A good defensive back can change the complexion of a game. A great defensive back can foil the plans of offensive coordinators and quarterbacks on a weekly basis.
A superstar defensive back can make one whole side of the field "off limits."
That's the type of impact a defensive back can have, so recruiting at the position is important.
Six of the top 20 players in the 2014 class are defensive backs, and all of the recruits in these top-10 rankings have star potential.
Note: Rankings courtesy of the 247Sports Composite Rankings. All scouting and analysis done by writer, from film study via the tapes provided by each recruit's respective 247Sports profile page unless otherwise noted. 247Sports predictions courtesy of the 247Sports Crystal Ball.
Weight: 190 pounds
Hometown: Knoxville, Tenn.
School: Webb School Of Knoxville
Committed to Tennessee on 3/10/13
Todd Kelly has the potential to be quite a playmaker at the college level. He has the speed, quickness and agility to be a good safety over the top of routes, and he does a great job of keying in on the ball and stepping into the running lane.
Kelly is also strong enough to come into the box and be that extra defender in run situations.
His only weakness is his size. At 190 pounds, he's not that big for a safety, and that's something that will have to change if he wants to be a game-changer in the SEC.
If Kelly bulks up a bit in the next few years, he has star potential for Tennessee. He'll make an impact right away as a freshman, though.
Weight: 199 pounds
Hometown: Carrollton, Texas
School: Hebron High School
247Sports Prediction: Florida 54, Texas 38 percent, Texas A&M 8 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: Texas
Jamal Adams is a heavy hitter who will be a great "spill defender" at the college level. What that means is that when defensive tackles, ends and linebackers force the play outside, he can run off the edge and make a big tackle in the flats.
Adams has quick feet, makes crisp breaks and takes good angles in pass coverage. He's fast, but he doesn't have elite speed, so that will be something he needs to improve to move up these rankings. He also needs to get lower in his backpedal.
He has visited Texas multiple times, so there's obviously an affinity for the program. ESPN RecruitingNation (subscription required) also reports that Adams is close friends with Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs.
Weight: 175 pounds
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
School: Glenville High School
247Sports Prediction: Ohio State 100 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: Ohio State
Marshon Lattimore is an athletic cornerback. He has fast feet, a nice, smooth backpedal and is fundamentally sound.
He's lanky, has long strides and should be disruptive as a cover corner. He can also be physical against the run.
But if he wants to go from great to elite on this list, he'll need to improve his straight-line speed. He does have good speed, but it's not as good as the defensive backs in front of him.
Lattimore to Ohio State is a foregone conclusion. It just needs to become official. He's the No. 1 player from the state of Ohio, according to the 247Sports Composite.
Weight: 182 pounds
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
School: Friendship Collegiate Academy
247Sports Prediction: Florida 71 percent, Florida State 29 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: Florida
Jalen Tabor has great length for a cornerback, and therein lies his potential. He's able to get up into the chest of a receiver and throw him off the route.
He also does a good job of poking his hands into throwing windows, thus disrupting what would otherwise be a good pass. Tabor is also a good tackler, so he'll be good against both the run and pass.
To move higher in these rankings, Tabor will need to get more bend in his legs and get lower in his backpedal. His backpedal is also a bit choppy. That works fine in high school but at the college level, experienced receivers will take advantage of his footwork and get him crossed up.
According to a report from Adam Friedman of Rivals.com (subscription required), Tabor said some great things about Florida. It's worth noting that he did have a lot of complimentary things to say about all programs he's interested in though.
Weight: 200 pounds
Hometown: Monroe, La.
School: Neville High School
247Sports Prediction: LSU 100 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: LSU
Laurence Jones is a rangy safety recruit who looks to be most effective as a pass defender.
He's athletic, so he'll be able to make a play on the ball that many other safeties could not make. He can turn his hips, take a good angle and stay on top of corner routes, and he'll be good in the seams as well.
Jones is a bit one-dimensional at only 200 pounds, but if he puts on weight, he should be able to compete against the run at the college level. That said, he could play free safety right now.
Jones is a big in-state target for LSU, and the Tigers have a great reputation for developing defensive backs.
Weight: 190 pounds
Hometown: Arlington, Texas
School: Timberview High School
Committed to LSU on 2/25/13
Edward Paris should be considered a pure coverage safety. He has good athleticism, quickness and can be a ball hawk in the secondary. He's fast enough to backpedal, open his hips and turn and run with the vertical routes.
Once a receiver breaks his cushion, he's able to accelerate and get back on the inside hip, so he won't get beaten deep much, even at the college level.
The issue for Paris is that he's a bit light for a safety at just 190 pounds. He needs to gain weight, but he'll have to do so without losing his athleticism.
If Paris bulks up a bit, he'll be a great safety in the SEC. He also has the length to play corner in LSU's system. The Tigers will find a way to get him onto the field as a freshman.
Weight: 185 pounds
Hometown: Gardena, Calif.
School: Junipero Serra High School
247Sports Prediction: USC 92 percent, 8 percent Florida
Bleacher Report Prediction: USC
Adoree' Jackson doesn't have great size, but he makes up for it with his quickness. He's a tremendous athlete who has elite footwork. He has great vision when the ball is in the air and does a good job of jostling for position with receivers.
He'll be able to stick with even the best route-runners at the college level, so he projects to be best as a slot defender in the nickel package. In time, though, especially as he puts on more weight and gets stronger, he could be a good No. 1 or No. 2 cornerback.
He's certainly not afraid to be physical on defense, and he does a good job of wrapping up and putting a good tackle on the ball-carrier.
It's the lack of size that separates him from the rest of the defenders in front of him, but certainly not the aggression and physicality.
Jackson is from Southern California, and he appears to be quite the USC lean, according to his 247Sports interest list.
Weight: 188 pounds
Hometown: Beaumont, Texas
School: Ozen High School
247Sports Prediction: LSU 96 percent, Alabama 4 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: LSU
Speed is the name of the game for Tony Brown. He runs a 4.37 40-yard dash, according to 247Sports, which is undoubtedly elite. He'll be able to backpedal, open his hips and stay with just about any route that an offense throws at him.
He'll also be good in pursuit from the weak side. For as fast as he is, Brown is also physical. He's good at jamming receivers, and he's not afraid to set the edge, get physical with the blocker and rip off and make the tackle.
The one thing he'll need to fix is his tendency to dive into the tackle or make a shoulder tackle. If he works on wrapping up and driving backward, he could end up being a superstar.
LSU has been on top of Brown's 247Sports interest list for a while now. That doesn't appear to be changing.
Weight: 200 pounds
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Va.
School: Bayside High School
Committed to Virginia on 2/27/13
Size and speed are traits of every great safety, so it's no surprise that Quin Blanding is the No. 1 safety in the nation, according to the 247Sports Composite. He has the size to be strong over the middle and at the line against the run, but he also runs a 4.50 40, according to 247Sports.
His speed and quickness will help him cover the deep zones and stay on top of routes. But he's also aggressive and makes good reads, so he'll step in front of a few throws and make a big play for the defense.
Blanding comes down to the line against the run and is good in weak-side support. He can sniff out a run and make a play in the alley, and he can set the edge and be a spill defender on the strong side.
Blanding will be a starter for Virginia. He's a future star as well.
Weight: 175 pounds
Hometown: Birmingham, Ala.
School: Hoover High School
247Sports Prediction: Alabama 100 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: Alabama
He has good height and length for a corner and plays with great instincts. His speed and agility help him stick with wideouts and stay on their hip, and he plays the shuffle hop technique that Nick Saban has made famous at Alabama.
Humphrey can also be physical against the run, as he does a good job of setting the edge, squeezing it down and making a play. He gets downfield quickly thanks to a quick break and crisp footwork.
He fits the mold of an Alabama cornerback, and he already plays the shuffle hop. Humphrey is the type of cornerback recruit that will thrive with the Crimson Tide.