivers' tendencies and weaknesses, as well as how to attack them. Know how to protect yourself versus faster receivers. Show good timing when jumping routes, as well as on the jump ball. Be consistent and reliable in zone coverage, don't get caught out of position.